A Peruvian response to hamburgers and fried or rotisseried chicken, drawing on the deep culinary traditions of the country, has been a dream of Peruvian chefs for a long time. In Lima Chefs have established Peruvian sandwich shops and other attempts to staunch the growth of international fast food. But in Cuzco such things have been almost unheard of, until now.
Within the last month a small sandwich shop, Paulina Sanguchería Peruana, opened on Espaderos Street, half block from the Plaza de Armas. It serves up five big sandwiches made from Peruvian classic meats along with chicha morada or maracuyá to drink at less that the cost of a hamburger.
At a red door with a chalkboard to one side of it on the street that joins the Plaza de Armas and the Plaza de Regocijo, Paulina opens up.
It is a narrow space with a bar and stools on both sides and a cooking, preparation space in back. Nevertheless it is light and enticing.
Orange and black cut outs of local life shine on the walls along with the Paulina logo bringing a haunting life to the place beyond that of the crowd of lunch time clients. Foreigners and Peruvians stand in line to choose one of the five sandwiches.
In the back three people work, one taking orders and money while pushing buttons on the the cash register, another heating the meat on a grill, and the last adding the customer’s choice of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, lemon dressing, or fresh french fried shoestring potatoes.
On the side people could add mayo, hot sauce, or ketchup from squeeze bottles, or dip freshly prepared olive sauce, diced onions and limo peppers in lime juice called encurtido, a green hot sauce, and a huancaina sauce of yellow aji peppers and dairy.
The sandwiches are perky and fresh. The rolls were just crisp enough and soft inside. The meats–we chose lechón (roast pork), turkey, and a special Peruvian sausage (called chorizo) while not moist were still good and hot. They combined well with the dressings we put on them.
Besides what we chose, Paulina also offered deep fried, seasoned pork (chicharrón) and a thinly sliced, smoked pork loin (lomito ahumado.)
The man working the register, Fabrizio a la Torre spoke in a slang inflected, Cuzco voice, said he had studied in culinary school in Lima, but had returned to Cuzco to open his business. He acknowledged that such sandwich shops were increasingly common in Lima though none, until now, had opened in Cuzco.
If the traffic we saw was any indication, Paulina will be a success. The food while not superb, was well prepared and, though cheaper, several cuts above most fast food. Indeed, his sandwiches put Subway to shame in terms of freshness, quality, and taste.
If you are in a rush, while in Cuzco, and just feel like a sandwich, though you would like something Peruvian, Paulina is a great place to go.