Upon arrival in Cusco, Peru one of my missions was to get to the bottom of a mystery that has haunted me for many years – does Alpaca taste better than Llama?
Having had Llama many times in Bolivia, I wanted to try their somewhat smaller, and some say cuter, cousins. You may wonder what Alpaca tastes like. Well, it’s quite a mild flavour actually, not game-y like venison or even lamb can be. You’d be hard pressed to tell it isn’t beef steak in many cases, but if you get a good Alpaca meal there is a nice difference, it’s quite lean and a little sweet.
Now I’m no ‘foodie’ (I rarely use Instagram, but always use the beer app Untappd) and I am not prone to frequently taking pictures of my food. I did manage to get some not-totally horrible Alpaca pictures though.
My first Alpaca meal was at a place called Nuna Raymi in Cusco.
I elected for an Alpaca steak cooked with some traditional herbs and a sauce that had a bit of a kick to it. The actual item I got was called Alpaca en el Ukhupacha and to quote from the menu description it was “Alpaca sirloin marinated with pachamanca herbs accompanied with yellow and panca chil’s and mashed potatoes, topped with sautéed veggies on olive oil, pisco and paprika.”
After eating this tasty Alpaca I was sold on the idea that Alpaca tastes better than Llama, but to be sure, I decided to try to start a new challenge – I must eat Alpaca every day I am in Cusco. I couldn’t be left wondering if that tasty Alpaca meal was a fluke.
Most places around town had simple steak versions, which often looked good, but I was always on the look out for something a little different. I didn’t just want to eat Alpaca steak after Alpaca steak.
The next Alpaca meal worth mentioning is the one I had after a day of exploring Sacsahuaman, Tambopatchy and some other Incan sites near to Cusco. A few of us decided to check out LIMO, a place right on the main square. It was a nice spot, albeit a typically overpriced tourist spot when you consider what you get. This place is more known for seafood and ceviche and I wasn’t overly hungry this time so I opted for the Alpaca brochettes. These morsels of meat well presented and came with some tasty Peruvian potatoes, sauces and sides. While my Alpaca was good, I was more excited about having the Pisco Sour here, which was really superb.
The next Alpaca meal that makes it on to my Cusco Alpaca tasting challenge is probably the healthiest Alpaca meal I had. After eating potatoes, rice and starchy foods for so long in Peru, I needed to fuel up on something healthier. Yes, even though I’m a meat eater, I do sometimes have a craving for green things and vegetables. I headed to a place I knew that would have good beer and they also happened to have a delicious sounding Alpaca salad on the menu. It was exactly what I needed and their own craft beer helped make it another favourite Alpaca meal.
I managed to sample some other Alpaca meals outside of Cusco, Peru as well. Just to ensure that Cusco wasn’t some strange vortex for tasty Alpaca meat. It turns out that in Machu Picchu Pueblo you can also get some great Alpaca meals. But back to the tasting challenge! By the end of my time in Cusco, my final verdict was yes – Alpaca tastes slightly better than Llama.
But I’d happily eat either.