A rich and evolving street food scene fills Cuzco to the pleasure of its people. Although in cities from which many tourists come, food prepared on the spot or ready for you as you pass by suggests fast food chains, even there street food is claiming ever more importance. In Cuzco, street food is the fast food par excellence; it constantly responds to new trends and meets the demands of its clients.
Long before Bembos, McDonalds or KFC came to Cuzco, in that Ur-time when picanterías were the main restaurants, Cuzco had street food. But with the passing of time it, and the others, have become more important because people work more and often do not have time to eat at home. For that reason people demand ever more dining options in the street.
While the traditional markets are always a good option for available, well-made, and inexpensive food, people look for more. They find it in the vendors who set up shop on street corners and doorways. But there is more. There are a host of small shops with a few tables that sell food, either pre-prepared or made on the spot, for people to get and eat quickly. The Spanish loan word “fast food encompasses these, while in English it would emphasize more franchises of large firms.
Near Cuzco’s universities, its institutes, and its schools vendors set up stands. Students, like many other people, often do not eat breakfast at home. As a result, in the mornings they can get breakfast in the street. including hot drinks quinoa, maca, boiled eggs, tamales, and more.
When the students have recess, or breaks, they run to the vendors outside the schools’ walls to buy food, candy, and snacks. The vendors anticipate this and have what the students like ready and waiting for them.
Whether on the street or in rooms with a few tables, the students find what they want and these places are generally filled. Around the university one finds cevicherías, chifas, pollerías, and others waiting to make the students smile. Generally, these places are full during the universities’ breaks.
Around bus stops one also finds points of sale for street food . One can easily find empanadas ( a kind of pasty or enclosed meat or cheese pies) of different flavors such as cheese, hot dog, ham, and some combined of different ingredients. Near by one often finds Bolivian salteñas.
But you don’t have to go there for good street food. In the streets near Cuzco’s Plaza de Armas, street food is sold. Some of Cuzco’s best tamales are found in the Portal Belén. During the day women come with covered baskets and buckets to sell drinks and dishes of food to the people working the plaza; they will often sell right in the door ways of the plaza’s fine restaurants to workers and others. And a block or so away you can find rocotos rellenos and picarones. Street food is easily available even in the heart of tourist Cuzco for those who know what to look for.
There are always street sellers offering cakes, gelatines, handmade cookies, and other sweets.
Our great city of Cuzco is not only known for its history and architecture, but also for its food, including its street food. Visitors and locals have the opportunity to roam its streets, see and try a great variety of street food waiting for them where history and contemporary demand come together.
At Cuzco Eats we have had fun going into Cuzco’s streets and trying its food, while then coming home and writing about it. Here are some of our articles on various items offerend in Cuzco’s streets.