Happy Wanderful Wednesday friends! Today I’m going to be talking about a cooking class that I took while visiting the city of Cusco last month.
As you should already know, [if you know me at all that is], I really really really love food. Food is my passion, my guilty pleasure and my weakness, eating, my favorite pastime. Whenever I travel, wherever I go, one of my main concerns is what I will eat and where I will eat it.
So, of course, before visiting Cusco last month, I did my research. I looked up every restaurant, café and culinary experience possible and actually decided to try something different for a change.
I’m currently in the process of trying to up my cooking game, so instead of just stuffing my face throughout the city [as usual], I became fixated on taking a cooking class. It seemed like the perfect food related activity to delve into Peruvian cuisine and I’d never taken one before. I’m pretty much a straight up newb to the world of culinary art. I really like to cook, but if it takes more than 20 minutes to make, I’m usually out. So, preparing a three course Peruvian meal was a welcome challenge.
After looking into a few classes offered in Cusco, my friend Mandy and I decided on Peruvian Cooking Classes, as they had awesome reviews and were the only in our price range. We’d be taking the class on our first day in Cusco, so we opted to take their morning “Classic Cooking Class” which included a trip to the local market. We figured this would be a great way to get a look at one of the city’s popular attractions while also getting an intro to Peruvian culture and cuisine.
Our lunch class started at 10:30AM and was located just around the corner from our hostel, outside of Cusco’s popular and centrally located Plaza San Francisco. We were able to choose from a few different menus ahead of time and went with Option #1, since we had never tried any of the listed dishes before. Mandy and I eat everything so the options weren’t an issue for us, but I thought it was very nice to have alternatives for someone that may have a food allergy or certain eating restrictions.
Starter: Quinoa Soup
Our starter would be a traditional Andean Quinoa soup with a mix of vegetables, broth and diced beef.
Main Dish: Ají de gallina
Our main dish was a chicken dish made with an ají sauce- a mixture of yellow chili peppers, onions, peanuts, crackers, milk and cheese. It was served with the classic Peruvian “double carb”- potatoes and rice and garnished with a hard boiled egg and black olives.
A classic Peruvian dessert from the southern Ica region of Peru, made with a shell of milk chocolate, pecans or peanuts and manjar (Peru’s version of dulce de leche).
To Drink: Mango Pisco Sour
Pisco Sours are a very popular cocktail throughout Peru made with pisco (a type of grape-brandy), lime juice, simple syrup, eggs whites, ice cubes and bitters. We also added some mango flavoring to ours.
Stage 1: A taste of local Peruvian fruit
We arrived to our class right on time and immediately were sent over to meet our chef and teacher Javier. Javier was standing at the counter with a bowl of really colorful interesting-looking produce in front of him.
We hadn’t eaten much for breakfast to hope and save our appetites for all of the eating to come, but by the time we arrived, I was pretty damn hungry.
Javier selected and cut up a selection of local Peruvian fruits, most of which I had never seen, let alone tasted before!
- Lucuma– known as “the gold of the Incas” is a subtropical fruit from Peru. It is round, green on the outside and yellowish on the inside and tasted to me almost like a sweet potato. The lucuma fruit is rarely eaten raw, but instead used as a popular flavor in ice creams and desserts.
- Chirimoya– known as a custard apple in English. Chirimoyas are very sweet and are native to the Andean highlands. They are very interesting looking, almost heart-shaped with a thin rough skin and a white soft fleshy inside.
- Pepino Dulce– the pepino dulce (sweet cucumber) gets it’s name from it’s flavor- a mixture of a sweet honey melon and a cucumber. They are usually yellow with purple lines and come in a range of shapes and sizes.
- Guayaba– of guavas in English are known as a super fruit in Peru for their many health promoting properties. We tried a green guava which had a rough outer skin and sweet white pulpy inner flesh.
- Cocona- this tropical citrus fruit is known as an “Amazon Tomato” and looks like a miniature yellow bell pepper. It has a mild flavor and is used in many types of dishes from soups and salads to desserts and jams.
Tasting small bites of the local fruit was the perfect snack to tide us over until lunch!
Stage 2: A trip to the San Pedro market
After our bellies were nice and lined we left the kitchen and head towards the San Pedro Market. The market was very close by, only a few blocks away, which was extremely convenient considering it was down pouring. So much for dry season …
Javier led us around the crowded colorful market, weaving through walkways and showing us the ropes. He introduced us to vendors, explained the differences between some of the local products and produce and really got us involved in the whole process. Walking through the San Pedro market with Javier felt as though an old friend from the area had taken the morning off to show us around.
I’m pretty used to traditional markets as I shop at them often in Santiago and also frequented them during my time in Spain, but the San Pedro market was on a whole other level. Let’s just say, the products were particularly fresh (as you can see in my video, if you dare). Javier warned us ahead of time and asked if we were interested in braving the butcher aisles, which I thought was incredibly considerate as I’m sure some tourists don’t do well with these types of things. As shocking as some of the stands were, I’m glad we got to see them, as they are a true part of Peruvian culture. Peruvians don’t waste much and if they’re going to kill an animal, they’re going to put every last part to use. When shopping in these markets you also get to see exactly where your food is coming from- something that we rarely experience in the US.
We spent a good amount of time wandering, chatting, learning and gathering the missing ingredients on our list- quinoa, potatoes, eggs, chili peppers and cheese.
Stage 3: The Meal Prep
After we gathered the missing ingredients to make our meal, we went back to the kitchen and got right to work. It was time for some meal prep.
Javier got us started chopping up onions and slicing peppers, weighing out quinoa and peanuts and portioning the liquids. We cut and we seeded, separated and measured.
We laid out the groundwork and got everything ready to start some cooking!
Stage 4: Time to Get Cooking
Now it was time to light up the burners and get to the good stuff.
I was in charge of putting together the starter, the quinoa soup. First, I heated the oil and garlic. Next I browned the beef and tossed in the veggies. Finally I added in some water and quinoa. While I let this sit and begin to boil, I joined Mandy and Javier in the making of our main course, the Ají de Gallina. For more of the cooking process, see my video below!
When everything was set and left to cook for a bit, we started on the best part, the cocktails!! I have to admit I’m not a huge pisco fan, as the taste is a little strong for me so I opted for the Mango-flavored version, which I think covered up the pisco flavor nicely. We made traditional Pisco Sours with egg whites, bitters, and fresh squeezed lime juice, a lot of the ingredients often skipped over at your typical Peruvian bar. I almost regret ever saying, “I’m not a Pisco person.” It. Was. Delicious. And considering I wasn’t used to the high altitude in Cusco yet, I felt significantly funny after only one drink. 😛
Finally, the timers buzzed and it was time to serve. We meticulously placed each component of the meal on the plates according to Javier’s instructions. It’s all about the presentation, after all!
Once our plates were picture-perfect, mouths-watering and eager to indulge, we were sent upstairs to a neatly set table to enjoy our masterpiece. Everything was so flavorful and filling- work well done! We ate and we ate until we couldn’t fit anymore. Ready to pop, feeling satisfied and accomplished, we were just about ready for a nap. It was time to head back to our hostel for a needed and well-deserved afternoon siesta, in true Peruvian style.
Our cooking class with Peruvian Cooking classes was a great first introduction to Peruvian culture and cuisine. We had such a good time, a ton of fun and felt like we really got a taste of local Peruvian life in Cusco! You can get even more of an inside look at this class with my video below!
A Peruvian Cooking Class video:
Information about Peruvian Cooking Classes
- Types of Classes: Classic Class, Short Class, Chocolate Making Class, Special Pachamanca Class. Click here for more information on classes offered.
- Time of classes: Classes are scheduled per booking and can be for lunch or dinner.
- Group size: Maximum of 8 people
- Price: Varying prices based on tour selected. Click here for current pricing.
- Address: Calle San Juan de Dios, 283 Cusco
- Contact information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Interested in learning how to cook a Peruvian meal in Cusco? Pin it and save for later!
Disclaimer: Peruvian Cooking Classes graciously invited me as a guest in their cooking class for purposes of this post. Still, as always, all opinions expressed are my own. I would only recommend something that I genuinely felt would benefit my readers.
Welcome to Wanderful Wednesdays!
Consider yourself a wanderer?! Well then, this Blog Hop is for you!
Meet your hosts: Lauren of Lauren on Location, Van of Snow in Tromso, Isabel of The Sunny Side of This and Marcella of What a Wonderful World.
Here on Wanderful Wednesday we hope to promote an open and supportive community for like-minded bloggers- expats, travelers and all kinds of wanderers!
The linkup will take place every Wednesday at 8AM GMT.
Wanderful Wednesday Guidelines:
- Link up a wanderful travel related post below! One per blogger per week please!
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This week I’m highlighting Guide to Shirakawa-Go by Nano of TravelWithNanoB! This little authentic Japanese town looks like an absolute dream and she definitely put it on my radar! I’d love to be able to visit one day! If you haven’t already, be sure to go check out her post and spread the love! Thanks for linking up with us Nano!
Happy Hopping Friends! 😀