Cusco is know as the cradle of the Incas, but it is also famous for the superb giant white corn that grows in the Sacred Valley, and which is exported in large quantities. The potatoes of Paruro, the wheat of Acomayo, the olluco of Espinar, the beans of Chumbivilcas and the quinua of Canas come together in stews and soups to create a vigorous regional cuisine.
Since pre-Hispanic times, the people of Cusco have carefully provisioned themselves. The Incas established storage facilities so that there would never be a shortage of food and in the colonial period the region’s population was also well catered for.
Today, Cusco’s provinces cultivate a variety of foodstuffs, and despite the fact that only 10% of the region’s farmlandis irrigated, Cusco is the country’s top producer of tea, annatto dye, cacao and coffee.
The happy union of the cuisine brought by the Spanish, based on pork, mutton and wheat and the Andean culinary tradition has produced a regional cooking like no other.
So when one visits Cusco, one has an almost infinite variety of alternatives, but among the best-known Cusco dishes are the “Cachu chuño” (a stew of freeze-dried potatoes, fresh cheese and milk), roast pork, deep-fried pork, “chiri uchu” (a cold dish of roasted guinea pig, boiled chicken, highland sausage, fresh cheese, toasted corn, chili pepper, trout eggs, spring onions, chicken broth and corn tortillas), “chuño cola” (a spicey soup of potatoes, chickpeas, rice and assorted meats), “olluquito with charqui” (stew with olluco and diced jerked beef), guinea pig meat, seasoned with onions and chili peppers), “cheese khapchi” (a cold dish of fresh cheese, beans, potatoes and onions, seasoned with milk and chili), “quinua atamalada” (a stew with tomatoes and cheese), and “timpu” or “puchero” (a soup of assorted meats, vegetables and pulses).
So, now you know. And when in Cusco you will find such dishes not only on the menus of the city’s numerous restaurants, but also in the many traditional local eateries beyond the historic centre.