Menu Peru what is the deal?
In the United States we are accustomed to ordering our food off of the menu, be it at a drive thru or a fancy sit down restaurant. In Peru, Menu has an entirely different meaning. You will see the word Menu mostly on billboards sitting out in front of the local restaurants. In Peru, Menu means the specials of the day. Rather than choosing one item you order Menu and get a 2 course meal.
The first Menu serving normally is a soup or sopa which is sometimes referred to as caldo or chupe depending on the ingredients. Popluar choices are caldo de gallina (chicken soup made with a hen), caldo de camote (sweetpotatoe), Chupe de mariscos (seafood like muscles or clam), Chupe de pescado (white fish) or my most favorite Chupe de langostinos (a spicy shrimp soup).
Most often you will have a choice other than soup such as papa huancaina which is one of the most popular around the country. Papa huancaina is made of skinned and sliced boiled potatoes topped with the Peruvian favorite, a spicy sauce, made from aji amarillo or orange peppers and queso de casa which is fresh white cheese and saltine crackers blended together with milk.
The second dish is dependent on what was fresh in the market that day. Items range from cebiche with chicharrone de calamar also known as fried calamari, lomo saltado (a spiced steak and pepper mix served over fried potatoes and rice just to name a few. The second dish will vary widely depending on which area of Peru that you are visiting.
In addition to the two courses you will sometimes be served a refresco which is some sort of drink as well. Refresco can range from a sweetend tea to maracuya passion fruit drink.
To sum up the meaning of Menu in Peru it basically means that you are going to get a full meal and sometimes a beverage as well. There is usually a set price listed on the billboard which will let you know the price for the meal. In Lima and in Cusco I normally pay between 4 and 7 soles for Menu when eating in the markets, but places outside of the markets can be much more costly. In Mancora Menu can be as pricey as s./ 12 soles on the avenida grau.
My all time favorite place to get Menu is the Cristo Rey Cebicheria which is close to where I stay in Rimac not far from the Plaza de Armas where prices are normaly 6 or 7 soles depending on how big a portion you decide on. Remember the Menu and one thing is for certain you will not go hungary while visiting Peru. Bon Appetite!