Surprising Cuisine from Peru
Picture a glistening tartar of fresh-caught red trout, resting on a yucca biscuit under a dollop of wasabi aioli dressed with beads of local caviar. Move over Machu Picchu and Andes, cuisine from Peru is the latest draw. The world’s top chefs like René Redzepi, Daniel Boulud and Eric Ripert are injecting Peruvian dishes into their menus. But how did a country that gave the world more than 3,000 varieties of potatoes earn a reputation for culinary finesse? It’s a rich and rapidly evolving cultural story and a truly delicious surprise.
BEYOND QUINOA AND GUINEA PIG
True, Peruvians gave the world quinoa … and chili peppers, corn and more. They still eat cuy, the less startling local term for guinea pig (which tastes — no surprise — like dark-meat chicken). But the menus vary from a homegrown, home-cooked meal on a hacienda in the Sacred Valley to fine dining experiences in Cusco.
REINTERPRETING FOOD CULTURE
For half a millennium, Peru has been a melting pot of Spanish, Japanese and African immigrants, each having its own food culture. And, of course, there are the native Quechua food traditions. A lot of cultural tastes are baked into today’s menus. As in many countries, the youngest generation of chefs is updating and reinterpreting the classics.
SPECIALTIES YOU’LL RECOGNIZE
Ceviche tops the list. The luscious seafood dish is “cooked” by acidic lime juice, then given a tingly edge by aji pepper. The typical causa is a mashed potato terrine stuffed with chicken, egg, tuna or avocado. You may not recognize the format, but the ingredients are familiar — one reason that Peruvian food is a natural for young travelers.
A FANTASY FEAST
Pisco Sour to start. Pumpkin cream soup with queso fresco and capers. Quinoa risotto with wild mushrooms. Alpaca tenderloin with kumquats and rocoto chili salsa. For dessert, the chocolatisimo including mousse, ice cream and a milkshake. The table overlooks the lush Urubamba River where all of the produce and herbs were grown. Perfection! This meal summarizes Peruvian food with generous servings of the ancient, the new and the irresistible.