mistura

Lovers of craft beer will enjoy the Mistura festival’s drinks. (Photo: Eric Mohl)

Lima

9 Things to Try at Mistura, Lima’s Mega Food Festival

Every year, Lima hosts Mistura, a food festival that brings together nearly 200 vendors offering delicacies from every corner of the country. It’s a great opportunity for locals and visitors to sample the tastes and traditions of Peru all in one place, but the choices can be daunting.

If you’re in town for the festival and you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, here are the nine things to eat and drink at Mistura.

You really shouldn’t leave Mistura (or Peru) without tasting the following beloved dishes, so get the classics out of the way first.

Anticuchos

In Quechua (a pre-Columbian Andean language still spoken in Peru), the word anticucho means stewed meat, and most commonly refers to a beloved street snack of sliced marinated beef heart grilled on a skewer, often with a cooked peeled potato on one end. At Mistura you can also try anticuchos made from alpaca heart.

Cerveza

Wash it all down with your choice from a wide array of Peruvian craft beers in a small beer garden that was recently added to Mistura as a way to celebrate the growing number of microbreweries in the country.

Causa

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Local ingredients combine to make causa, a colorful Peruvian terrine. (Photo: Eric Mohl)

Causa is a sort of Peruvian terrine, and is a dish that dates back to pre-Columbian times. It’s made with layers of mashed potato flavored with ají amarillo (a local yellow pepper) and layers of almost any type of additional filling you like—tuna fish, pieces of roast chicken, and even octopus or quinoa.

Ceviche

Ceviche is arguably the most famous dish in Peru. It’s made by marinating cubes or slices of raw fish or seafood in a citrusy, spicy mixture called leche de tigre. There are many ceviche vendors at Mistura and each has developed their own version of leche de tigre. Some incorporate fruits or more chile. Some vendors use trout.

Sample a few to find your favorite, and don’t miss the heartier versions of ceviche, which are topped with a few pieces of battered and fried fish. Nearly every ceviche in Peru is served with a piece of creamy camote (sweet potato) and crunchy cancha salada (roasted corn nibs) on top.

Rocoto relleno

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Rocoto relleno, a local speciality, is a Peruvian comfort food. (Photo: Eric Mohl)

Arequipa, Peru’s second largest city, claims to be the birthplace of rocoto relleno. It’s a Peruvian variation on a stuffed pepper made with the beloved rocoto pepper, which is usually filled with seasoned ground beef before cheese and a bechamel-like sauce is added.

Tacachos

Tacachos are balls of mashed plantain with chunks of chicharrón or cecina, a wonderfully smoked pork that tastes like bacon but has less fat. It’s dense and filling and often served as a side dish.

Juanes

From the Amazon region, sample juanes, which are like jungle tamales. Instead of corn, they’re made with rice, meat, and a piece of hard-boiled egg, all of which are steamed in a bijao (heliconia flower) leaf.

Arroz con pato

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Cilantro + rice + duck = essential eating at Mistura. (Photo: Eric Mohl)

From northern Peru comes arroz con pato, featuring a piece of rich roasted duck on top of fragrant cilantro rice.

Cuy

Cuy, aka guinea pig, is an Andean favorite. Cuy a la palo is guinea pig cooked on a skewer over an open fire until the skin is crispy and the meat is succulent. It can be tedious work to get the meat off the tiny cuy bones, but your efforts are rewarded with rich morsels that are similar to duck. Warning: Cuy vendors at Mistura often have the longest lines.

With the basics out of the way, take advantage of the opportunity to try more far-flung favorites from around Peru without leaving Lima.