While much of the rest of the world tends to lump all Latin American food together under the title of Mexican, this region is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet and what constitutes as food varies more here than any other place I know of.
1.) Suri – A plump white grub that lives in the trunks of the Aguaje tree is skewered and grilled or boiled in pots in many Amazon cities and markets. It has a thick, tender skin with a buttery filling that sort of explodes in your mouth when you bite into it.
2.) Alpaca Steaks – Tastes like beef but is fat free and low in cholesterol. Alpaca steaks are often a main course in high-end restaurants throughout the Andes (Cuzco, Quito, etc) and sometimes even the meat for anticuchos.
3.) Horse Jerky – Chirqui is a Quechua word that became jerky in English. In the pampas of northern Chile and Argentina dried horsemeat is eaten regularly.
4.) Purple Corn Pudding – Mazamora Morada, a pudding made from purple corn is a favorite sweet in the coast and highlands and coast of Peru and generally served alongside rice pudding (arroz con leche).
5.) Guinea Pig – Called cuy in South America, this delicacy is eaten in the Andes from Colombia to Bolivia. Cuy can be served fried, grilled, boiled, stewed, or in a spicy sauce. For birthdays in the Andes cuy is the meal of choice.
6.) Duck Ceviche – A typical Peruvian/South American ceviche marinates raw fish in lime juice. Because of the thin flesh of the fish the acid in the lime “cooks” the fish, so it is not technically raw. But duck? In the northern coast of Peru, raw duck is marinated in citric acid (usually orange and lime juice).
7.) Deer Pate – In Argentina, the European influence is strong and here it meets with one of the most common and symbolic creatures. I have yet to see this served in anywhere but a small can in Bariloche.
8.) Curanto – A potluck of shellfish, pork, beef, chicken, potatoes, and rubbery pancakes called milcaos all cooked in a hole in the ground are the signature dish on the Chilean archipelago of Chiloe.
9.) Grasshoppers – In Oaxaca, Mexico the Chupalines, or grasshoppers are a favorite food of the region. They are often fried and spiced with chiles.
10.) Beaver – On Tierra del Fuego (Chile/Argentina) an exploding beaver population has lead to government payouts for anyone who brings in a beaver pelt and this has lead to the animal being prominently served at most restaurants in places like Porvenir and Ushuaia.
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.