In the Cusco area, there dozens of markets and fresh food stalls worth a visit. However, when you have limited time yet want to see and experience it all, San Pedro Market is the place to go. In this one market you'll find everything from animals heads and hooves, Andean cheeses, fresh vegetables, and fruit juices to souvenirs. Let's go shopping.
Although San Pedro is an indoor market, the fun starts before arriving at the entrance. Men and women sell the well-known fermented beverage from the Andean highlands in Peru (and Bolivia) that is made from maize. The percentage of alcohol depends on how long it has fermented; the drinks sold at the entrance of the market contain no alcohol. Another common type of chicha is chicha morada (made from purple corn).
This may come as a surprise, but coffee is also cultivated in Peru, practically all of it in the Andean mountains at around 4000-5000 feet. With most Peruvians not being avid coffee drinkers most of the production is exported.
Did you know olives grow in Peru? Originating from the Mediterranean, they were brought to Peru by colonizers and have since grown in Peru’s coastal regions. Peruvians will eat them as snacks or you’ll find them, among other things, as part of fillings in tamales (try the local tamal cusqueña), empanades, and papas rellenas (stuffed potatoes).
You can’t go wrong with Andean cheese. It’s a fresh cheese with a soft taste that easily eats away as a snack. It is used in many local foods such as choclo con queso (corn on the cob with cheese), in tamales, and papas a la huancaína (potatoes with cheese).
Apart from making drinks from corn, Peruvians also add corn to many of their dishes. You’ll find cobs of corns in dozens of varieties and in a range of colors: yellow, purple, black, and mixed. One variety that is typical of the region is the giant white maize, also known as Cusco corn, which is grown in the nearby Sacred Valley. People may add it to their soup and serve it as a side dish (great with Cusco cheese).
Many of the superfoods, for which you may pay a fortune in the western world, are cultivated in Peru. You will find chia, maca, quinoa, amaranth (know as kiwicha) and others. Grains such as quinoa, amaranth and kañihua are also ground into flour and either used for baking or mixed in the warm milk that Peruvians drink for breakfast.
Peru is a country of fruits. In the market you’ll find many fruit juice stalls where you can order fruit juices with or without vegetables mixed into them. Or take your pick from the fresh fruits in the enormous fruit stalls. Typical Peruvian fruits (depending on the season) are aguaymanto (Inca berry, another superfood), pepino dulce (literally a ’sweet cucumber’ but a refreshing fruit), tuna (fruit of the prickly pear cactus), and lucuma (yet another superfood), although the latter is eaten more as a flavor in ice cream than as the fruit itself.
It may not immediately be on your list to buy, but take a stroll through the meat section. You'll find that Peruvians use and eat every part of the animal.