Peru, thanks to international awards and famous chefs is now recognized as a top culinary destination worldwide. Although Lima is the culinary capital, Cusco with its fresh produce, Andean flavors and unique gastronomic experiences is not lacking in culinary experiences. From pizza nights, cooking lessons, Pachamancas and more, there are our favorite culinary experiences in Cusco:
Farm and Food Experience in Lamay
An incredible farm to table experience that begins with a visit to the Huayllafara community where you will get a glimpse into farm life, local culture, and the community’s daily activities.
Start off by walking along crops not found anywhere else, such as anu (a “striped” root vegetable) and the now-famous quinoa. Next, a colorful vegetable garden, where you’ll taste and pick some veggies for the meal that will be shared later on. The hosts will touch on the methods for preparing local Andean prepared ingredients, like chuño and moraya, and show the techniques they use for cleaning and preparing quinoa after it is harvested. They’ll explain the processes used for preparing chicha de jora, an Andean fermented drink that the Incas used to drink and is still very popular in Andean communities.
Finally, you’ll return to La Base Lamay for cooking lessons! Hosts will help prepare classic Andean recipes from the products you have just learned about, tasted, and harvested. Prepare your meal along with the host in a fun environment with a Pisco Sour in hand. Experience the joy of the fresh and delicious meal you prepared together.
Cooking Lesson at Lamay
Using fresh, local produce, herbs, and other ingredients enjoy a cooking demonstration by a woman from Lamay’s local community. The host will share her knowledge of native recipes, culinary techniques and entertain with the stories behind these Andean traditional dishes and culinary techniques. You’ll also get a sense of her life, her unique perspective, and where she fits into the local community. There’s nothing like sitting at a table and sharing food in a relaxed setting to bring you closer to understanding another culture. By preparing and enjoying a delicious and healthy meal including drinks, main dish, vegetable accompaniment, and dessert, you’ll take away an appreciation of life and culture that both overlaps, and contrasts with your own.
Pachamanca in Piuray
If you are looking for an active and fun culinary activity in a more rural setting, we highly recommend being part of a Pachamanca. The Pachamanca (from Quechua pacha “earth”, manka “pot”) is a traditional Peruvian dish, in reality a way of cooking, that consists of baking meats and vegetables with the help of hot stones. The stones have been heated in a fire and are put into a hole in the ground creating a natural oven.
In the Piuray Pachamanca Culinary Activity, you’ll be presented with all the ingredients that will be cooked in the Pachamanca, usually potatoes, sweet potatoes, meats (beef, pork, lamb, guinea pig, alpaca, chicken marinated in spices) and corn.
You will also help layer them according to how long it takes to bake, meats are usually buried first and the vegetables are in the final layer. A godfather or godmother is selected, whom along with the host bless the meal in accordance with the Andean tradition. Finally, everything is covered with leaves and soil.
After an hour, the “oven” will be unburied and you will have an incredible feast to enjoy!
Tambo del Inka
Tambo del Inka Hotel offers three wonderful culinary experiences that are perfect for groups or couples that you can enjoy even if you are not staying with them:
Farm to Table
Pick the best produce of the Tambo del Inka organic garden in order to prepare them along with the hotel chef in a wooden stove on the banks of the imposing Vilcanota river. A gastronomic experience that connects you with the most natural way of eating.
An experience that brings together the best flavors of the Andes in five different types of cooking: Caja china (Chinese box), cylinder, grill, clay oven, and pachamanca style. In addition, five different types of meat and the best seasonal ingredients from the organic garden will be used for each preparation.
This relaxing and entertaining experience begins at the traditional clay oven of the main restaurant, where a table is already set with all the ingredients for this gourmet activity. You’ll be able to make your own pizza using traditional Andean toppings from the organic garden and then have it baked to perfection in the clay oven. This type of oven gives the pizza a distinct and delicious flavor, not to mention the organic toppings. Enjoy your creation with a glass of wine and a quiet ambiance.
Of course, Cusco offers spectacular restaurants as well. Here are our top three restaurants in Cusco for every budget that offer an excellent culinary experience:
Mil by Virgilio Martinez
The famous Chef and owner of Central restaurant (named Latin America’s number one restaurant in 2017, while coming in at number five in the World’s 50 Best) has created an immersive culinary experience, where you will go “behind the dish” at his restaurant Mil, located near the Inca ruins of Moray. Experience the day-to-day life of local farmers on Mil’s cultivated land while enjoying the amazing views. A Mil bartender will guide you through the botanical path on the nearby hills, where you will also collect and learn about plants that are used for medicinal and aromatic purposes. You’ll participate in a chocolate tasting at the cacao lab and then head on to the 8-course menu, that allows you to enjoy the ingredients you have learned about that day. The restaurant highlights the cuisine of the Andes and, like Central, it has a menu inspired by the altitude at which ingredients grow. But, unlike Central, Mil is only focused on what can grow at the height of its own setting 11,500 feet above sea level. Coffee, cacao, root vegetables, various meats and legumes, and Andean grains make up the textures and tastes of the dishes only Virgilio Martinez can create. Truly a once in a lifetime experience.
Mr. Soup is a perfect option when arriving in high-altitude Cusco on a cold evening and you’re craving a big bowl of hot soup. The restaurant is near the main Plaza de Armas and have international soups such as curry, Thai coconut, tomato, and spinach; as well as Andean soups like Quinoa and mote. The soups are very flavorful and have a homemade quality that makes this is the perfect spot to warm up.