Peru may be famous for corn and potatoes, of which it seems there are an infinity of varieties, but it has become the land of rice. Peruvians eat more rice than the people of any other Latin American country. They love rice. As a result, the most popular fast food in Cuzco, and one of the most consumed, it a simple dish of rice with a fried egg on top.
Not only can one find rice and fried egg in every market, it is also one of the more common and simple dishes made at home. It is easy to prepare and can be made quickly. Young and old alike enjoy it almost at any time.
In the markets it is available for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, or just as a between meal snack. From early in the morning you will see people approaching the stands of vendors to ask for rice with egg for which there are many variations.
You can add to the basic fried egg on top of rice a fried banana and then the dish is called Cuban rice. You can add fried frankfurters. Or you can eat the dish with slices of avocado. Each of these and others bring a different sensation to the combination of simple white rice, generally rice that has been made in the technique of granear–that is fried until lightly toasted before being boiled–along with a runny fired egg.
One can also eat it with french fries or with a salad on the side of cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions. Of course there is always the ever present hot sauce, the Cuzco-style uchukuta of rocoto (a hot pepper) and huacatay(black mint).
Of course they eat this dish in other Latin American countries, though in Peru it reigns. Though we could not find evidence, one wonders how and when it became so popular.
Rice seems to have come to Peru with the Spaniards, who in turn got it from the Arabs. It is found in such signature dishes as arroz con pollo, chicken with rice. It appears that in colonial times, rice was a food of the elite and not of the common Peruvian.
With the massive immigration of Chinese workers in the nineteenth century, that began to change; more ordinary Peruvians who lived and worked with the Chinese began to eat rice as well. Furthermore, rice began to be planted more extensively and in different varieties, if for no reason other than that the labor contracts of the Chinese coolies indicated they should be paid, among other things, a certain amount of rice: 700 grams per person per day.
Rice is most popular, as a result, on the coast. With the growth of cities and the migration of people it has also become popular with in highland cities such as Cusco, although rural people in the highlands stick more with potatoes, corn and quinoa. To them rice still has an exotic feel and hence an allure.
Demand for rice has been growing in Peru. In 2000, 45 kilos of rice per person per year were consumed in the country, and in 2009 that number had risen to 56 kilos per year per person.
Of course this is an average since, in some areas of the highlands, little rice is consumed, while in the cities and on the coast lots of rice is eaten.
As demand has grown the price has also increased. People say that not too many years ago the dish of rice with fried egg cost only 1 sol, nowadays the cost is 2 to 3 soles.
People also say that rice and fried egg was sold more cheaply for university and elementary or high schools students at 11 am. In the afternoons it was also sold at a reduced price to elderly persons.
Arroz con huevo, rice with fried egg, is indeed a standard dish of Peruvian fast food. Though not yet sold by chains such as KFC, McDonalds, or Bembos it is found where ordinary Peruvians go when they want something fast, the food counters of the markets, such as San Pedro in Cuzco’s colonial core.
Other countries may have hamburgers or fried chicken and we eat those too, but rice and egg probably beats them all for us. It is Cuzco’s favorite fast food.