How to Eat in Peru http://www.projectdinnerparty.com Thu, 16 Mar 2017 02:07:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.4 http%3A%2F%2Fwww.projectdinnerparty.com%2Ffeed%2F116175450 Selva Recap http://www.projectdinnerparty.com/selva-recap/ http://www.projectdinnerparty.com/selva-recap/#respond Thu, 16 Mar 2017 02:07:38 +0000 http://www.projectdinnerparty.com/?p=3173 I spent one week in Iquitos, the gateway to the Peruvian Amazon. Here are the blog posts that provide an overview to the food in the selva plus a guide to visiting the Amazon from Iquitos: A Jaunt Through a Jungle Market (Belén Market, Iquitos, Peru) How to Eat in Iquitos and the Peruvian Amazon...

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I spent one week in Iquitos, the gateway to the Peruvian Amazon. Here are the blog posts that provide an overview to the food in the selva plus a guide to visiting the Amazon from Iquitos:

Also, be sure to check out my Instagram for bite-size snapshots of my time in Iquitos and other parts of Peru.

Parting Thoughts About Food and Culture in the Selva

The people I met in Peru during my first week knew I was on a quest before I myself knew. They told  me that to really understand Peruvian food, I had to visit the jungle and see where exotic ingredients came from. I finally had a chance several months into my journey to understand Peruvian food. I had exactly one week sandwiched between two friends’ visit.

I visited Iquitos wanting to know learn about the fruit and fish. I had no concrete plans and had no idea how I was to learn anything meaningful in a week. Then, luck had it than my Airbnb host was a fruit importer. I hope to publish his story in a future post (not quite done writing about the jungle yet!). I also met Chef Gahry Paz who was invaluable in teaching me about the ingredients (fruit and fish) and the traditional dishes of this region.

Peru is vast in territory and in the scope of its cuisine. The places I visit are separated by many hours on bus (or in the case of Iquitos, multiple days by boat) and feel like their own country-even more so with Iquitos. I recommend visiting Iquitos with an open mind and itinerary. Iquitos is a bit sleepy, and it takes a couple of days for its charm to sink in. Then, it sticks to you like the humidity.

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Into the Amazon: A Day Trip From Iquitos http://www.projectdinnerparty.com/into-the-amazon-iquitos-day-trip/ http://www.projectdinnerparty.com/into-the-amazon-iquitos-day-trip/#comments Mon, 13 Mar 2017 02:11:35 +0000 http://www.projectdinnerparty.com/?p=3054 I originally visited Iquitos as part of the research for my book, but I couldn’t be so close to the Amazon without taking a day off and venturing into the jungle. Most travelers tend to organize their itinerary based on the sights and then sample the local cuisine when they can. For me, it’s the other...

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I originally visited Iquitos as part of the research for my book, but I couldn’t be so close to the Amazon without taking a day off and venturing into the jungle. Most travelers tend to organize their itinerary based on the sights and then sample the local cuisine when they can. For me, it’s the other way around. On my last full day in the Selva, I decided to take a day trip from Iquitos to see a glimpse of the Peruvian Amazon.

Logistics 

You get what you pay for. All of these people had to cram into one boat while I had a boat to myself!

Amazon tours depart from Iquitos and are highly customizable. You can easily find a tour that fit your time frame. Common tour lengths are 1 day, 3 day, and one week. The longer you have, the deeper into the Amazon you can go. The Amazon is far from homogenous; the wildlife changes as you get deeper. More time in the Amazon also gives you more time for jungle walks and other activities.

You won't have to fend for yourself in the jungle. Meals are generally provided by the lodges.
You won’t have to fend for yourself in the jungle. Meals are provided by the lodges and generally consist of buffet with a number of different options.

Overnight tours make use of Amazon lodges located at convenient locations that follow the course of the river. The lodges serve as basecamp for expeditions and is where you will eat most of your meals. These lodges are all-inclusive and include food.

I only had one day but found that it was enough time to get a glimpse of the wildlife and how people in the jungle live. It was nice to just have one day where I didn’t have to plan every hour.

Breakfast

The tour left in the morning from the dock next to Ninay market. We had enough time to give the market a quick walkthrough. I also finally got a chance to try the most famous Suri (Amazonian grubworms).

Suri (Grubworms) are more palatable when served with a smile
Junior demonstrating how to eat Suri.
Junior demonstrating how to eat Suri.

A Day Trip from Iquitos

Wildlife

These colorful butterflies were constantly fluttering.
These colorful butterflies were constantly fluttering.

Jungle Walk

I can’t stress enough how beautiful it was to in the midst of the these incredible trees. It was like being in nature’s cathedral.

We weren’t really ever that far from civilization. This road was really well-paved and connected the villages in this part of the jungle. The only problem was that carts sped through, and there was no such thing as pedestrian right-of-way!

Survival Skills

Both before and after lunch, we strapped on our boots (provided by the lodge) and walked around while Junior shared his knowledge of the plants and wildlife. The people of the jungle have a harmonious relationship with the plants.

It wasn’t all tree-hugging. They cut branches and make use of the leaves of the trees around them but do so in a sustainable way.

I learned that surviving in the jungle requires a deep knowledge of your surroundings. There are tools, water, and food all around you if you know where to look.

These insects act as a natural mosquito repellent
These insects act as a natural mosquito repellent
A ready source of hydration
A ready source of hydration
If you get lost in the jungle, you can use this tree as a drum to signal for others to find you
If you get lost in the jungle, you can use this tree as a drum to signal for others to find you

Luckily, we were only a couple hundred meters from the comfort of the lodge and didn’t have to worry about survival. Since I was the only one on the tour, the pace was relaxed. It was like Junior was showing me around his neighborhood which in a way I guess he was.

Village life

The people living in the Amazon are a bit shy but friendly. The villages we came across were very well-kept. There was even a paved “highway” that linked villages.

The Journey Back

Before I knew it, it was time to head back. We saw more people in boats on the ride back. We arrived back in Iquitos late afternoon and some time to watch the famous pink dolphins.

Glimpse of a dolphin!
Glimpse of a dolphin!

Onwards

This wraps up my series on How to Eat in the Selva. Admittedly, this post has the fewest food photos of probably anything I’ve published, but you can check out my previous posts to learn about the ingredients and traditional dishes of Iquitos and the Peruvian Amazon:

Upcoming on the blog-we’ll make a quick stop in Lima and then go to the Northern Coast of Peru to sample ceviche. My goal for this trip was to learn about the food in the sierra, selva, and coast. One more region to go!

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How to Eat in Iquitos and the Peruvian Amazon http://www.projectdinnerparty.com/iquitos-food-guide/ http://www.projectdinnerparty.com/iquitos-food-guide/#comments Mon, 27 Feb 2017 02:55:35 +0000 http://www.projectdinnerparty.com/?p=2949 Introducing Iquitos, the Gateway to the Peruvian Amazon Iquitos does not have the sheer number of restaurants as Cusco or Lima, but as the gateway to the Peruvian Amazon (selva), Iquitos offers a number of unique culinary experiences. In this guide, I will focus on Iquitos food as an example of the kinds of food...

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Introducing Iquitos, the Gateway to the Peruvian Amazon
Iquitos, a Peruvian port city and gateway to further exploration of the Northern Peruvian Amazon
Iquitos, a Peruvian port city and gateway to further exploration of the Northern Peruvian Amazon

Iquitos does not have the sheer number of restaurants as Cusco or Lima, but as the gateway to the Peruvian Amazon (selva), Iquitos offers a number of unique culinary experiences. In this guide, I will focus on Iquitos food as an example of the kinds of food you would find in other parts of the Peruvian Amazon (like Peru, the Peruvian Amazon is huge).

The malecón, the main pedestrian thoroughfare through Iquitos, featuring a river view and colonial buildings
The malecón, the main pedestrian thoroughfare through Iquitos, featuring a river view and colonial buildings

Iquitos is a small, sleepy town, that is often treated as a mere stopover towards an Amazon excursion. However, I think it’s more than worth it to explore Iquitos for a day or two. Wake up early and explore the market. Relax and watch the river scene. Then, during the cooler parts of the day, walk around and see a different way of life.

Jungle survival tips in next week’s post!

Don’t worry you won’t have to fend for yourself in the jungle. Most tours and lodges are all-inclusive and include all meals. If you have a meal or two in Iquitos you should try some of the traditional dishes. And if you can’t do an Amazon excursion, let the Amazon come to you. Check out Belén market and marvel at some of the exotic ingredients from deep inside the Amazon.

Top Food Experiences in the Selva

All part of a day's work-trying Suri, grubworms, for breakfast
All part of a day’s work-trying Suri, grubworms, for breakfast
  • A walk around a jungle market is an eye-opening experience. See how ingredients such as some of the largest freshwater fish in the world, crocodile, giant snails, and edible worms can seem so commonplace.
    • Note: I have a whole post about this market! http://www.projectdinnerparty.com/jungle-market-iquitos-peru/
  • Try traditional dishes and learn how these dishes evolved to help the natives survive in the jungle.
  • Try Amazonian fruits from the market or in juices or gelato.
  • Eat with a view whether it’s enjoying ceviche for lunch, overlooking the river, or taking a boat to Al Frío y Al Fuego, a floating restaurant.
  • People-watch (politely) and see a glimpse into another world. See how food, culture, and environment are interwoven.
  • Try a jungle cocktail. Choose from hundreds of concoctions made with ingredients deep in the jungle ranging from peppers to exotic fruits to snakes.

Ingredients

The Amazon has more than its share of exotic ingredients that can be featured on Bizarre Food, but there are also a whole host of everyday ingredients that are staples local cuisine, which are also becoming incorporated into the the rest of Peruvian cuisine. It’s not all strange insects and giant snails.

Churros, giant snails, are one of the many exotic ingredients you'll find in the selva
Churos, giant snails, are one of the many exotic ingredients you’ll find in the selva

Exotic Ingredients: Please check out my post “A Jaunt Through a Jungle Market” for more photos and info about exotic ingredients in the jungle. In this guide, I’ll be focusing more on ingredients used in typical, everyday dishes, ones that you’ll likely encounter.

Plantains everywhere
Plantains everywhere

Plantains are a staple of the Amazonian diet. Even so, I wonder how they ever use all of the plantains. Every market I visit, every surface is covered with plantains. The most common uses are to mash them up to make tacacho and to grill them alongside fish.

These huge leaves are nature's to-go box
These huge leaves are nature’s to-go box

Bijao leaves are highly resilient and used to wrap a variety of food such as juanes and patarashca.  When cooked with the food, it imparts an aroma to the food.

Chonta, delicate ribbons from the heart of palm, require a lot of painstaking work to harvest
Chonta, delicate ribbons from the heart of palm, require a lot of painstaking work to harvest

Chonta consists of delicate ribbons shredded from heart of palms. I was amazed to see how laborious the process for processing the chonta was. The most common use for chonta is in salad.

Camu camu and a variety of exotic fruits are available in the market and street stalls
Camu camu and a variety of exotic fruits are available in the market and street stalls

Exotic fruits are aplenty in the AmazonBrowsing an open-air market is a great way to marvel at the diversity of Amazonian fruits. Belén Market is the largest and most famous in Iquitos, but there are fruit stalls scattered throughout Iquitos. They are hard to miss. Avoid the supermarket-the produce there is surprisingly poor in quality for being right next to the jungle!

I recommend trying cocona and camu camu. Fruit juices are a great way to sample these fruits (see more below).

Beautiful filets of Paiche, the prize fish of the Amazon
Beautiful filets of Paiche, the prize fish of the Amazon

The fish of the Amazon is renowned throughout Peru not only for their size but also for their flavor and texture. The fish to try in the selva are paiche, doncella, and  dorado. Most restaurants in Iquitos serve at least two out of three of these types of fish.

Don't underestimate these tiny peppers. They are among the spiciest of the Peruvian ajís.
Don’t underestimate these tiny peppers. They are among the spiciest of the Peruvian ajís.

Charapita is the ají (pepper) of choice in the selva. Don’t underestimate the heat in these tiny peppers. They look like tiny tomatoes and come in a variety of colors, ranging from yellow to red. Their acidity and punch make them popular in salsa. The women in Iquitos are also referred to as “charapitas.” I’ll let you make the connection.

Trying your first Suri (grubworm) is less intimidating when they are served with a smile.
Trying your first Suri (grubworm) is less intimidating when they are served with a smile.

Suri-I couldn’t help but to include the most famous and cringe-worthy ingredient of the selva-edible grubworms. Suri don’t have too strong of the taste, but it’s the texture that takes getting used to. As you can see, they are quite plump and succulent.  They are commonly grilled but your guide may try to convince you to eat them alive. They are usually kept alive in a bucket and are prepared to order, heightening the experience of trying them for the first time.

Further Reading

See: churo. One of the many exotic ingredients detailed in ámaZ's glossary
See: churo. One of the many exotic ingredients detailed in ámaZ’s glossary

There’s much, much more. For a glimpse, check out the glossary at ámaZ’s site (I could only find a Spanish version but there are photos for most of the links).

What to Eat in the Selva

Three of the selva's most common dishes on one plate (tacacho, cecina, and chonta salad).
Three of the selva’s most common dishes on one plate (tacacho, cecina, and chonta salad).

Traditional dishes

I love try to regional variation of ceviche wherever I go in Peru.
I love try to regional variation of ceviche wherever I go in Peru.

Ceviche in the selva is a variation of the ceviche found throughout Peru. It incorporates local fish including doncella, dorada, and paiche. It also usually features crab and shrimp. If you order ceviche in the selva, be prepared to pick through shells as shellfish is usually served whole. The shells is for presentation but also adds flavor to the tigre de leche. Yucca is often an additional garnish, helping balance the flavors and serving as a palette cleanser. 


The inside of Juanes
The inside of Juanes

Juanes is a meal in a tidy package. It consists of meat, rice, egg, and olive, wrapped into a tight bundle with a bijao leaf. It evolved as a way of preserving food by keeping the food safe from the humidity and moisture.


Cecina and Tacacho
Cecina and Tacacho

Cecina-is pork that is dried and smoked. The pork is usually flattened to aid drying. Amazonian cecina has a characteristic red color, making it easy to identify. This dish shares its name with a whole variety of smoked meats in Spain (where the name originated) and throughout Lain America.

Cecina is rarely eaten alone; it’s often serviced with rice, plantains, tacacho, or chonta.


Tacacho being made at a market (left). They are a filling snack (right).

Tacacho is a ball formed of smashed plantains, combined with lard and a little bit of salt, and then fried. They traditionally accompany cecina. If not made properly, they can be a bit dry.


Chonta salad
Chonta salad

The typical salad in the Amazon features chonta, delicate white ribbons shredded from heart of palms. Rounding out the salad is fresh avocado, tomatoes, and a light dressing. 


I love trying multiple versions of the same dish: patarashca at 1) The Yellow Rose of Texas, 2) Al Frío y Al Fuego, and 3) Belén Market (left to right)

Patarashca is an Amazonian dish where white fish and aromatics such as onions, tomatoes, and chiles are wrapped in bijao leaves and then grilled over coals. The package is sealed so that the fish can cook in its own fat. The scent of the leaf also infuses itself into the fish, resulting in an incredibly flavorful and aromatic dish.


Fusion

Amazonian fried rice at Chez Paz combines ingredients from the jungle-cecina and plantains, giving the dish a wonderful interplay between salty and sweet.
Amazonian fried rice at Chef Paz combines ingredients from the jungle-cecina and plantains, giving the dish a wonderful interplay between salty and sweet.

Many restaurants catering towards visitors feature fusion and modern versions of traditional dishes. In this case, fusion also mean fusion between different types of Peruvian cuisine. Amazonian fusion ranges from incorporating Amazonian ingredients into dishes such as chaufa to more radical uses of ingredients such as desserts flavored with cecina (smoke-dried meat).

Cecina-flavored dessert is starting to becoming popular (spotted at a booth at Mistura)
Cecina-flavored dessert is starting to becoming popular (spotted at a booth at Mistura)

Juices and Desserts

Camu camu juice
Camu camu juice

Camu Camu juice is bright pink and has a tart taste-a bit like pure cranberry but does not dry your mouth out. Camu camu is a super fruit so in addition to its taste it has nutrition qualities. It has 60 times the amount of vitamin C as an orange! Camu camu also been known to provide a natural energy boost and can be consumed in the place of coffee.


Cocona juice. Often a pitcher is the smallest size you can order. You better share or sit and enjoy the view for a while.
Cocona juice. Often a pitcher is the smallest size you can order. You better share or sit and enjoy the view for a while.

Cocona-Cocona is highly acidic so it’s no surprise that it tastes a bit like lime. However, what many people don’t know is that it it’s in the same family as the tomato and the eggplant. Many people remark that cocona tastes a bit like a tomato. In juice form however, I feel that it takes a bit like orange juice but thicker and creamier.

Ordering tips

Most places sell juices by the jarra (pitcher). You can ask for a smaller size, but usually the jarra is the minimum. However, they’ll gladly pack you some of it to go (it’s interesting to see what sorts of containers they use).

You can ask for less sugar in the juices. While the fruits in the selva are highly nutritious, many restaurants and cafes make their juices super sweet. If you ask for less sugar, many of the restaurants will make it fresh for you!


Ayahuasca Diet

Iquitos is also the gateway for the Ayahuasca experience
Iquitos is also the gateway for the Ayahuasca experience

Iquitos is also the gateway to the Ayahuasca experience. In the weeks leading up to the experience, you are supposed to avoid spicy and fried foods, caffeine, meat, and processed sugar among other things (this is not a complete list). Many restaurants cater to these restriction and offer “Ayahuasca diet” menu options.


Iquitos Food

I also recommend having one or two meals in Iquitos on your own. I was pleasantly surprised at the overall quality of the restaurants in Iquitos. I split my time between local restaurants and ones catered towards extranjeros (foreigners).  One advantage for going off the beaten path is that some of the lesser known places a little further from the malecón, the boulevard that runs along the river, tends to be more economical. Iquitos is fairly small so prices drop pretty rapidly as you walk a couple of blocks away from the tourist area.


Chef Paz, a great place to start sampling Iquitos food
Chef Paz, a great place to start sampling Iquitos food

Chef Paz (Jr. Putumayo 468), owned and run by Chef Gahry Paz, is a favorite by expats living in Iquitos. It is only a few blocks from the main square but offers quality food at significantly lower prices than the restaurants along the malecon. The menu is Peruvian with Amazonian flavors mixed in. If you have the chance, you should chat with Chef Paz.


Picante de Mariscos. This was the entree that was part of the three course lunch special at La Mishquina, totaling to about $3.50.
Picante de Mariscos. This was the entree that was part of the three course lunch special at La Mishquina, totaling to about $3.50.

La Mishquina (Jirón Próspero 507) is a local eatery that offers menú (lunch special) every day. It features local versions of typical dishes. The dishes are more rustic than touristy restaurants, meaning that you’ll find seafood with their shells intact in seafood dishes and meat with bone-in. The prices are economical and portions also tend to be larger.


Ceviche with a view at La Mishquina
Ceviche with a view at La Mishquina

El Bucanero (Carr La Marina 124) is the premiere spot to try ceviche in Iquitos. It is frequently mostly by locals and is a gathering place for family and friends. Ceviche features Amazonian ingredients such as doncella, yucca, and small, river crab. The restaurant is perched over a view of the river, making it a perfect place to spend a lazy Sunday while enjoying ceviche.

 

Mitos y Cubiertos (Jr. Napo 337) is a tidy cafe-restaurant that serves traditional food in a nice environment with splashy artwork. In terms of price, presentation, and portion sizes, it feels like it’s exactly it’s exactly in between a local and touristy place.


A five-minute boat ride is part of the dining experience at Al Frío y Al Fuego
A five-minute boat ride is part of the dining experience at Al Frío y Al Fuego

Al Frio y Al Fuego (Av. La Marina 138)To get to this restaurant, you have to take a five minute boat ride which is part of the experience. The floating restaurant is large and there are my choices of view. The menu features modernized versions of traditional dishes along with fusion food.   


Ikiítu (Jirón Fitzcarrald 456) is exactly the kind of restaurant I was seeking, but it didn’t exist yet when I visited Iquitos. I found it surprisingly hard to find traditional dishes such as juanes in restaurants. The Paz family felt the same way and wanted to bring back traditional Amazonian dishes. The restaurant was not open at the time of my visit to Iquitos, but I was able to sample a couple of the dishes. 


Bars and Cafes

Musmuqi is a jungle bar with an attitude.
Musmuqi is a jungle bar with an attitude.

Musmuqi (Antonio Raimondi 382) is one of those bars that is a total time warp. Named after a mischievous monkey god that comes out at night, they specialize in aphrodisiac and healing elixirs made with ingredients from the jungle. Musmuqi has walls of infusions, with over 90 different kinds of elixirs made from everything from herbs found in the Amazon to fruits to ají peppers. Some of these ingredients can only be found deep in the jungle. 


A Texas-themed bar is not exactly what I had expected to find in the Amazon.
A Texas-themed bar is not exactly what I had expected to find in the Amazon.

Yellow Rose of Texas (Jirón Putumayo 174)-I never thought that I would find a Texas-themed bar in the Peruvian Amazon of all places. It’s worth stopping by for a drink just to admire the decor.

Like their decor that cover every inch of the wall, their menu is packed.  It features both western and traditional dishes. Their specialities include fried alligator nuggets and Patarashca (fish grilled in bijao leaves), and barbecue. Their traditional dishes are authentic though a bit pricey.


Fitzcarraldo, a great place to cool off. Also, an interesting part of Iquito's history.
Fitzcarraldo, a great place to cool off. Also, an interesting part of Iquito’s history.

Fitzcarraldo (Calle Napo 100) named after a Werner Herzog movie, is a well-decorated restaurant and cafe view of the river. It also has a AC room (no extra charge) making it a great place to cool off. It also offers food but at tourist prices.


Iquitos Food Map


Beyond Iquitos

The exciting thing is that Amazonian ingredients is now becoming integrated into everyday Peruvian cuisine. They are still considered trendy and come at a slight premium, but you can see the influence of the influx of ingredients from the selva in Lima, Arequipa, and Cusco.

Lima

Lima, the political and gastronomic capital of Peru, is actually where a lot of the innovation is happening with Amazonian ingredients.

ámaZ  (Av. la Paz 1079, Miraflores, Lima) was one of my favorite dining experiences in all of Peru. I enjoyed their playful manner of introducing you to a whole broad range of Amazonian ingredients. Almost everything on the menu was new to me, but luckily the waiter was very good at explaining and making recommendations.

Here’s what I recommend:

  • Conchas Ganga con Camu Camu (fresh scallops with a beautiful camu camu sauce)
  • Churos Pishpirones (features giant snails stuffed with chorizo and tapioca to complement the snail meat)
  • Pacamoto de camarones tarapotinos (shrimp cooked in a bamboo vessel with sour orange, cocona, and tomatoes).
  • The Pacamoto goes especially well with the Tostones and Pan de Queso (cheese bread) to soak up all of the great flavors.

Finally, the Shapshico cocktail was a great blend of Amazonian liquer and fruits.  I also recommend the cecina ice cream to round out the meal. (I pretty much recommended every dish that we tried; it’s that kind of place). 


Malabar  (Av. Camino Real 101, San Isidro) is another restaurant  by Pedro Miguel Schiaffino that features Amazonian ingredients. I have yet to try it, but it’s on my short list of places to try next time I’m in Lima.


El Bijao (Av. Ignacio Merino 2051, Lince, Lima)-If you are interested in trying traditional Amazonian dishes while in Lima, this is the place to head. You can find juanes, cecina, and patarashca along with fusion options.

I didn’t get a chance to try El Bijao myself, but you can read more about it at Authentic Food Quest.


Food Trucks, Fairs, and Festivals

I had my first taste of food from the Selva from a food truck.
I had my first taste of food from the Selva from a food truck. Skewers with cecina, chorizo, and plantains; tacacho, and Chaufa with Cecina. Plus camu camu juice (not pictured)

You can find food trucks selling Amazonian food in parks and bioferías. Amazonian ingredients such as camu camu and cecina are becoming popular flavors. You can find bottled camu camu juice is stores and cecina is becoming a popular flavor in desserts (yes, smoked pork flavored ice cream).

Mistura, the annual celebration of Peruvian cuisine, is also a good place to try Amazonian food.


Other Gateways to the Amazon

Finally, there are several other towns in the Peruvian Amazon-Port Maldonado and Tarapoto. They are all good jumping off points for explore the Amazon, and I hope to include them in future versions of my guide to Peruvian food.


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A Jaunt Through a Jungle Market (Belén Market, Iquitos, Peru) http://www.projectdinnerparty.com/jungle-market-iquitos-peru/ http://www.projectdinnerparty.com/jungle-market-iquitos-peru/#comments Sun, 19 Feb 2017 21:00:22 +0000 http://www.projectdinnerparty.com/?p=2719 How My Quest to Understand Peruvian Food Lead Me to the Amazon From my very first week in Peru, everyone told me that if I really wanted to understand Peruvian food and where it’s headed, I had to head to the jungle or selva. It was a bit of a logistical puzzle, but I finally made...

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How My Quest to Understand Peruvian Food Lead Me to the Amazon
Yucca and cassava
Fish, yucca, and cassava

From my very first week in Peru, everyone told me that if I really wanted to understand Peruvian food and where it’s headed, I had to head to the jungle or selva. It was a bit of a logistical puzzle, but I finally made it to Iquitos-one of the gateways to the Peruvian Amazon. Belén market captures everything to understand about food in the Selva along with all of its mysteries.

The selva beckons

There are many reasons that people visit the Peruvian Amazon. For me, it was all about learning about the food. Peru is a vast country with varied terrain that encapsulates 30 out of the world’s 32 microclimates. On a broad level, the country can be divided into three zones-the coast, sierra, and selva (jungle). I knew that to understand Peruvian food, I had to visit all three regions.

Belén Market-Bringing Together the Bounty of the Amazon

For me, Belén Market was a must-see. I heard that it was an assault of the senses and to be prepared for pickpockets and other scary people that I might encounter. Luckily, I befriended Chef Paz, and he offered to take me along on one of his daily market trips.

Tuk tuks, one of the many elements of déjà vu that reminds me of Southeast Asia
Tuk tuks, one of the many elements of déjà vu that reminds me of Southeast Asia

What I found was not anything especially chaotic or exceedingly exotic but instead a strange sense of familiarity. Belén reminded me of the markets of SE Asia, adding this overall sense of déjà vu that I had felt ever sense I arrived in Iquitos.

I came to Iquitos specifically to learn about the fruit and fish from the jungle which become increasingly popular throughout Peru. Some describe the infusion of ingredients from the jungle into Peruvian cuisine as just the latest gastronomic trend. However, I think it here to stay. The bigger problem lying ahead is having the suppliers,  chefs, and consumers work together to make harvesting jungle ingredients sustainable and beneficial for everyone involved.

Chef Gahry Paz, my market guide
Chef Gahry Paz, my market guide

Since Belén is so huge with several sprawling “arms,” each containing a densely packed array of stalls, we were only able to see a portion of the market. Plus, Chef Paz had a restaurant to run. Given my interests, Chef Paz was keen to point out all of the different fruit and fish throughout the market.

The shopping list of the day
The shopping list of the day

I think that visiting a local market is essential part of understanding the cuisine, and I hope to share what I learned about Iquitos food with you.  Belén market is probably the best place in all of Peru to see fruit, fish, and other ingredients from deep inside the jungle.

Fruit Everywhere

The first stop was to look for the best limes. These limes would go into Chef Paz’s ceviche, a  lunchtime favorite at his restaurant.

Limes, an essential ingredient
Limes, an essential ingredient anywhere in Peru.

There was fruit everywhere-on the table, on the ground, and in random spots in between. There was also activity everywhere. Kids were running and laughing and people were constantly moving produce from one place to another.

I encountered both exotic and familiar fruits.

More exotic fruits:

Left to right: grenadilla, aguaje, cocona

And my favorite:

Camu Camu, my favorite fruit in the jungle
Camu Camu, my favorite fruit in the jungle

Everyday Jungle Ingredients

Don’t underestimate the heat in these tiny peppers. Charapita look like tiny tomatoes and come in a variety of colors, ranging from yellow to red. They pack a fiery punch disproportionate to their size and are an accompaniment to many of the traditional dishes-patacones, tacacho, patarashca, and more.

Ají charapita, the favorite pepper of the selva
Ají charapita, the favorite pepper of the selva

Ají dulce are another colorful pepper found in the jungle. They are very mild, like a bell pepper and are used in stews or accompany fish.

Ají charapita, the favorite pepper of the selva
Ají dulce ranks a solid 0 on the Scoville scale

As someone who is obsessed with cataloging food, I loved this display of some of the most common peppers in the jungle. The second one (pipi de mono) from the left looks a lot like Thai bird’s eye peppers!

Ají peppers from left to right 1) charapita 2) pipi de mono 3) ají limo 4) ají amarillo.

It was fascinating to see the process for making chonta, delicate ribbons from the heart of palms that is commonly found in salads. They carve these ribbons by hand and wrap  them in parcels of bijao leaves. The whole process seemed quite labor-intensive.

Packaging Chonta
Processing and packaging Chonta (ribbons from the heart of palm)

Exotic Ingredients

Now we get to the really exotic stuff, the kind of things you can only find in the jungle or restaurants specializing in Amazonian cuisine. These churros or giant snails are dubbed the “escargot of the selva.” I didn’t get a chance to try them in Iquitos, but I was able to enjoy them at AmaZ in Lima.

Churro, giant Amazonian Snails
Tail of the lagarto (alligator)
Tail of the lagarto (alligator)
Motelo (yellow-footed tortoise and eggs)
Motelo (yellow-footed tortoise and eggs)

They use every part of the animal and the liver of the tortoise is considered a delicacy.

Hígado de motelo (Tortoise liver)

Here’s the most famous exotic ingredient of the selva-Suri, the Amazonian grub worm. It’s the kind of thing that guides like to dare their clients to eat and has been featured on Andrew Zimmerman’s Bizarre food.

Suri are usually eaten grilled, but they say that eating them alive is a cure for certain ailments. When I tried to probe and ask which ones, I got a very general answer that covered anything from mild annoyances that won’t go away to more serious conditions for which you should see a doctor.

Fresh Suri ready to grill

Fish of the Amazon

Tigre, one of the main types of fish found in the Amazon
Tigre, one of the main types of fish found in the Amazon. For the Amazon, this is considered an average sized fish.

There fish of all different shapes and sizes-all that day’s catch .

Top: scaling fish, middle (left to right): doncella, tucunaré, bottom: carachama, doncella, sábalo

Here’s paiche, the most prized of the fish swimming the Amazon. It’s the largest freshwater fish in the world. Unfortunately, I was not able to see the fish in its entirety this time around.

Giant filets of Paiche

And here is dried Paiche rolled up and ready to take home.

Dried paiche
Dried paiche

Breakfast

Specials of the day
Specials of the day

Markets are often the best places to eat. However, this might not be your idea of traditional breakfast food.

Fried Toronja
Fried Toronja

There was a lot of delicious looking food cooking on grills scattered throughout the market. Whole fish (of many types), plantains, and bijao leaves were common themes.

The aroma of fresh fish being grilled filled the market.
The aroma of fresh fish being grilled filled the market.
Patarashca, fish grilled inside bijao leaves
Patarashca, fish grilled inside bijao leaves

The crocodile vendor turn out to be the most persuasive so I had a hunk of the tail for breakfast and took the rest to go.

Crocodile for breakfast
Crocodile for breakfast

Meat Section

In any market, the butchery section is where things get real.

I love how there’s not the distance between people and meat as in the US. Meat and the process it goes through is just part of the circle of life.

Cecina and chorizo
Cecina and chorizo

I even tried a bit of jungle paté:

Things Organized Neatly

Ají, purple corn, potatoes, and carrots-everyday staples
Ají, purple corn, potatoes, and carrots-everyday staples

The paradox of the market was that it full of frenetic activity; yet there was an inherent sense of order underneath. In some ways, there didn’t seem to be an order.  Things just flowed. For example, there weren’t any right-of-way rules, but people still got to their destination. However, the vendors were extremely proud of their offerings, and it definitely showed in the way they arranged their items. The beauty of these arrangement rivaled any of those that I’d seen in fancy organic markets in SF and NYC.

People

Of course, the best part of going to any market is the opportunity to interact with the vendors and producers of food. The Iquitos accent took some getting used to, but there’s a lot communication that can take place without spoken words. By simply smiling or pausing to investigate before taking a photo, you can show your genuine interest in their product and way of life.

At more local markets like this one, the vendors aren’t as pushy about trying to sell you something and understand that travelers don’t have have much immediate need for a giant fish or slab of cecina. I appreciate that many tour companies try to make connections with vendors on their clients’ behalf and buy supplies at local markets.

Other Markets

A market is not only a window into the soul of a cuisine, but also a glimpse into the rhythms of everyday life. For most people, fitting a market trip would be enough, but for me I could not get enough of the markets in Iquitos. Here are some of the other markets that I came across during my week stay in Iquitos:

Your Turn

  • Iquitos-There are about ten flights to Iquitos from Lima every day. Alternatively, it’s a 2 day boat ride (multiple routes available).
  • Belén Market-You can see the market featured in this article for yourself.  There’s no formal address but everyone in town knows where it is. It’s 9 blocks from Plaza the Armas. It’s recommend that you go early and be extremely careful of pickpockets. Consider hiring a guide.
  • Chef Paz (Putumayo #468, Iquitos)-Only a few blocks away from Plaza de Armas, serves affordable, modern versions of Peruvian classics. Recommended: ceviche, sushi rolls (acevichado), the chaufa with elements from the jungle, juices, and cocktails.
  • Amaz-See what amazing things chefs can do with Amazonian ingredients.

I’ll have more Iquitos picks next week in my guide on How to Eat in the Selva.

Please Share

If you enjoyed this post please pin and share wherever you get your social media.

Thanks

Special thanks for Chef Gahry Paz for taking me to the market and then taking the time to help me label the hundred plus photos that I took. He and his family were very friendly and helped teach me about the traditional food of Iquitos.

Thank you to Derek Ralston for correction a sizable error in this first version!

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Ají Meets Risotto: Ítalo-Peruvian Fusion http://www.projectdinnerparty.com/italian-peruvian-fusion/ http://www.projectdinnerparty.com/italian-peruvian-fusion/#comments Sun, 12 Feb 2017 22:11:32 +0000 http://www.projectdinnerparty.com/?p=2773 Introducing Ítalo-Peruvian Fusion It’s no secret that Peruvians love fusion. They are not afraid to try new ideas and then make them their own.  Nikkei cuisine is becoming increasingly popular. Chifa, once limited to the cheap end of the  dining out spectrum, is undergoing a resurgence. With so many flavors of fusion in Peru, it’s easy to...

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Introducing Ítalo-Peruvian Fusion
It’s no secret that Peruvians love fusion. They are not afraid to try new ideas and then make them their own.  Nikkei cuisine is becoming increasingly popular. Chifa, once limited to the cheap end of the  dining out spectrum, is undergoing a resurgence. With so many flavors of fusion in Peru, it’s easy to overlook Ítalo-Peruvian cuisine.
Check out our related video in which we take a tour of Incanto in Cusco, Peru which offers pizza from the oven, handmade pasta, and Peruvian-Italian fusion.
One of the reasons that Ítalo-Peruvian cuisine is often overlooked is that it blends in so well into Peruvian cuisine. Perhaps, Italian and Peruvian traditions fuse especially well because both cuisines love their meats and carbs;) Furthermore, there is not much in either cuisine that would clash. In other words, pasta goes well with pretty much everything.
It’s important to note that Ítalo-Peruvian fusion was not inevitable. I’ve tried Italian food in other South American country (it’s the default tourist food), and they tend to replicate Italian or Italian-American dishes rather than incorporating local ingredients and techniques.

Everyday Ítalo-Peruvian

Pastel de Tallarín, a picantería staple and the ultimate cheesy comfort food
Pastel de Tallarín, a picantería staple and the ultimate cheesy comfort food
One of the staples at meńu places (local eateries specializing in daily specials) is tallarín verde which translates as “green noodles.” It’s one of those dishes that has become so well integrated into Peruvian cuisine that it is considered more traditional than fusion.
This dish is the Peruvian version of pasta in pesto sauce. Many of the modifications to the original dish grew out of necessity. The early Italian immigrants to Peru did not have pine nuts or parmesan cheese so they substituted walnuts and Andean cheese, respectively. There is also milk so the pasta is a bit creamier than the original version. This dish is generally served with a bit of meat, usually beef or chicken. It’s filling and can be made in large batches, making it a good match for the Peruvian appetite.
In a similar vein, menestrón, Peru’s version of minestrone is commonly served in local eateries. Since soup is so versatile, it has evolved to incorporate a number of local ingredients including choclo (Andean corn), papa (potatoes), yuca, and more.
In picanterías, pastel de tallarín, a version of pastel de papa with but noodles, is a favorite, comfort food.
For those with a sweet tooth, gelato with Peruvian flavors (chicha morada, lucuma, and even ají amarillo) is quite popular and can be found in Lima and Cusco.

New Takes on Classics

Lomo Saltado at Danica in Miraflores, Lima
Lomo Saltado at Dánica in San Isidro, Lima
The Italo-Peruvian version of Lomo Saltado (a Peruvian beef stir-fry which bears strong Chinese influences) serves this Peruvian favorite on a bed of risotto. Some places takes it further and infuses the risotto with Peruvian ají.
Quinotto featuring Andean vegetables and cheese at Incanto, Cusco
Quinotto featuring Andean vegetables and cheese at Incanto, Cusco. Credit: Daryl Wild
Going in the other direction, quinotto prepares quinoa as you would a risotto. Quinotto usually features Andean vegetables and cheese.

Celebrating Pasta the Ítalo-Peruvian Way

Making fresh pasta in Barranco, Lima
Making fresh pasta in Barranco, Lima. Flickr gallery with lots more photos.

In contrast to Tallarín Verde, an everyday dish which typically uses dried pasta, there are other many Italo-Peruvian dishes that celebrate pasta.

Lomo and Pasta in Huancaína Sauce at El Corte Azul
Lomo and Pasta in Huancaína Sauce at El Corte Azul

Pasta in Huancaína sauce is another popular pasta with a Peruvian flair. Huancaína sauce, a yellow sauce from the town of Huacayo, is one of Peru’s most popular sauces. It combines milk, cheese, and ají amarillo and is traditionally served on top of potatoes. Over the last few years, it has become trendy again and quickly expanded to many other uses. 

Lasagna con Rocoto at El Italiana, Arequipa
Lasagna con Rocoto at El Italiana, Arequipa

In Arequipa, several restaurants offer lasagna with their beloved Rocoto pepper. This dish is a cross between lasagna and rocoto relleno (stuffed rocoto pepper). I feel that these two dishes are just meant to be together. They both have meat and cheese, and lasagna could use a bit of a kick.

Pizza Meets Peruvian Tradition

Fresh Pizza at Incanto, Cusco
Fresh Pizza at Incanto, Cusco
Pizza is the ultimate fusion food. It forms a nice, easy canvas for fusion. In terms of creative topping, there’s Mexican Pizza, Indian pizza, and the infamous Thai pizza. There’s an unlimited number of ways you could feature Peruvian ingredients on a pizza. However, in this case, the mixing of culinary traditions run much deeper.
Pizza coming out of the horno (Credit: Daryl Wild)
The horno (clay oven) is a central element of traditional, criolla-style cooking. It is used to prepare lechón, guineau pig, and a number of other dishes. Someone along the way had the ingenious idea to start cooking pizzas in an horno, resulting in pizza with the perfect crust-crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside.

Ítalo-Peruvian Cuisine at the Forefront

Squid ink pasta with shrimp, tomato sauce, and three types of ají
Squid ink pasta with shrimp, tomato sauce, and three types of ají
More and more restaurants are starting to Ítalo-Peruvian cuisine at the forefront. These restaurants are taking Italian-Peruvian fusion to the next level by layering on more levels of flavors and investing time into perfecting techniques such as making pasta from scratch.
Roasting bones for stock
Roasting bones for stock
One example is the Picante de Langostinos at Incanto. The shrimp pasta combines homemade squid-ink pasta with three kinds of Peruvian chiles. For another flavor boost, they incorporate their own stock that is made by roasting bones on the grill.

 My Recommendations

Calzone fresh from the horno at Nonna Trattoria in Cusco.
Calzone fresh from the horno at Nonna Trattoria in Cusco.
Here’s a short list of Ítalo-Peruvian restaurants in Peru to check out:
  • Cafe Tostado (Nicolas de Pierola 222, Lima)-A huarique (the term for a traditional, family-run restaurant) that serves a daily special everyday. Many of the served dishes have a strong Italian influence.
  • Dánica (Av. Emilio Cavenecia 170, Lima) is a bistro serving Ítalo-fusion fare. Their version of Lomo Saltado is a favorite.
  • Incanto (Santa Catalina Angosta 135, Cusco) specializes in freshly made pastas, Italian-Peruvian house specialities, and pizza cooked in the oven (see video at top of post).
  • Nonna Trattoria is a pizzeria that offers handmade pizza cooked in an horno. I had one of the best calzones I’ve ever had here-packed with ají, meat, and cheese.
  • La Trattoria de Monasteria (Santa Catalina 309), located right next to Santa Catalina Monastery, specializes in fresh pasta that combines flavors from Italy and Arequipa

Please let me know if there are others I should add to the list! Ítalo-Peruvian fusion was right my nose for most of my time in Peru, and I didn’t really notice it until my trip to Incanto.

Salud and Saluti

Fiore Rosa-a cocktail of pisco, aperol, lime juice, and aguaymanto (gooseberry)
A cocktail of pisco, aperol, lime juice, and aguaymanto (gooseberry). Credit: Daryl Wild.
On a final note, Pisco and Aperol (an Italian aperitif) make an amazing combination!

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Peruvian Food, A Cheatsheet http://www.projectdinnerparty.com/peruvian-food-cheatsheet/ http://www.projectdinnerparty.com/peruvian-food-cheatsheet/#comments Sun, 29 Jan 2017 20:39:06 +0000 http://www.projectdinnerparty.com/?p=1725 This is a brain dump of my recommendations for what to eat in Peru. I wrote it in one sitting, mostly from memory. I am currently writing a book about Peruvian food that will be self-published early 2017. Scroll down to the end to see how my book will be different. This is intended for friends...

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This is a brain dump of my recommendations for what to eat in Peru. I wrote it in one sitting, mostly from memory. I am currently writing a book about Peruvian food that will be self-published early 2017. Scroll down to the end to see how my book will be different. This is intended for friends who are traveling around Peru before my book would be finished.
There’s no attempt at objectivity here. These are purely personal opinions based on my own experiences and asking locals and travelers about their favorites. I’ve since become friends with many of the owners and chefs at these places (but their food and creativity drew me in the first place).

What to Eat in Peru

Peruvian Food to try (“the big five”)

With apologies to vegetarians …

One of the joys of traveling around Peru is discovering the many diverse types of ceviche.

Ceviche-forget everything you know about this dish. You must try this while in Peru (especially in Lima or along the northern coast). The seafood off the coast of Peru is incredibly diverse and delicious. Peruvian limes are different and have a stronger, distinctive flavor. Try ceviche in different forms and see the creative ways cevicherias can alter taste, texture, and presentation.

Lomo Saltado with french fries mixed in

Lomo Saltado is a fusion dish that is at the heart of Peruvian cuisine. It has clear, Chinese influence but is so much part of Peruvian Cuisine that it’s consider part of Criolla (traditional Peruvian) Cuisine. Beef stir-fried with soy sauce, tomatoes, red onions, ají amarillo (yellow pepper). Served with french fries. I personally think that vinegar is essential for a good lomo saltado.

The famous anticuchos at Anticucho Grimanesa

Anticuchos consists of cow heart marinated and grilled. Served with a special sauce. If organ meat makes you squeamish, try to put aside your fear. Heart is more like a muscle and doesn’t have the same taste that liver or other organ has.

Homemade ají de gallina

Aji de Gallina is a creamy stew of nuts, ají amarillo, and chicken. The pepper provides more flavor than heat and spiciness tends to be of a gentle, comforting type.

Pepían de Cuy in Cajamarca

Cuy (Guineau pig)-There are many ways to try Cuy-roasted (al horno), on a stick (al palo), chactado (flattened and fried), and filleted and incorporated into other dishes in novoandina restaurants. Start with the way you’re most comfortable with first to see if you like it. In touristic restaurants, you can choose between dishes where see the entire animal is served on a plate or dishes where it’s cooked like chicken or other meats.

Regional Dishes

Rocoto relleno at La Benita de Los Claustros
  • Ceviche in the north is different than ceviche in Lima. It is served with while beans, generally is spicier and juicier (eat it with a spoon).  One of the joys of traveling Peru is seeing how the ceviche is different in each part of Peru. Side note: Chifles (fried plantains) are also more prominent in northern ceviche. They make great standalone snacks.
  • In Arequipa, Rocoto Relleno is rocoto pepper stuffed with beef and paired with Pastel de Papa a rich, layered potato dish.
  • Cabrito, hearty lamb stew in the north especially Chiclayo and Cajamarca
  • Chicharones-fried pork, found all over Peru but especially well known in Cusco
  • The Chiriuchu is a festive dish in Cusco which combines ingredients from all over Peru-gallina (hen), cuy (guinea pig), chorizo, cecina (see next line), corn, torrejas, and seaweed
  • Juanes (rice, meat, and spices wrapped in a bijao leaf which is similiar to a banana leaf), Cecina (smoked and dried meat), and Tacacho (plantains mashed into a alls) are traditional dishes in the jungle that are worth trying.

Dessert

Suspiro tasting
  • Suspiro consists of manjar blanco (dulce de leche) topped with meringue and cinnamon. It’s too sweet for my tastes but a favorite among locals and visitors. They are now available in different flavors. You can even find samplers with three or four flavors.
  • Picarones are Peru’s answer to donuts. Made of a dough made from squash, fried, and served with syrup. Best eaten freshly fried.
  • Alfajores are delicate cookies with a gooey filling in the center. They filling is typically dulce de leche but now you can find a variety of flavors.
  • King Kong is a giant cookie sandwich that is famous in Northern Peru. It has layers of blancmange, marmalade or sweetened pineapple, and peanuts. It is typically sold by the half kilogram or kilogram.
  • Doña Pepe is a snack found in just about any store

What to drink (alcoholic)

Chilcano tasting at Tanta in Arequipa
  • Pisco Sour-Classic Peruvian drink for a reason. Can be infused with a variety of flavors from maracuya (passion fruit), coca leaf, and more. Try the classic one first, preferably right after you check into your hotel or Airbnb.
  • Chilcano-Ginger ale with pisco. Can also be infused with a variety of flavors.
  • Mosta Verde Pisco-small batch pisco, best enjoyed straight.

What to drink (soft drinks)

  • Chicha Morada is a purple corn punch flavored with fruit. Doesn’t taste as weird as it might sounds. It’s sweet but less sweet than soda. It’s a fixture at cevicherias and local restaurants.
  • Inka Kola-Super sweet soda. Foreigners say it tastes like bubble gum. Locals say it tastes like Hierba Luisa (a local herb). Pairs well with meat like anticucho.

Other Things to Try

  • Papa la Huancaina, Leche de Tigre, Tacu Tacu, Chaufa, Chupe de Camarones, Butifaras, Tiradito, Pollo a la Brasa, Arroz con Pato, Caldo de Gallina, Causa, Chicharones, Conchitas a la Parmesana, Choclo, Soltero, Chancho al Palo, Papa Rellena, … the list is truly endless.

Eating Your Way Around Peru

Lima

View from Larcomar
  • My personal opinion of Lima is that there are lots of restaurants to try but not so much to do between meals.
  • Start by hang out in Barranco and Miraflores which have the largest concentration of restaurants.
  • I was surprised by how many restaurants now in San Isidro; sample old and new (old: Antigua Taberna Queirolo, new: 1038 Bistro).

Fast food/cheap eateries 

Chicharron sandwich at El Chinito
These are selected for convenience and taste, not meant to represent the cheapest food possible:
  • Don Cevichero is located inside Surquillo market and is one of the best ceviche I had featuring super fresh seafood. Surprising quality since there’s several people standing outside trying to get you to come, making it feel like a tourist trap
  • La Lucha is a chain found in various locations around Lima (plus one in Arequipa) offering criolla sandwiches

Traditional places (relatively inexpensive)

Seafood tacu tacu at Canta Rana
  • Canta Rana offers a good selection of traditional hot and cold plates in a cozy setting. Get tacu tacu or ceviche. Get both if you’re sharing.
  • Cafe Tostado try the rabbit in orange sauce.
  • Bam Bam Ceviche near Surquillo Market offers delicious ceviche platters.
  • San Lao Joy is a great place to try Chifa in Chinatown (go for lunch not at night), order the guineau pig.

A bit expensive

Conchitas Parmesana at Rosa Nautica
  • El Mercado is famous for ceviche but I actually prefer the other plates.
  • Rosa Nautica has great cocktails and food with view of water
  • AmaZ offers dishes focused on Amazonian flavors. The dishes incorporate many exotic ingredients (there’s even a glossary on their web site). The end result is simply delicious.

High-end dining

Each dish is a work of art at Central
  • Maido serves beautiful, playful tasting menu representing Nikkei, the combination of Japanese and Peruvian flavors. Seafood plays a large role in Japan and Peru’s gastronomic identity so expect a lot of seafood and concepts borrowed from Peruvian and Japanese food.
  • Astrid y Gaston is Gaston Acurio’s flagship restaurant and has a tasting menu that takes you through a tour of all of Peru. Set in a beautiful colonial house.
  • Central is ranked #1 restaurant  in Latin American and features a stunningly beautiful tasting menu that showcases the biodiversity of Peru. Each course features an ecosystem at a specific altitude.  Each dish is so beautiful that you won’t want to disturb it. Once you dig in, you’ll experience flavors and textures that you’ve encountered before. Make reservations about four months ahead of time.

My List of Things to Try Next Time

  • El Rincón que no Conoces
  • Isolina
  • Ik Tasting menu (I only can handle one per visit!)
  • Ceviche
    • Barra Mar
    • Cevicheria Richard`s
    • El Ceviche De Ronald

Mistura

Chancho al Palo at Mistura

Mistura (“mixture in Spanish) is an annual gastronomic fair that celebrates Peruvian food. Now it has expanded to include other cuisines as well. It is the largest food in Latin America and takes place during the first two weeks of September every year.

If you can arrange your trip to coincide with this festival, it’s a good opportunity to try a wide variety of Peruvian food in a short period of time. Despite the crowds and high prices (relative to local standards), it’s worth checking out.

Cusco

Cuy al Horno at Kusikay
Take it easy because of altitude. Chew on coca leaves, rest, and moderate eating/drinking for the first day. Take altitude sickness pills if needed.
  • Inka Grill is a good place to sample traditional dishes such as Lomo Saltado
  • Uchu is a Peruvian steakhouse serving modern versions of Peruvian dishes like Causa and steak served on volcanic stones
  • Cusqueñita offers Cusco fare with a live show. If you want to try an epic dish, order the Chiriuchu.
  • Republica de Pisco makes good pisco cocktails but questionable music taste;)
  • Chicha, one of Gaston’s restaurants, has a nice menu divided by land, sea, …
  • Limbus offers beautiful view of city and good drink specials
  • Jack’s serves Western favorites, especially good for breakfast
  • El Ecuentro offers vegetarian version of Peruvian classics
  • Markets-I prefer Wanchaq market over the more touristy San Pedro Market which is more central and is known for the spectacles of their butchery section. It is better lit and has a more authentic feel. I also feel like San Pedro is a little less safe since there may be pickpockets targeting tourists

To try next time: 

  • La Quinta Eulalia
  • Kion

Valle Segrado

Salinas de Maras
  • Salinas de Maras-one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen
  • Food recommendations coming … avoid touristy buffets if you can. They do provide an opportunity to try a lot of traditional dishes but none of the dishes will be a standout version.

Aguas Calientes

No one comes to Aguas Calientes for the food
  • At Indio Feliz, you can find French food (along with some fusion) in a funky, pirate-themed atmosphere. It’s a diamond in the rough, in the midst of generic tourist traps that populate the main streets of Aguas Calientes.

Arequipa

Sampling traditional picantería dishes in Arequipa
  • Zig Zag is a tourist favorite and is a good way to sample a variety of meat including alpaca and fish cooked on volcanic rocks.
  • La Benita de Claustros is a great way to sample traditional Arequipan food in a beautiful setting. It is the only picantería in the city center.
  • La Capitana, is a local favorite, feature food cooked over traditional wood fire and a typical Arequipian dishes. Favorites include costillar (ribs), chupe de camarones, and pastel de tallarin.
  • Go to Hatunpa and taste firsthand why Peruvians are so proud of their potatoes. Their plates let you sample different types of potatoes along with your favorite Peruvian dishes.
  • Sol de Mayo is great for a leisurely lunch whee you can sit in a beautiful courtyard and enjoy decadant versions of traditional food (try Chupe de Camarones).
  • Tradicion Arequipa offers modern versions of traditional, picantería food in large portions. It’s visitor-tourist but is also frequented by locals as well.
  • Try the Queso helado at Yuanahura. Despite its name, queso helado doesn’t have any cheese. Instead, it is an icy treat of coconut, cloves, and cinnamon.
  • Casona Pisco is beautifully set pisco bar with simple menu that eschews complicated cocktails and instead highlights the pisco. They have many different bottles of pisco. Chat with the bartender to get recommendations.
  • Salamanto offers a creative tasting menu using local ingredients and riffs on traditional dishes. If you’re staying in Arequipa for a few days, I personally recommend making recommendations and trying Salamanto on your last day, after you’ve sampled the traditional version of dishes listed above. Then, you can really appreciate the creativity that goes into the food here.

Chiclayo

Arroz con Pato, a famous dish in Chiclayo
  • El Pescador serves large portions of tasty ceviche for a low price.  It’s also a good place to eat alongside locals.
  • Fiesta serves refined versions of Chiclayo favorites. Specialties include hot ceviche, duck and rice with the delicious crispy rice at the bottom of the pot that everyone fights for,  and a delicious fancy version of King Kong.  We went to the one in Lima.
  • El Ajicito serves delicious ceviche and specializes in ceviche smothered in ají (pepper) sauce.

Cajamarca

Cabrito in Cajamarca
Cabrito in Cajamarca
  • Señorío Cajamarquino serves Cajamarcan food near plaza de armas, good place to try Cuy frito con Pepián de papas, Cajamarca’s signature dish
  • Restaurante Castope is a little out of the way but highly worth it for traditional food. I ordered the Cabrito with tacu tacu which became one of the top five meals I’ve had in Peru. Word of warning: it is really, really filling.

Iquitos

You’ll find all sorts of exotic ingredients in the Selva. Pictured, suri (Amazonian grub worm)
Gateway to experiencing the Selva, I was surprised by how good the food scene was.
  • Chez Paz is only a couple blocks from the main square but offers great menu of modern twists on Peruvian food. The prices are also significantly cheaper than restaurants on the main square. This is a restaurant that warrants multiple times.
  • Take a boat to Al Frio y Al Fuego, a floating restaurant. Menu is a little pricey but features fusion and refined version of classic dishes from the selva.
  • The Yellow Rose of Texas is a Texas-themed bar where you least expect it. Try the fried gator bites. Traditional dishes like  Patarashca (fish steamed in bijao leaves) are also perfectly cooked but a little more expensive than in other places.
  • Musmuqui Bar,  or “monkey bar,” offers cocktails made from a local, sugar liqueur infused with all sorts of things from jungle fruit to snakes.

Piura

Ceviche with conchas negras
Ceviche with conchas negras

When people say that Piura is nice they mean the region not the town. The town is a transportation hub so you may end up passing through, but it is a headache of a city with the incessant honking and dilapidated buildings.

  • El Pedrito prepares delicious ceviche with conchitas negras. There are two restaurants next to each other that are part of El Pedrito. Pick the one where you can watch the owner and cevichero, Pedro, work his craft.
  • Tayanti, Tao, and a couple other restaurants share a large, courtyard area in an up and coming neighborhood. A nice area to have dinner and drinks.

Máncora

Ceviche at Donde Teresa
Ceviche at Donde Teresa
  • El Local offers great coffee and sandwiches packed with beautiful, organic lettuce and other vegetables.
  • Donde Teresa is run by the son of one of first celebrity chefs in Peru. Their ceviche is delicious and features fried seafood on top of ceviche. They also offer twists on dishes such as smoked Ají de Gallina.

Zorritos

The pier in Zorritos is a great place for people watching
  • El Faro offers the best “menú” (daily special consisting of starter, entree, and sometimes beverage or dessert at a bargain price). I’ve had in all of the time I spent in Peru. I had ceviche, fried fish, and a drink for a only a few dollars.
  • The restaurant options are fairly limited especially at night. If you’re staying somewhere with a kitchen, I recommend waking up early in the morning and buying fresh fish. Also, check out the Muelle (pier), a great place to watch fisherman and locals work and hang out.

Tumbes

A ceviche cocktail with conchas negras and other assorted seafood
  • Eduardo El Brujo serves delicious ceviche and seafood dishes. It’s the best place to find Tumbesian cuisine. I ate here three times in two days… Make sure you look for “Eduardo El Brujo.” There’s another restaurant with the “El Brujo” name.

Coming Soon … How to Eat in Peru (the book)

I have a lot more to say about Peruvian food! The only way I could get myself to publish this is to arbitrarily limit the amount of time I spend writing this.
I’m not Peruvian, but I  spent three months working in two Peruvian restaurants (one local and one touristic). Then, I spent another month in Cusco cooking with a local family (for one party, we roasted five whole pigs!) Finally, I’ve been traveling all over Peru to learn about food in various regions, trying new dishes at every opportunity and interviewing dozens of people along the way.
My book will be a practical guidebook to food in Peru. It will focus on “must try” dishes and provide you with a path for trying lesser known but equally delicious dishes without getting a stomachache. I will also tell you about the ingredients that make up Peruvian food as a way to help you better understand and appreciate Peruvian food. I will also provide practical advice about how to avoid altitude sickness and provide historical context when it makes it sense.
My stretch goal is to write a book that is interesting enough to read on its own. To this effect, I will include stories from my time working in the kitchen (did I mention that I’m an engineer and not a cook? Also, I didn’t know Spanish). I will also share some of the stories of people I’ve met in my journey across Peru.

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Maido’s Nikkei Experience-A Culinary Journey Extending 200 Miles from Peru’s Coast http://www.projectdinnerparty.com/maido-nikkei-experience/ http://www.projectdinnerparty.com/maido-nikkei-experience/#comments Thu, 05 Jan 2017 05:13:13 +0000 http://www.projectdinnerparty.com/?p=2573 In this post, I take you through Maido’s 13-course tasting menu, “200 Miles,” which celebrates the bounty of Peru’s extensive coastline. If you’ve been following the blog, you know that I love exploring the full range of Peruvian cuisine from anticuchos on the street to high-end dining. Most of the way through my journey across Peru...

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In this post, I take you through Maido’s 13-course tasting menu, “200 Miles,” which celebrates the bounty of Peru’s extensive coastline.

If you’ve been following the blog, you know that I love exploring the full range of Peruvian cuisine from anticuchos on the street to high-end dining. Most of the way through my journey across Peru to learn about food, I realized that I’d been neglecting the world of tasting menus.

I have to admit that until recently I felt much more comfortable eating street food than in a white tablecloth restaurant. While living in San Francisco, I would routinely pick a Mission Burrito or a bowl of ramen over dinner at a restaurant where you had to line up for hours or those where you’d need to compete with hundreds of people for a reservation.

When my friend Renee visited, we wanted to have one really nice meal. A fellow food writer suggested that I explore Nikkei cuisine while in Lima. Nikkei food can be described as the fusion between Peruvian and Japanese food (it’s so much more that that, but let’s postpone that discussion to a future story). While there are several other restaurants in Lima that have helped shape Nikkei cuisine, Maido leapt out as the place we should try.

I was lucky enough to have a chat with Maido’s chef, Mitsuharu Tsumura before the meal. His calm and humble demeanor help me ease into the experience. Maido is nicely laid out and elegant, but it’s far from fussy. The focus is clearly on the food and creativity.

The Menu

"At Sea Life is Tastier"
“At Sea Life is Tastier”

In researching tasting menus around Peru, I realized that what makes tasting menus in Peru special is that they tell stories. The tasting menus in Peru usually are organized around a theme since Peruvian cuisine is so broad that it is difficult to encapsulate everything even with a dozen or more courses.

The theme, “200 Miles,” refers to how far Peru’s costal sovereignty extends from the shore and features seafood, a theme with vast possibilities since both Peruvian and Japanese cuisine both have strong seafood traditions.

Peruvian tasting menus are less about fancy techniques and strange flavor combinations than interweaving themes and ingredients from different parts of the cuisine. Each tasting menu is like a unique journey through Peruvian food. The Nikkei Experience is a perfect example. It combines themes from Japanese and Peruvian cuisines. How it does that exactly will the subject of a future stories, using ideas from my interview with Chef Tsumura.

For now, I’ll let the photos do most of the talking. To help peel away the many layers of this tasting menu, I’ve added a nifty new feature (hover over the underlined text).

First Course-Snacks

  • Onion terrine, sole tartare, smoked silverside fish, masago
  • Sushi rice cracker, avocado, trout belly ponzu gel
  • Black rice cracker, olive tofu, octopus, pachikay ginger sauce

I loved how this dish involved looking around and finding the little morsels of food. It sets you up for the interactive, playful meal to follow. 


Second Course-Poda Ceviche

Sarandaja cream, mackerel, shallots, limo pepper, chulpi corn, nikkei leche de tigre

This dish captured the essence of ceviche with its powerful citrus flavor. I especially liked the contrast with the mackerel. 


Third Course-Dim Sum

Squid and sea snail cau cau, camotillo cream, crispy white quinoa

Nice things come in little packages. A nice fusion of Dim sum and Cau Cau, a Peruvian tripe stew. The textures really work well together. 


Fourth Course-Choripan

Steamed bread, fish and octopus sausage, pickled vegetables, Japanese mustard, native potatoes

The homemade sausage was tasty and a fun element. I think the design on the custom-made box really shows you the attention to detail at Maido. 


Fifth Course-Nigiris

Catch of the day

Simple and shows how their tasting menu can be adjusted to maximize freshness and seasonality.  


Sixth Course-Lapas Ceviche

Chullpi corn, lapas, avocado aji amarillo leche de tigre

A fun and colorful dish. I was surprised at how cold the stone was. Temperature is one of the many elements that Chef Tsumura plays with to make each of his dishes a unique experience. 


Seventh Course-Gindara Misoyaki

Cod marinated in miso, crispy Bahuaja nuts, apple gel, Porcon mushroom powder

I can’t sum it up with any word other than umami. 


Eighth Course-Catacaos de Camarones

Green rice tamale, sautéed river prawns, creole sauce, chupe reduction

The “tamale” reminded me again of dim sum. A delicious inversion of chupe de camarones. 


Ninth Course-Cassava Soba

Cassava soba, tenkatsu , vongole dashi

Another cold dish. I felt this was the most pure Japanese dish with the most subtle Peruvian influence. 


Tenth Course-Sudado

Catch of the day, sudado reduction, seaweed

I love Renee’s expression of childlike curiosity as we try to figure out how this dish worked. 


Eleventh Course-Sea Urchin Rice

Chiclayo rice, Atico sea urchins, avocado cream, wan yi, baby corn

A nicely composed “bite.” I loved the texture of the rice and sea urchin. 


Twelfth Course-Reef

Tofu cheesecake ice cream, bread sand, sweet potato, apple with wakame, camu camu, taperiba and burgundy grape tapiocas, soy milk

Reminded me of a winter wonderland or snow globe. The ice cream had a beautiful texture. I don’t like tofu but the taste didn’t bother me at all. It felt like it was more of a textural component. 


Thirteenth Course-Mussel

Granadilla with mandarin sorbet, mucilage foam, cacao nibs, lucuma ice cream, raspberries

A nice use of lucuma. This dessert featured my favorite fruits. I especially enjoyed the contrast between the lucuma and coca (texture and taste). The “coral” makes you want to touch it and pick it up. It’s actually edible so I tried a tiny piece. 


 Fin

I throughly enjoyed experiencing the concept of Nikkei come to life. Chef Tsumura describes the differences between Peruvian and Japanese food in musical terms with Peruvian cuisine as “hard rock” to Japanese cuisine’s “classical music.” I wondered how he would be able to harmoniously intertwined the two cuisines. The tasting menu not only expressed this fusion in a technically precise way, but it did so in a playful manner.

Many of the dishes involved an element of discovery. Other dishes hide surprises in familiar packages. I loved how Chef Tsumura used texture, temperature, and taste to take us on a maritime adventure and, in the process, told us the story of Japan and Peru’s shared ocean.


Parting Notes

  • The drink pairings were beautifully executed and featured beverages and spirits from around the world, adding another level to experience. I hope to add photos of the pairings to this post at a later date. The sommelier, Florencia Rey, did an excellent job.
  • I aimed to describe this experience on a personal level, showing how we experienced this tasting menu. If you want a more technical description, please read Peru This Week’s review.

Special Thanks

  • Chef Tsumura and his staff for a memorable meal. He surprised us by kindly comping our meals along with the drink pairings.
  • Renee Chu for her spirit of adventure. She bought a plane ticket last minute and flew to Peru to be my eating buddy for two weeks. More stories from the ‘ceviche trail’ soon.
  • Sai Htun for introducing me to the world of Peruvian tasting menu on my first trip to Peru.
  • Finally, thank you to Joanna Marracelli for inspiring me to investigate Nikkei cuisine.

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How to Eat Pollo a la Brasa (Peruvian Chicken) http://www.projectdinnerparty.com/how-to-eat-peruvian-chicken/ http://www.projectdinnerparty.com/how-to-eat-peruvian-chicken/#comments Tue, 27 Dec 2016 00:51:12 +0000 http://www.projectdinnerparty.com/?p=2426 Pollerías, fast food restaurants serving Peruvian roast chicken, are the go-to place for Peruvian families when they eat out. Pollo a la Brasa, the centerpiece dish at pollerías, consists of marinated whole chickens slow-cooking on rotating spits. Pollo a la Brasa used to be a delicacy for the rich, but a Swiss man named Roger...

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Pollerías, fast food restaurants serving Peruvian roast chicken, are the go-to place for Peruvian families when they eat out. Pollo a la Brasa, the centerpiece dish at pollerías, consists of marinated whole chickens slow-cooking on rotating spits. Pollo a la Brasa used to be a delicacy for the rich, but a Swiss man named Roger Schuler invented a way to scale the process up and cook multiple chickens at the same time.  Now, you can find a pollería at just about every corner in Peru.

What Makes a Good Pollo a la Brasa

If anyone knows chicken, it's Pedro. He's been working at Los Toldos for 18 years.
If anyone knows chicken, it’s Pedro. He’s been working at Los Toldos for 18 years.

Pollo a la Brasa is a relatively simple dish in terms of the ingredients. First, the quality and the source of the chicken obviously matters. There’s a secret marinade that varies from place to place, but the biggest factors under the control of the pollero is time and temperature. Controlling the dynamic between these two factors is what determines the texture of the chicken.

Pollo a la brasa oozing with flavor
Pollo a la brasa oozing with flavor

A good pollo a la brasa has a crispy skin and beautiful fall apart texture. It is a juicy but not too greasy. The spices of the marinade and the flavor of the chicken itself permeates the whole chicken.

Good ají and fries help accentuate the whole experience. I sometimes remember a pollería by its ají.

Typical Set-up

The most important part of a pollería
The most important part of a pollería

A typical pollería has a simple set-up. Neighborhood pollerías are often small enough that you can see all of the tables and the whole kitchen as you walk in. At these pollerías, you typically order at the counter.  Larger pollerías have two floors or a large room with more tables in the back.  You just sit down and someone will come to take your order.

The focal point of a pollería is a rack of whole chicken spinning over coals. Sometimes the rack is located in viewing distance of the street, enticing people to come in. Oftentimes, 90% of the “kitchen” is taken up by rack which makes since because it’s the primary product.

Pedro at work

Pollería Tips

Pollerías are about the least intimidating kind of restaurant possible. You can just point and you’ll end up with delicious chicken. Even so, here are some tips on how to enjoy the pollería experience:

  • Know your pollería-Pollerías vary incredibly in their quality. If possible, you should go to a pollería that locals recommend. To maintain quality, pollerías depend on economies of scale and on selling chickens quickly. Thus, a pollería that is lonely during peak times is one to be avoided.
Un cuarto (a quarter chicken), enough for most appetites
Un cuarto (a quarter chicken), enough for most appetites
  • How to order-You can order pollo a la brasa in different sizes:
    • 1/8 (un octavo)
    • 1/4 chicken (un cuarto)
    • 1/2 chicken (un medio pollo)
    • 1 whole chicken (un pollo entiro)
  • Impossible to go hungry-The size of the chicken varies a lot between pollerías, but I find that 1/4 (cuarto) chicken is more than enough for most appetites. Pollo a la brasa also typically comes with a heap of french fries (papa fritas).
  • Family Style-A pollería is best enjoyed family-style, dividing a whole chicken between 3-5 people. You can then order one or two appetizers or side dishes.
A trip to the salad bar is included in most pollería meals
A trip to the salad bar is included in most pollería meals
  • Load up on veggies-An order of pollo a la brasa typically comes with a trip to the salad bar. I find that the salad bar is another way to gauge the overall quality of the establishment. If the veggies are old and wilted, you may want to choose a different location. A good salad bar actually can be one of the best opportunities to load up on veggies while in Peru (beets, peas, lettuce, and of course, potatoes).
Pollo a la brasa with a variety of sauces (ketchup, mustard, aji, and homemade mayonaise)
  • Try the sauces-the sauces or ají is one the best part of the pollería experience for me:
    • Green sauce-Hucatay, cilantro, and/or parsley
    • Yellow sauce-Ají amarillo and cream sauce
    • Mayonaise-Oftentimes it’s homemade, a bit thinner, and tangier than the kind found in stores
    • Ketchup and mustard-Please don’t use the ketchup for the chicken
  •  Try other menu items:
    • Aguadito-sometimes you get this cilantro chicken soup, as a starter, for free. If not, it is usually on the menu as a side.
    • Salchipapas deserve their own post but they are basically french fries and sausages pan-fried together. Sometimes, an egg, melted cheese, or ají amarillo cream added to the mixture.
    • Choripapas are a variant of salchipapas with chorizo instead of sausage
    • Anticuchos-Oftentimes, you can find another Peruvian favorite, anticuchos, at pollerías. I prefer to go a place dedicated to only anticuchos, but it’s not that far of a stretch for a pollería to also make good anticuchos.
    • Parrilla plates-You’ll often also find mixed grilled plates with various types of meats at pollerías.
  • Beverage of choice-Typical beverages at a pollería include:
    • Chicha Morada-this purple corn punch is my pairing of choice
    • Limonda-Lemonade
    • Inka Kola-I prefer drinking this super-sweet, bubble-gum flavored yellow soda anticuchos. Somehow, it works better.
    • Beer-Cusqueña (Dorada) pairs well with chicken
Take some pollo home to enjoy
Take some pollo home to enjoy
  • Takeout-Most Peruvian food needs to be eaten fresh, on the spot. Pollo a la brasa, however, is one of the best food to order for takeout or delivery. Pollo a la brasa is still delicious the next day!

Peruvian Chicken is Taking Over the World

Peruvian chicken coming to a neighborhood near you?
Peruvian chicken coming to a neighborhood near you?

The whole world is getting acquainted with the diverse flavors of Peruvian cuisine, making way for specific sub-genres of Peruvian cuisines to emerge on the world scene. Límon in San Francisco, Emanuel in London, and Pio Pio in New York are some of the most popular restaurants that serve Pollo a la Brasa worldwide. Pollo a la Brasa has recently spread to Asia as well.

Perhaps the reason that Pollo a la Brasa is such a successful export is that it has distinct Peruvian flavor but yet almost every culture can related to roast chicken.  Whatever the reason, soon, you won’t have to go far enjoy the textures and flavors of Pollo a la Brasa in your city.

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A Weekend of Peruvian Home Cooking, Day 1 http://www.projectdinnerparty.com/weekend-peruvian-home-cooking-day-1/ http://www.projectdinnerparty.com/weekend-peruvian-home-cooking-day-1/#comments Sun, 18 Dec 2016 22:08:32 +0000 http://www.projectdinnerparty.com/?p=1878 A Fun-filled Weekend of Peruvian Homecooking Vic asked me if I wanted to join his friend’s family for a weekend of cooking. Of course, I said yes. A weekend of cooking is my ideal kind of vacation (a vacation within a vacation, if you want to be technical). Vic’s friend’s family has a cute house...

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A Fun-filled Weekend of Peruvian Homecooking

Vic asked me if I wanted to join his friend’s family for a weekend of cooking. Of course, I said yes. A weekend of cooking is my ideal kind of vacation (a vacation within a vacation, if you want to be technical).

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Vic’s friend’s family has a cute house in Punta Hermosa, a quiet beach town about an hour from Lima. We immediately started talking about food in a mixture of Spanish and English and continued talking about food for the whole trip. In part pop quiz about Peruvian food, part personality test, everyone took turns asking us questions about Peruvian food. By the end of the trip, they had created a custom menu based on our answers.

Trip to the Market

On the way, we stopped at Lurin market which is probably the most organized market I’ve come across in all of Peru.

Zarela and Leo pointed out all of the varieties of grains and dried potatoes in the market.

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Then, we got a detailed tour of the butchery section of the market.

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All of the meat was sorted by animal and then by the part of the animal.

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Vic pointed out that it was like watching chicken parts compete in a form of synchronized swimming.

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I’ve been to so many markets in Peru, but yet each market seems to have something new to teach. Plus this one had a cute baby next to the lamb heads and hanging meat.

Camu Camu Juice

collage_fotor

I had recently come from the jungle where I fell in love with Camu Camu, a purple, cherry-like fruit. The juice is served at almost every restaurant in Iquitos, and even after only a week there, I was hooked. I started searching for Camu Camu juice in Lima. We found some Camu Camu at the market. As soon as we got to Punta Hermosa, we immediately started making a fresh batch of Camu Camu juice.

First, you wash and then mash it. Then, you add boiling water and let it sit for about an hour. The color changes radically until you get a bright pink juice. We strained the juice, added a bit of sugar, and served. I like Camu Camu because of its tart taste (like cranberry but less cloying). It is classified as a “superfood”-it has sixty times the Vitamin C as an orange and provides a natural energy boost.

Causa

collage_fotor

It was my second time making causa at home.  Causa is described a layered potato salad, but that description leaves out the ají amarillo and lime that flavors the potato. Causa takes many different shapes and forms. We made chicken causa in a circular pan. I learned that having a potato mill really helps! Last time I made causa in Cusco, we all took turns massaging the potatoes until we were all tired.

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Causa makes for a great first course in a traditional Peruvian lunch format of a soup or starter and a segundo (main dish).

Lomo Saltado

For the main course, we made my favorite dish to make at home, Lomo Saltado. I’ve gotten picky about my Lomo Saltado to the point now am hesitant about ordering it in a restaurant. There are two questions about Lomo Saltado that I find offer a window into a person’s personality: 1) Is there vinegar in Lomo Saltado? 2) Do you mix the fries with the meat and sauce or do you like the on the side?

My answers:

1) yes, definitely. I will not order Lomo Saltado without any vinegar. A good Lomo is all about contrast. Without vinegar, Lomo just tastes like Chinese takeout

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2) Mix in the fries! The fries add texture and help you sop up all of the sauce. The only caveat is that you have to eat it right away before the fries get soggy.

Luckily, everyone cooking liked Lomo the same way. The results were amazing.

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We managed to get a char on the meat, which a bit challenging at home. It was immediately clear this family cooks a lot.

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We prepared each ingredient in batches and then stir-fried everything together in the end, exactly how I make Chinese stir-fry when cooking for a crowd.

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We almost forgot the Ají amarillo but added it just in the nick of time. To me, every ingredient in a classic lomo saltado is important.

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The resulting Lomo had everything that makes a good Lomo. The perfectly sautéed onions and tomatoes provide perfect textural contrast to the meat and the vinegar, soy sauce, and the juices of the meat are a wonderful medley of flavors. Plus the feeling of family always makes food better.

Pisco Time

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Before heading to bed, we tried Fernando and Diana’s homemade Pisco. They bought a harvest of grapes and took a class on how to make Pisco! Luckily, they had some left for us to try.

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Chilcanos are my favorite drink to make at home. Simple and refreshing. All in all, a great way to end a great day of cooking.

Special thanks to Victor Wong and the Lachi and Campos family for a great weekend. An extra thank you to Margarita Lachi Campos for photo permission.

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How to Eat in Peru-YouTube, Book, and More http://www.projectdinnerparty.com/how-to-eat-in-peru/ http://www.projectdinnerparty.com/how-to-eat-in-peru/#respond Thu, 15 Dec 2016 00:03:18 +0000 http://www.projectdinnerparty.com/?p=2378 I have many exciting projects in the works to announce: First, I’ve teamed up with Daryl Wild, a  British videographer who I met on my first day in Peru to bring some of my stories about Peruvian cuisine to life. Check out our brand spanking new YouTube channel Update: New videos coming soon. We still have another five or...

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I have many exciting projects in the works to announce:

  • First, I’ve teamed up with Daryl Wild, a  British videographer who I met on my first day in Peru to bring some of my stories about Peruvian cuisine to life.
    • Check out our brand spanking new YouTube channel
    • Update: New videos coming soon. We still have another five or six episodes from Cusco including a finale .
  • Long-form blog posts covering themes in Peruvian food will now be posted on Sunday. Some videos will have accompanying blog posts with bonus information.
  • We also have several new ways you can keep updated (pick your favorite)
    • FacebookIntegrates all of the other streams with a personal touch.
    • TwitterUpdates plus links to interesting articles around the web about Peruvian food
    • Google+No-frills updates
    • FlickrImmersive photo galleries of markets and restaurants around Peru
    • Instagram the best way to see daily stories about my culinary travels through Peru
    • Please subscribe to this blog if you haven’t already
  • Finally, I’ve been pretty quiet about this, but all of this is culminating in a guidebook, How to Eat in Peru, coming early next year.  There are many guidebooks to Peru, but this a whole guidebook focused on the food-Peruvian dishes, ingredients, and restaurants. I travelled all over Peru to over a nine month period to do the research for this book.

Sample video:

Our goal is to tell stories about Peruvian food from many different angles and across many different mediums. I welcome all Peruvian food- everything from anticuchos on the street to high end restaurants in Lima. We want to capture it all!

By the way, the photo is one of Brandon (left), owner of Anticuchos Bran in Lima, and yours truly.  He won an anticucho competition against 300 fellow anticucheros and won seed money for his restaurant. He’s one of the many amazing people I met while researching this book. I hope that I can share his story in more detail in the near future. 

The post How to Eat in Peru-YouTube, Book, and More appeared first on How to Eat in Peru.

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