For some people, the idea of cooking while on vacation might seems like punishment. Others, for whom creating new dishes is a passion, look for such opportunities everywhere they travel.
Peruvian cuisine is getting more and more attention worldwide, particularly as Lima is being touted as the gastronomic center of South America. However, you don’t need to be in the capital city to learn more about it and to try your hand at it.
Travelers who have only a short time to visit often find themselves frustrated with how to fit everything into their schedule. Generally speaking, Cusco and Machu Picchu are the absolute must-see destinations in Peru that are on everyone’s list. Fortunately, there are some great cooking classes in both locations.
Cooking Class in Cusco
In Cusco, you can go to Marcelo Batata where the owner, head chef and creator of the restaurant’s Peruvian fusion dishes will be your instructor. One of the highlights of these classes is that, like all the best classes, it includes a field trip.
Instead of spending all your time in the kitchen, your first task will be to visit the local market where you will get to sample some of the indigenous specialties such as native fruits you won’t find at home. This is the same market, San Pedro, where many natives of Cusco go to pick up their supplies for each day’s cooking needs.
After you are done selecting what’s needed to prepare what’s on the menu, it’s time to return back to the kitchen.
Once back at the restaurant, students will first learn about something else that is a specialty of the house… pisco.
Following your education on the national liquor and creating the national drink, the pisco sour, your class moves on to creating classic and unforgettable appetizers and mains. In addition to the dishes that you learn to prepare, you’ll be able to taste some of the other specialties of the house.
Not traveling with a big group? No problem… just two people are needed to create a class.
Cooking Class in Machu Picchu
Classes in Cusco not enough? If you’re up for a truly luxurious experience, stay at least one night in Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Pueblo) and book your rooms at the Sumaq Hotel. This is the only five star hotel in town and the restaurant’s cuisine can easily hold its own against the finest Lima has to offer.
Here, you will learn how to make the Peruvian seafood classic, ceviche. If you only learn how to make one dish while you are in the country, this should be it. It is one that Peruvians are quite understandably proud of and the way it is prepared at Sumaq is outstanding. It’s incredible how such a simple dish can vary so much in quality.
In addition to ceviche, you will also learn how to prepare the Sumaq’s version of a pisco sour. If you’ve already taken the class at Marcelo Batata, it’s the perfect opportunity to compare and contrast the varieties. There’s no doubt that the hotel’s take on this classic drink (as I can well attest to from personal experience) is one of the best.
It’s an unfortunate truth that so many places have jumped on the bandwagon of offering complimentary pisco sours that, unless you make the effort to try it at one of these better restaurants, you may leave Peru without knowing what this legendary drink should truly taste like.
And that would be doing the country (and yourself) a terrible injustice.
Originally from the US, Maureen Santucci now calls the ancient Peruvian capital of Cusco home, where she has lived and worked for over 4 years. She wrote this article on behalf of Vaya Adventures, specialists in travel to Machu Picchu amongst other destinations across Latin America.