Savory snacks are on sale almost everywhere in Peru. Vendors ply the city streets, selling their home-cooked products from cloth-covered trays and metal trolleys. They also congregate at bus terminals, providing snacks for hungry passengers prior to lengthy journeys.
For travelers on the move, these quick eats are particularly handy. You can stash a neatly wrapped rice dish in your backpack before setting off on a trek, or you can grab a quick snack during a brief stop on a long-distance bus journey.
If you’re unfamiliar with Peruvian food, you may find yourself baffled by the snacks on offer. While there’s no substitute for firsthand experimentation, the following visual tour will give you a greater sense of direction when it comes to navigating the range of savory snacks in Peru.
Juanes consist of seasoned rice wrapped in a green bijao leaf. Seasoning typically includes turmeric and cumin, giving the rice a warm flavor and a yellowish color. Most juanes also contain a small piece of chicken, a slice of egg and an olive or two.
Once prepared, everything is neatly wrapped in the bijao leaf, creating a perfectly portable and durable snack. Juanes are a specialty in the Peruvian jungle, where sizes range from manageable to bigger than a house brick (massive juanes are common during the Festival of San Juan).
Another leaf-wrapped wonder, tamales consist primarily of corn dough. Additional extras lodged inside the mix can include chicken, peppers, cheese, raisins, peanuts, and olives.
Tamales tend to be smaller than juanes and not quite so filling, but a well-prepared tamale is full of flavor and great value for money. The standard price for a tamale in Peru is S/.1 or S/.2 -- less than a dollar. Buy a couple (or three) with some red onion salsa and you'll have a good little meal on the move
Potatoes are a Peruvian specialty, and the papa rellena is king of the potato snack. Papa rellena (literally “stuffed potato”) is made from mashed potato stuffed with meat and onions, often with added egg, olives and a raisin or two.
Once assembled, the potato-shaped mass is deep-fried until the outer layer becomes golden brown. The finished product is reasonably portable but lacks the leafy packaging of juanes and tamales.
Anticuchos are similar to shish kebabs -- marinated meat on a metal or wooden skewer. The anticucho de corazón (beef heart anticucho) is particularly popular in Peru. If that doesn’t sound appealing, you’ll also find anticuchos of chicken, beef, pork, and fish.
Streetside anticuchos normally have three or four chunks of meat per stick. The presentation is unsophisticated, but the marinades are often sensational. Sold all over Peru -- on the streets, in restaurants, and in bus terminals -- anticuchos are an excellent quick fix for hungry travelers
Like tamales, humitas are made from corn dough (masa harina). They tend to be smaller than tamales and can be savory or sweet. Savory humitas consist of corn dough mixed with lard (or butter), salt and milk (or queso fresco). The sweet variety typically includes sugar, raisins, and cinnamon.
The mix is wrapped in a cornhusk before being boiled or steamed. Like juanes and tamales, humitas are sold in their wrappers, making them perfect little packages for hungry travelers on the move
Empanadas are of Southern European origin (primarily Spain and Portugal), but these tasty little snacks are now found throughout Latin America. A typical Peruvian empanada is created by folding pastry dough around a filling of meat, vegetables or cheese. Additional ingredients may include slices of hard-boiled egg, onions, olives, and raisins.
Empanadas can be quite stodgy, so you won’t need to eat many to satisfy your hunger. Peruvian empanadas are traditionally served with a slice of lime, providing a nice tang and extra moisture
Choclo (Corn on the Cob)
If you’re looking for a vegetarian snack, dig in to a large chunk of choclo. Peruvian choclo is like a supersized corn on the cob, with large kernels that lack some of the sweetness of North American corn.
Choclo is found in many Peruvian recipes, in soups, in choclo salads and as an accompaniment to meat dishes. Street vendors sell choclo on the cob, sometimes lightly salted, buttered or both.
Huevos de Codorniz (Quail Eggs)
While eating quail doesn't seem to have caught on in Peru, hard-boiled quail eggs are on sale almost everywhere. The little huevos de codorniz have a creamy taste and texture, and are sold with an optional sprinkling of salt.
Vendors place the eggs -- either peeled or with shell, depending on your preference -- in a plastic or paper bag complete with toothpick for spearing purposes. You can buy five or six quail eggs for S/.1.