The Business Lunch: Peru’s Most Popular Dishes and Mealtime Etiquette

While still a developing country in many ways, Peru and its economy have been growing and evolving rapidly in the past decade.  With its robust GDP and low inflation rate, Peru is one of the most stable countries in South America.  The poverty level has dropped by 16% in the years from 2007 to 2012, and in the middle class is growing city-side.  As more and more US companies seek to establish ties with Peruvian corporations, knowledge of the business culture in that area of the world is imperative.

Photo by Robert Duncan

Photo by Robert Duncan

The business lunch in particular is an important ritual to Peruvians, not least of all because Peru is famous across the continent for its diverse and flavorful cuisine, and they will be eager to show off local dishes to you.  If invited out to lunch by your colleagues, be sure to dress formally—Peru is rather conservative compared to countries of European heritage, and no matter what time of day, a suit and tie for men or dress slacks or skirt for women is the appropriate attire.  When it comes to timing, it’s most likely your lunch operates on “Peruvian time,” meaning that it’s normal to arrive anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour late (although not advisable if you’re trying to make a top-notch impression).

While lunches in Peru are typically served later than in the United States—generally around 1 or 2 pm, just before the siesta hour—the food is well worth the wait.  If you’re not feeling too adventurous, stick with the standard arroz con pollo (chicken and rice) as a main dish, or try the lomo saltado, the beloved national dish of beef strips stir-fried with onions and tomatoes.  If you enjoy spicy dishes, try the aji de gallina, which is chicken cooked in a hot chili sauce.

Photo by Juliana Su

Photo by Juliana Su

Most dishes come with some sort of a starter or salad, and don’t miss the ceviche, a dish of raw, marinated fish (seafood if you’re in Lima or other coastal cities, river trout if you’re more inland) flavored with lime juice and slivered onions, usually served with toasted corn and sliced yams as a garnish.  Try the papa relleno, a potato stuffed with vegetables and a boiled egg, or the ocopa arequipeña, a local potato dish served with cheese and a spicy peanut sauce.

When it comes to drinks, you will probably be urged to taste the pisco sour, the national cocktail flavored with lime juice and egg white.  But if you prefer a nonalcoholic beverage, Peru has a vast array of fresh tropical fruit juices (be careful if they’re mixed with local water, which may cause some distress to visitors), or you could try the sweet, purple corn brew chicha morada.

Photo by David Berkowitz

Photo by David Berkowitz

Whether you are a devoted foodie or solely visiting Peru on business, it’s a country that has plenty of opportunities for expansion.  Take advantage of all the culture has to offer by learning Spanish before you make your trip.  Send us an inquiry to get started, or take our free online Spanish language level test.

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