As afternoon gives way to dusk, you’ll find stalls specializing in anticuchos – marinated meat skewers grilled over open fires – on street corners throughout Peru. You can also get them in other South American countries (especially Bolivia), but anticuchos are essentially Peruvian.
The most common and popular anticuchos are made from beef heart and – if you’re prepared to forget about your first world squeamishness for a moment – they are also the tastiest. They’re served with boiled potatoes (that other Andean staple) and ají, or hot sauce. If you can’t stomach the thought of beef heart, you can also get chicken, regular beef and even hot dog anticuchos. If, on the contrary, you love the beef heart, there’s also a chicken heart variety, so you can eat your heart out, as they say.
The name anticucho is derived from the Inca words for ‘Andes’, ‘seasoning’ and ‘sliced’, which pretty much sums it up. In Inca times anticuchos would have been made of llama meat, and the marinade would not have included garlic, which was introduced by the Spanish. The concept, though, remains true to its roots and rustic brushes made of corn husks are still used to marinade the meat.
Cusco has loads of great anticucho stalls – just look for the one with the longest line. Lima is also an excellent place to try them, but being a bigger city the stalls are slightly harder to locate, so your guide may come in handy here.
Or you could follow the hordes to a Limeño restaurant which has taken the humble anticucho to the pages of such esteemed international publications as Time Magazine and Conde Nast Traveler. Grimanesa Vargas spent most of her life selling anticuchos on a street corner in Miraflores, but immense popular demand led to her opening her own brick and mortar restaurant in 2011. There’s only one thing on the menu…all you have to decide is how many you want!