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July 6, 2011 10:24:39 | in Cusco

Where to get the best Cusco street food

Buying a cuy (Photo: Jo Self)

By Jo Self

Street market (Photo: Jo Self)
As a girl who loves all things food and drink, I particularly love all the little opportunities for snacks and treats along the streets of my adopted hometown, Cusco. From salty to sweet, small meals to snacks, the options abound on just about any street corner.

While there are several curbside “restaurants,” I am talking about the folks with the small carts and wheelbarrows that make their living on produce and quick prep items, moving about from corner to corner.

Among the variety of items you can find, here is a small list:

The Coconut Cart

Fairly self-explanatory, but these carts not only offer you the opportunity to buy the fruit itself, you may also drink the coconut milk or buy a small pack of six macaroons both for only S/ 1.

Salted Treats

From choclo (Andean corn) to various types of habas (beans) you can find little packs of these salty, roasted treats throughout the city.

Wheelbarrow Pickings

Palta (avocado), chirimoya (custard apple), piña (pineapple) and caña (sugar cane) are among the most common items found being wheeled around the city. The avocado here is delicious and is best enjoyed with vinaigrette or served as Palta Rellena - filled with a cold salad of carrots, peas, mayonnaise and a bit of lemon. Chirimoya is a delicious fruit easily enjoyed (the flesh only) alone, in a salad or as the base for various desserts.

Protein Fix

If you need a little energy and are craving some protein, hardboiled quail eggs are an easy options, served in a small cup with salt, if desired. You can also find several makeshift anticucho (kebab) stands around the plazas as it gets closer to evening. Most frequently, they will offer corazón or chicken with sausage, but from time to time you can find alpaca or llama as the main meant.


Yes, tamales are not just served in Mexico. Should you notice a woman sittingat the street corner with a small box covered in a towel topped with a corn husk, you’ve found your tamales. They offer both dulce (sweet) and salado (salty), the former with sugar, cinnamon and raisins and the latter usually with a pork filling.

As you walk the streets, you will also find people selling bags of lemons, cheese, empanadas (though I’ve yet to find any good ones) and if you’re lucky, a picarón stand. Picarones are the Peruvian version of a donut, but made with sweet potato flour and served with a syrup typically made from brown sugar and pineapple. These tasty delights are among my favorite street food here in Cusco and I don’t even have much of a sweet tooth. While in the shape of a donut, the flavor reminds me a bit more of funnel cakes.

Of course, with any street food, it helps to carefully select your spot of choice. Look for the most popular ones, who have a group of folks or are selling frequently in the same spot. Chances are, their sanitation standards are better than others. I know several Cusqueñans who prefer not to take their chances on street food, but I’m always up for the adventure… and as far as my health is concerned, so far, so good.

For more information and travel advice or to book a trip to Cusco and beyond, contact a Peru travel agency . Take a look at this range of Peru vacation packages for multi-destination trips and tours.

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# terd furgison says :
6 July, 2011 [ 09:48 ]
be sure to have a serious toilet paper supply ready before you eat any Cusco street food
# Susana says :
6 July, 2011 [ 10:27 ]
Humitas! The sweet tamales are amazing, would go every morning to the lady sitting outside the food mart next to the cathedral in the plaza de armas.

Don't forget to look out for mazamorra morada and arroz con leche carts (found a good one in the San Blas plaza last time I was there).

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