• Vegan Field Report: Lima, Peru

    March 16th, 2011quarrygirllima, more restaurants (not LA)

    hey everyone! time for a massive field report from lima, peru by chica vegan. she visited several restaurants and sent us a whole vegan guide of the city. check it!

    This was the first time I’ve been back to Peru after becoming vegan, and I found several interesting options all within the same neighborhood.

    My first stop was Starbucks. I don’t drink coffee, but I was curious to see their menu and I needed to hog some Wi-Fi. Most famous chains “localize” their menu with ingredients available in the region, and I was happy with what I found!

    Starbucks had just as many smoothies, juices, and non-coffee drinks as coffee! I noticed they even had “Algarrobina”, a very popular syrup in Peru, high in protein and vitamins. So I got an “Algarrobina Dark Chocolate Chip Soy Crème Frappuccino”. SERIOUSLY:

    I just knew I was going to have a great day ahead of me!

    The first restaurant I went to was Govinda, opened decades ago and recently relocated. I checked out the Menu first because I didn’t want to just go to an Indian place, or Thai, or any other non-Peruvian place I could find here in the States or anywhere else. I wanted Peruvian food. But they did have a mix of Peruvian and Indian plates, mostly vegetarian with a few vegan options.

    I first ordered the “Anticuchos”, the famous kebabs (traditionally made with beef hearts… gross, I know but) with a great “aji” marinade. I had to try their version. These were seitan kebabs…

    I have to admit I was not impressed. I was expecting maybe a mix of vegetables or potatoes with the seitan, not straight up flabs of seitan. The marinade was ok and not spicy at all (which it usually is…we even serve it with corn and potatoes to rinse off the palate from the spice!). So I don’t understand why they even bothered here. I wouldn’t order this again.

    Next, I had the “Saltado”, another traditional Peruvian dish. Angelenos may have had it at the “Lomo Arigato” Food Truck. It’s a basic stir fry of lomo (beef), tomatoes, onions, and French fries (yeah, french fries!). I’ve cooked this myself many times at home. You can’t go wrong with this one. Some people do all veggies, but instead Govinda used soy meat.

    It was delicious! The meat was so flavorful, I’m sure it was an aji marinade. They also added a few red bell peppers into their mix and served it with Peruvian white rice, which has a hint of garlic. All the flavors together just were perfect!

    Next dish was the “Shaji”,  an Indian stew they made with Peruvian seasonal veggies.

    Even though it was simple, this one was also amazing! A combination of soy meat, corn, carrots, potatoes, more veggies, and whatever spice that was, just blew my mind! By far the best flavored dish I had at Govinda.

    They had many other dishes, and were well aware of “veganism”. Most people in Peru are not, even “vegetarianism” is still not understood; but thankfully all these vegetarian places knew what’s up! And to make things better, their food is cheap! Their plates were from S/. 8 to S/. 10 (less than $3!)

    Next, I walked two blocks down to Sabor y Vida. Founded on 1991. It wasn’t my first option, but I’m glad I tried it anyway.

    One of the sandwiches caught my eye: The “Lomitovell”, a “Saltado” in a bun! I HAD to try it!

    It was deliciously genius! The bun was slightly too soft for such heavy and moist filling, but the flavors and texture were perfect for a sandwich (almost like in a Philly cheesesteak way)… all worth the messy bite.

    I also ordered the “Reconstituyente” (or “restorative” in Spanish) drink, a smoothie made with quinoa, maca, and soy milk. It was ok, but needed some fruit or some specific flavor added.

    After that, we tried the “Champiñones en Salsa de Soya” Salad.

    This was good too. Simple. Light on the soy dressing. Nothing fancy. Just good.

    And last, I had the “Quinua a la Jardinera”. [“Arroz a la Jardinera” is the Peruvian version of “Mexican Rice” with tomatoes and veggies, but this one was with quinoa instead of rice.] I HAD to have quinoa while I was in Peru…

    Same verdict here: Well prepared. Good. Simple. The fried tofu and brown rice on the side were ok. I started to notice soy meat was the focus of most places, trying to simple “veganize” traditional plates.

    Regardless, I would definitely come back to “Sabor y Vida” for breakfast and try more sandwiches and smoothies. The lunch plates were about S/.10 (a little over $3!) but the breakfast specials listed at half that price! S/.5 (less than $2!). Who wouldn’t go back!?

    Next day, I tried two new places. First, Bircher-Benner was in order. Founded in 1972, it’s the most famous vegetarian restaurant in Lima, Peru because it’s been open forever.

    Before we went in, I took a ton of pictures of these adorable kitties that were hanging around a park:

    AND ran out of battery. So I used my friend’s camera and/or my phone for the next ones…

    I was not impressed at all with this Restaurant, though. It was a little over priced for the area, plates run from S/.12 to S/. 20 (about $6 at the most) but they’re not worth it. All plates were just ok. Service was a little snobby too.

    I ordered the “Chicken Cordon Bleu” to taste Bircher Benner’s fancier not traditionally Peruvian dishes.

    It was good. Well prepared sauce and veggies, but nothing extraordinary for the price.

    Same with next dish, a “Spinach and Mushroom Roll”.

    It was ok. The sauce on the bottom was excellent, but maybe it should have been on top of everything, especially the potatoes… who wants boiled potatoes with nothing on them?

    So I didn’t order anything else. I wanted vegan PERUVIAN dishes, plus I had to go back to El AlmaZen, and hope they were open! …They were… 🙂

    “El Alma Zen” was everything I had dreamed about. I’m not kidding you. The name is a clever name play of “Almacén” which means “Store”, but “Alma” means “Soul” and we all know “Zen”! This is another lovely location adapted from a house. The decoration is so carefully thought out, but in a simplistic way.

    It’s the only certified organic restaurant in Peru and they only use fresh seasonal produce. Even though it’s a vegetarian restaurant, the chef owner is vegan [AHA!] so she knows her stuff! She’s also super approachable and is happy to chat with you and answer any questions, make suggestions, and even prepare anything special for you!!! Finally, everything is plated so beautifully!!! I regret not having my camera!!! Gggrrrr

    I first ordered their “Vegetarian Ceviche”.

    It was the most amazing Ceviche I have EVER had. Even counting the fish Ceviches when I was omnivore. No comparison. It bursts with flavors of veggies, avocados, mangoes, lime juice, Oh My Gawd! Amazing!

    We had to keep ordering food! Next we tried the “Vegetable Causa”.

    The “Causa” was also pretty and delicious, but the filling was very similar to the “Ceviche” and we wanted something new…

    So I ordered the other two vegan dishes on the Menu: “Quinotto de Broccoli al Curry”, and “Caigua Rellena”.

    Those were both great too! The Quinoa Curry Risotto was perfectly cooked. The curry flavor wasn’t overpowering. Everything about it was great. Lots of flavors that worked together beautifully. You can just taste the thought put behind every detail.

    The Caigua (some people know it as “Stuffing Cucumber”, and it’s been known to reduce cholesterol levels) was delicious too.

    I loved this place. It was the most expensive of them all, each plate running about S/.20 which is very high for Lima, and only fancy Restaurants would dare to charge that much, but it’s only $ 7 when you think about it…! We wanted to go back, but we didn’t get a chance… I would definitely go back to this one, and hopefully some new restaurants when I go back!

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9 responses to “Vegan Field Report: Lima, Peru” RSS icon

  • The Vegetarian Ceviche looks amazing! Though everything may not have been up to par, the food looks inciting and inventive…

  • I explored vegan Lima last spring and would be happy to share my pics of AlmaZen… excellent place! Looking forward to going back perhaps next year! Govinda, which is in many cities, was like heaven to me in Aguas Calientes after a several-day bout with really bad intestinal problems. It was the first food I had eaten in days and it was delicious!

  • if ya send me a little field report, i’ll post it!

  • Gauri Radha गौरी राधा

    Thanks for the review! The food looks amazing and that cat is adorable.

  • Thanks for this! Looks good… I have been to the Govinda located in Colombia and it is quite interesting.. I want to do a massive field report like this when I go back to Colombia!

  • Wow, this is a great post! I just committed to a trip to Lima and Cuzco in may, so I am very nervous about finding vegan food. There are only so many Luna bars one can eat. Thanks for posting this!

  • Lima, as you can see, and Cuzco are very vegan friendly. Cuzco even more so.

  • That is wonderful to hear!

  • Nice article. I’m peruvian and I’ve been to 2 of these restaurants some time ago and the only thing these places haven’t learned so far (judging by the pics) is that they need FRESH CHAMPIGNONES. They always use canned ones and weird that they don’t realize it’d make a big difference in their dishes. Man, they should toss some fresh mushrooms on a frying pan with some olive oil, sautee them a bit and add them to their concoctions, my god! I love peruvian food: the best in the world!

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