It’s late morning on a Sunday in Lima, the coastal capital of Peru. The sky is a dull gray color, which the locals call panza de burro—”donkey’s belly”—typical of the city’s skyline for all but maybe three months out of the year. Most residents of the “thrice-crowned city of kings,” as it was known in the colonial era, are filing out of one of its many, many Catholic churches. After all, the Church (always with a capital C) holds a legally privileged status in this country. Those who aren’t religious may just be waking up from a pisco-fueled, all-night jarana.
On these days, limeños—whether religious or secular—are united in a nearly singular hunger for one particular type of dish: sánguches. In Lima, sandwiches are closely associated with breakfast, not lunch. You can get a sandwich almost any time of day in the city, which makes them rather unique in the Lima food world. Food is on a very strict schedule here. Good luck trying to find good ceviche past lunchtime, for instance, and you may want to say a little prayer to El Señor de los Milagros if you want to savor anticuchos (grilled beef heart skewers) before sundown. But Lima’s many sangucherías are often some of the first food businesses to open, and many still serve their meaty, hand-held specialties well into the night.