Christmas Shopping in Lima and Chancho de Palo In Huaral, Peru
Peruvian Summer Vacation in December
Yes, you read that right. Summer in Peru starts on December 23rd so for us Christmas holidays this year means beach time and ceviche.
We did most of our Christmas shopping at Ruraq Maki, a handicraft market with over 100 vendors from all over Peru. They sold everything from necklaces to handicrafts to musical instruments. Many of these items can be found at touristic markets like the Indio market in Miraflores, but the quality and variety of Ruraq Maki was another level. We bought a shopping cart filled with presents, though some of the presents won't make it to their recipients until I return back to the US.
The big Christmas celebration in Peru is actually on Christmas Eve (Noche Buena) with a feast at midnight. The Christmas feast often consists either turkey or roast pork. Given the current state of things in Peru and everywhere around the world, we opted to have a small celebration with just Mariela, her mom, and I. We had turkey cooked in ají panca (a type of Peruvian pepper), beets, potatoes, panetón, and hot chocolate1.
I woke up at 4 am of the 24th wondering if we should start defrosting the turkey and calculated how long it should take to defrost and realized that it probably wouldn't fully defrost in time. But everything worked out and we enjoyed a nice dinner at midnight. To be honest, it's getting harder and harder for me to stay up that late.
On Christmas we headed to Huaral to see Mariela's family. One of the great things about traveling around Peru is discovering the regional cuisine. Wherever you go in Peru, you'll discover specialty dishes that every restaurant in town serves. For Huaral, it's chancho de palo, slabs of pork cooked on giant metal racks over a fire. Driving from Lima, you'll see more and more Chancho Al Palo restaurants as you get closer to Huaral.
Lucky for us, Fogon de Huaral, the top place for Chancho Al Palo was open on Christmas. The restaurant was a big open space with a bungalow-style shade. There were a lot of families enjoying lunch, but it didn't feel crowded at all. The menu was very simple, centered around hearty meat dishes including Chancho Al Palo and the Pato en Ají (duck in pepper sauce).
The waitress told us that the Chancho Al Palo (50 soles or 13 dollars) was for two people, but it definitely felt like it was for three people2.
This technique of cooking produces pork with a crunchy skin (you can hear it!) and moist meat. The fat drips away so the pork isn’t greasy.
We also ordered the chicharrón de conejo (fried rabbit). The rabbit was perfectly fried and the meat was quite lean.
The next day we flew to Chiclayo in the North of Peru. Finally, the beach vacation we’ve been looking for!
Some people think it's odd that Peruvians drink hot chocolate in the summer, but it honestly didn't cross my mind until people pointed it out. And it's not like people are drinking hot chocolate in the middle of the day on the beach.
I’m slowly learning not to order based on prices, but the prices of the Bay Area are still ingrained in me, even after almost a year away. If you order based on those prices, you’ll end up with way too much food! At least this time, we were ordering based on Miraflores (the part of Lima tourists usually start out in) prices.