Mistura, Peru’s Week of Culinary Adventure

Started in 2008 by Gastón Acurio, Mistura is a week-long gastronomic showcase of Peruvian chefs and agriculturalists. Here are some tips and useful to-knows for your first trip to South America’s largest food fair.

 

Photos by M. Pavkovic.

 

Dulce vendors, ranfañote (middle right), ponche de sacha inchi and other hot “superfood” beverages at Mistura.

 

 

When and where

End of October to early November in Lima.

Mistura was held annually along Lima’s Costa Verde during the first week of September. That was until 2017 when the dates and location changed. In 2017 the festival marked its 10th anniversary and was held from 26 October through 5 November in Lima’s historic district Rimac. Details about upcoming dates and program can be found on the festival’s social media page.

 

 

What to expect

A larger-than-life food festival with booths grouped by type. Each booth serves one to three preset dishes. There are separate tents to sample the country’s famous pisco cocktails and ever-expanding selection of cervezas artesanales (craft beers).

 

The parrilla (BBQ) pits, picarones and taps of Peruvian cervezas artesanales at Mistura.

 

Mistura also hosts a Gran Mercado where agriculturalists display and discuss Peruvian produce. Rare products such as Dalmatian-spotted Andean beans and hard-to-find Peruvian “superfoods” can also be purchased.

 

Clockwise from top left: Mermelada de arracacha, mashua and yana pacha at El Gran Mercado in Mistura.

 

 

How the queues work

Not understanding the different colas (lines) can be a source of frustration for first-time Mistura goers. The system works like this: queue to pay, get a receipt, then queue to collect your food. There is little forgiveness for those who queue for food collection before paying so inquire first if unsure which line is which.

 

Worth noting is the third line for “preferential.” This line is for those who are pregnant, with small children, elderly or disabled and is indicated with the universal sign for one or all four. Persons who are in this line queue separately and are always served first.

 

 

Best days to go

The first few.

The first few days of Mistura are typically less crowded, relatively speaking, with an absence of a traditional “opening night rush.” 1:00pm is the official lunchtime in Lima so aim to take an eating break around then.

 

 

Days to avoid

Sundays.

Sunday is the (un)official family day in Lima and Mistura on a Sunday means lines are at their longest, kids at their most energetic and patience at a minimum for those wanting to maneuver through the crowds.

 

Cuy (guinea pig) and meat roasted in a caja china at the parrilla pits at Mistura.

 

 

Chance of rain

Slim to none.

Despite the cloud cover it rarely rains in Lima, and when it does think more mist than rain. The odds of a torrential downpour ruining the festival are essentially one in a million.

 

 

Cash or credit

Bring both.

The festival works on a ticket system and there are designated stands to buy tickets at the entrance and once inside. Stands are official and take both cash and credit cards. Vendors in Mistura’s marketplace may not accept tickets or cards. Be sure to have some soles on hand. You may just need it.

 

 

… And a few more tips

Embrace the half plate

Some booths offer a half plate option, a smaller (and cheaper) portion of a preset dish. Opt for the half plate. They are ideal for trying more dishes before getting full.

 

Aim to compartir

Sharing (compartir) food is as much apart of Peruvian culture as the food itself. If traveling with others, consider ordering different dishes and sharing. It’s another way to try a lot more!

 

Approach queueing as a cultural adventure

For your own sanity, approach queueing with patience as social conventions around standing in line are not strictly adhered. If someone does slip in front, it is OK to (kindly) say something. A friendly, rather than angry, reminder that you too were waiting can go a long way.

 

 

 

A warm thank you to M. Pavkovic for the colorful photos and braving the crowds.