Arequipeñan cuisine is one of the most varied and delicious of all of Peru. It is well known throughout the country and around the world for its traditional “Picanterías”, where the meals are tasty and very substantial, with fresh traditional flavours, cooked on willow wood. The rustic kitchens are generally constructed from adobe, always warm from the heat of the fire.
Over the years the picanterías could be identified by red flags placed on the doors, a custom that has disappeared over time due to the premises modernising and becoming restaurants. However there are still some traditional ones in places like Sachaca, Tiabaya, Characato, Sabandia, Mollebaya and Yarabamba, all districts in Arequipa.
A good meal begins with rocoto relleno (a rocoto pepper baked with chopped meat, spices, cheese, eggs and milk), soltero de queso (like broad beans but with corn, olives and chopped rocoto), ocopa (boiled potato slices with peanut cream, onions and biscuits and chicharrones. Among the soups, the preferred ones are white broth (loin of lamb, potatoes, corn or maize, chickpeas and spices), and stew (parboiled beef, pork and chicken with vegetables and spices).
There are a variety of dishes, including chupes (soups), main dishes, desserts and drinks, cebiche, shrimp, chicharonnes, Cauchi cheese, Ocopa, cuy, the much loved shrimp soup and chica de jora.
When trying the stews, you will taste the unmistakable flavour of the culinary art of Arequipeñan cuisine. In addition, there is no doubt that you will be converted to the taste of the picanterías.
Among the deserts, you can enjoy the great fritters (made with flour, eggs and milk bathed in honey, queso helado (ice cream made from milk, cinnamon, coconut and spices), chocolates and toffees.
There are also a wide variety of drinks on offer: good local beer, soft drinks, or the local chicha de jora (made from corn). For after dinner there is tea with anise or Najar anise.
However, if you don’t like to try new flavours, don’t fret as there are a number of international food restaurants in Arequipa, such as chifas (chinese food) and pollerías (chicken) which provide excellent service and a good time.