In Cuzco, people often talk about a warique (wah-ree-kay,) a favorite restaurant where ordinary people eat but that is not widely known. They are found throughour the city of Cuzco. The food they sell tends to be the common, or as we say, typical dishes of our region.
These include cuy chactado (deep fried guinea pig), anticuchos (skewers or kebabs) as well as popular extras such as baked fish, beef heart, fried rib of lamb, chicken milanesa, breaded udder, as well as broths from beef stomach, hooves, sheep’s head, and more.
The term “warique” takes on meaning because it derives from a Quechua word that came down from our ancestors. It has the connotation of being a place where you can eat tasty food and enjoy yourself.
Warique, also spelled huarique or guarique, comes from the joining of two Quechua words. The first, according to the famous Peruvian writers Martha Hildebrandt and Raúl Vargas, is “wa” which is that which is not understood, not known, or is hidden or secret. The second is “rique” which derives from “rocqro” which means stew. Therefore it means a place where food is served in a hidden manner.
Now, translated and adapted, the warique might be an exclusive place for those who know it and those who like its food.
We think that a warique is somewhat “hidden” because it does not have sumptuous advertising in the print or broadcast media, nor does it have billboards on the avenues. Instead its publicity is based more on that going from person to person among friends, that is word of mouth.
Many people in Cuzco, on using this Quechua word, warique, refer to a restaurant or a place where food is served based on meat. These places tend to be rustic and welcoming Their service is basic but they draw lots of people of many different social classes. The food in these places is made with great dedication, not so much to produce large quantities but to serve a certain number of guests.
Most of the wariques are traditional. They cook with the adobe ovens and adobe fogones (or stoves) that are typical of Cuzco. These give the food that special, handmade, and traditional touch and taste. Modern, commercial kitchens just can not equal them.
Wariques tend to surprise you with their location. They are often in hidden places throughout the city, wherever people want to enjoy good food.
They do not publicize themselves, and may not even have much in the way of signs. When you find out about a warique it is because a friend has told you since these places are not very visible to the public. You might also be walking down the street and notice something curious, such as the movement of people in and out, or you might smell the good food, or you might see a small blackboard with a list of dishes available written in chalk on some door.
As we think about it, we are impressed with the sheer number of wariques we have come to know. We have found them because of invitations from people that I have met during my two decades. In fact, it is not unusual for the tables to carry a record of all these friends who visit them. Their names are penned or scratched into the surface, along with their loves and passions.
These wariques really surprise you. The dishes they serve you are well proporcioned, generally inexpensive, and very tasty. You come away satisfied.
Most of the wariques are traditional. They cook with the adobe ovens and adobe fogones (or stoves) that are typical of Cuzco. These give the food that special, handmade, and traditional touch and taste. Modern, commercial kitchens just can’t equal them.