PERU: GOURMET PARADISE (See our PHOTO GALLERY)

- The best cuisine of Latin America
- Experiencing Peru through its cuisine
- Peruvian ingredients
- The potato
- Peruvian corn
- Pisco: Our national drink

The best cuisine of Latin America

THE BEST CUISINE OF LATIN AMERICA

According to the connoisseurs, the Peruvian Cuisine is the best of Latin America, alongside the French and the Chinese cuisines. It is not only known for its exquisite taste, but also for its variety.

The culinary history of Peru goes back to the Pre-Inca and Inca times with original products such as the potato and corn, which constitute great contributions to the World.

Recent opinions of experts in the culinary art, corroborate the excellence of our cuisine. Patrick Martin, Academic Director of the famous gastronomic School: Le Cordon Blue of Paris, France, recently visited one of its branches in Lima. He was quoted as saying: "one of the reasons why we have a school here is the excellent quality of the Peruvian cuisine, which I love". Let's hear more opinions:

"... In this land where ceviche was invented, this was the best I'd ever had-the beginning of a sublime week of dining...". Gary Lee from the Washington Post, describing his recent trip to Peru.

"... Peruvian cuisine is incredibly varied and accomplished, for many travelers an exciting and delicious surprise. It is among the best and most diverse cuisines found in Latin America...". Neil E. Schlecht. Frommer's Guide of Peru.

"... Peruvian cuisine is exceptionally good and surpringly unknown. Food lovers visiting for the first time are in for a wonderful surprise...". Peru's Lonely Planet. 2004 Edition.

Jonathan M. Leonard, author of the well known book: Latin American Cooking of Time-Life, also says that the peruvian cuisine is the best of Latin America.

Conde Nast Traveler (April 2003) says: No country in South America cooks like Peru and Lima is the gastronomic heart.

The renowned magazine Gourmet (august 2006) in an article of eleven pages talks about the delicious and varied Peruvian  cousine. The best known chef of the country, Gaston Acurio is quoted as saying: in another 10 years, Lima will be like Paris, people will come here to eat.

Finally, TIME (October 12, 2009) says that the restaurants in Lima have help turn the capital into a legitimate destination for gourmets. The same article mentions that with the aperture of differents Peruvian restaurants in different countries, the people in these countries are appreciating the delicious Peruvian cousine.

We don't have any doubt, you will agree with these and many others connoisseurs, once you taste the mouth-watering peruvian dishes.

El cebiche

Recipes such as cebiche (raw fish marinated in lemon juice), pachamanca (meat and vegetables cooked underground), chupe de camarones (shrimp soup), ají de gallina (spicy chicken) and juane (cornmash pastries) are just a few of the mouth-watering dishes served in Peru are due to two reasons. The quality and variety of dishes in Peru due to two reasons.

The first is Peru’s ecological and climatic diversity which has given rise to a major supply of fresh produce that satisfy not only the housewife but also the most demanding chef.

Peruvian buffet

The rich Peruvian fishing grounds abound in fish and shellfish species. The heart of the succulent coastal gastronomy such as rice, fowl and goat are the key ingredients of Peru’s north coastal cooking. In the Andes, meanwhile ingredients such as the potato and sweetcorn in all its varieties along with cuy (guinea pig) and aji chili pepper are the basis of highland cooking. The jungle adds its own touch with wild game and a side serving of fried banana and manioc root. Local fruit varieties such as chirimoya (custard apple) and lucuma produce incomparable deserts.

The second reason is the rich mix of Western and Easter cultural traditions. Over the course of centuries, Peru has felt the influence os Spain in its stews and soups, Arab sweets and desserts, African contributions to Creole cooking, Italian pastas, Japanese preparations of fish and shellfish and Chinese culinary methods, which have given birth to one of the most popular gastronomic tradition in Peru: chifa. The originality of Peru’s cuisine stems not just from its traditional cooking, but it also continues to incorporate new influences, preparing exquisite and impeccable dishes that have been dubbed the New Peruvian Cuisine.

EXPERIENCING PERU THROUGH ITS CUISINE

Follow the trail of aromas and flavors and come along on a tour through the gastronomic regions of Peru.

Let’s start with the Peruvian sea and seafood, which is the delight of coastal inhabitants. The indispensable ingredient here is without a doubt the hot chili pepper known as aji. Mixed with fish braised in freshly squeezed lemon juice, it gives life to the popular dish cebiche. Aji lends color and aroma in the spicy shellfish stew called picante de mariscos, the parihuela chowder, arroz con mariscos (rice and shellfish) and the pescado a lo macho, where the fish is served with a colorful shellfish sauce.

Ronda friaThe cuisine along the north coast is served and devoured with passion. Premier dishes include arroz con pato (duck and rice), seco de chavelo (fish stew with roasted green bananas), cabrito con frijoles (goat and beans cooked in the fermented corn beverage "chicha de jora"), shambar (beef and bean soup) and the sudado de cangrejos (steamed crab).

In Lima, meanwhile, gourmets can enjoy a wide variety of dishes that are the result of a wide range of foreign influences, as well as all the regional gastronomic variants. Ají de gallina, causa limeña (mashed potato and fish), arroz verde con pollo (chicken served over a bed of coriander rice), carapulcra (spicy pork stew), lomo saltado (sautéed beef) and the traditional anticucho (skewered oxheart) feature among the main favorites in Lima, not to mention the mounth-watering tacu-tacu (fried beans mixed with rice).

Highland cooking maintains a pagan relationship with the earth, a notion that is ever present in all the local celebrations. The most typical Andean dish is the pachamanca, which is cooked in a hole in the ground over hot stones. Ingredients include green beans, potatoes, corn and several types of meat seasoned with herbs and spices. Soup dishes include pucheros, patasca and caldo de cabeza de cordero (sheepshead broth), which are favorites when the cold sets in. Beef is often freeze-dried into charqui, while cuy (guinea pig) is served in a variety of sauces and stews. Irresistible entrées include papa a la huancaina (potato drenched in a spicy cheese sauce) or ocopa (in peanut sauce). MariscosThe southern Arequipa highlands, meanwhile, is home to such temptations as rocoto relleno (stuffed chili pepper) and chupe de camarones, while in Cuzco visitors can try their hand at cordero al homo (roast lamb).

The food served in the jungle has a lot to do with Man’s harmonious relationship with nature. Recipes such as the juane (chicken and rice tamale), inchi capi (chicken served with peanuts and toasted corn) and tacacho de platanos a la brasa (barbecued bananas) are a delight, surprising the uninitiated with their ingredients. The local game is also unusual: sajino en cecina (wild boar), lomo saltado de majado and apichado de gallina de monte (wildfowl) are just some of the magical specialties of the jungle and Peru’s cooking in general.

PERUVIAN INGREDIENTS

Peru’s Quality cuisine draws from a wide variety of unique products that it has bequeathed to the world. The rich Peruvian fishing grounds, the ancient agricultural techniques of the Andes and the rivers and cloud forest of the Amazon produce an endless variety of native ingredients which come together to create the peerless flavor and aroma of Peru’s cooking. The best-known Peruvian products both at home and abroad are tubers and cereals.

Rocotos y ajíesPeru has grown potatoes since the dawn of time, and its 4,000 varieties have adapted to several different climates. Peruvians are particularly fond of the papa amarilla, a potato with a yellow interior not grown anywhere else on Earth. Other popular tubers include the Peruvian camote (sweet potato) which is used to garnish a variety of dishes, plus the yucca (manioc), olluco and oca.

Peru is also home to some 35 varieties of maize, more than anywhere else on Earth. Corn is cooked in many ways in Peru: on the cob, ground with a mortar and pestle, boiled, toasted, ground into the sweet mazamorra jelly and fermented into the chicha beverage. Native Andean cereals such as kiwicha (amaranth) and quinua are also highly regarded abroad for their nutritional qualities. Another major contribution of the Andes is the ají chili pepper. Some varieties such as the rocoto are used in spicy sauces, while others like the brightly-colored ají colorado are boiled and gutted to soften the hot chili pepper taste for use as a mild seasoning.

Chupe de camaronesThe Peruvian sea teems with over 700 fish species, from flounder to Pacific Bonito, and 400 types of shellfish, including lobsters and sea urchins. Highland lakes, offer superb trout fishing, while the enormous paiche fish species abounds in the jungle rivers.

Peru has also made a major contribution to the world’s dessert trolley with four extraordinary fruit varities: chirimoya, guanabana, granadilla and lucuma.

 

THE POTATO

La papaThe potato (Solanum tuberosum), a tuber which originated in the upper reaches of the Andes, has served as a foodstuff for Man over the past 8,000 years.However, it was not until the Spaniards took potato samples back to Europe in the sixteenth century that the tuber rose to become a universal foodstuff. In fact, slightly less than a century after it was brought over to the Old World, the potato was already massively consumed, and turned out to be a key energy source for the working class during the industrial revolution.

According to ancient legend, when the mythical founders of the Inca empire, Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo, emerged from the waters of Lake Titicaca, the first thing the god Wiracocha taught them was how to sow potatoes. Possibly due to his time-honored origin, the farmers of the Andes have managed to create a series of varieties that have adapted to a wide variety of climates.

Today, scientists have identified more than 4,000 varieties, many of which are only founded in Peru such as the yellow potato (papa amarilla or papa huayro). Peruvian potatoes are held to be matchless in flavor and texture in fact, their noble yet delicate shapes fit perfectly into the cultural background this tuber enjoys in Peru. The all-powerful Quechua culture revered the potato not just as a crucial foodstuff, but as an icon.

There is even a popular saying: “That’s more Peruvian than potato” a reference to the unmistakable stamp of Peruvian origin on the tuber. It is a compliment that does justice to this age-old fruit of the Andes.

PERUVIAN CORN

Variedades de  maíz Is one of the most widely-consumed foodstuffs in Peruvian cuisine. It has been planted in Peru since at least 1200 BC. The ancient Peruvian farmers achieved a degree of sophistication in the selection and creation of new varieties which adapted to varying terrains and climates.

Sixteenth-century Spanish chronicler Bernabé Cobo wrote that in ancient Peru one could find corn (known locally as choclo) in every color under the sun: white, yellow, purple, black, red and mixed. Today, farmers along the Peruvian coast, highlands and jungle grow more than 55 varieties of corn, more than anywhere else on Earth.

Native historian Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, in his Royal Commentaries of the Incas, wrote in detail on eating habits in colonial times. In those days, corn was a key part of nutritional needs, and the locals called it Sara, eating it roasted or boiled in water. On major occasions, they milled the kernels to bake a type of bread called tanta or humita. For solemn events such as the Festival of the Sun (Inti Raymi), they would bake breadrolls called zancu. They roasted the corn and called cancha (the predecessor of popcorn), the same as it is called today.

Tamales Today, Peru features regional varieties on ways to prepare delicious dishes based on corn. In northern Peru, the locals are particularly fond of pepian, a stew based on grated corn kernels mixed with onion, garlic and the chilli pepper which takes on a particularly heightened flavor when cooked with turkey. Arequipa inhabitants prepare a dish call soltero (beans, corn, onion and dressing made from fresh cheese). In the jungle, one of the most typical dishes, inchicapi, is made from chicken cooked in a stew made of roasted corn and peanuts. Desserts include the sanguito (made from yellow cornflour, cooking fat, raisins and a sugarcane molasses called chancaca).

Peruvian Corn is also used to make cornmash pastries called tamales and humitas, which can come in a wide range of colors and flavors (green, brown and yellow, sweet and savory). Peruvian corn is also the main ingredient of the chicha morada (drink made from purple corn) or chicha de jora (fermented corn beer) and the sweet purple corn jelly called mazamorra, for special occasions.

PISCO: OUR NATIONAL DRINK

Peruvian pisco is a grape brandy or aguardiente, distilled from fresh grape must in stills that do not rectify the final product. Thus the pisco obtained from the distilling process is transparent or slightly yellowish, with an alcohol content that runs at around 42º.

Pisco sourPisscu means seagull in Quechua, the Inca language. It was also the name of a fertile valley often visited by condors and settled by descendants of the ancient Paracas cuture. Here the local potters, also called piscos, crafted the large clay jars used to ferment chicha and other alcoholic beverages. When the Spanish Conquerors arrived in the sixteenth century, they found this part of the south coast featured the ideal conditions to plant Mediterranean grape varieties, and were able to plant them thanks to the skill and knowledge of the ancient Peruvians who invented a system of irrigating the arid coastal desert.

When the Spaniards started distilling, they baptized the grape brandy “pisco”, as well as the port from where it was shipped, this can be seen from maps dating back to the late sexteenth century. Pisco exports reached their height between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Piscos-IcaPisco varieties are defined by flavor and not aroma. There are four types, according to the ingredient used for their preparation: pisco puro (made from non-aromatic grapes); pisco aromatico (aromatic); pisco acholado (distilled from several different grape varieties); and pisco mosto verde (distilled from grape must that has yet to be fully ferment).

We hope that you will find out, why the pisco sour, a cocktail made from pisco, is world famous.





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