My Quest to Learn What Makes Peruvian Food Good
I spent five days on a quest, trying to figure out what makes Peruvian food so good. There is probably no better to place to find people who are interested in Peruvian food than Mistura. I talked to dozens of people, asking them about their favorite foods. While it was interesting just hearing what foods people like, I was especially interested in learning why each person chose a dish as their favorite. These are the highlights, distilled from hours of interviews.
Joel and Sebastian
I ask two friends, Joel and Sebastian who just finished eating anticuchos about their favorite food. Sebastian says that he has two favorites. The first is ceviche with white fish. When I ask why, his friend, Joel, chimes in and says it’s because he’s from the North where the best ceviche in Peru is to be found. When I ask about Arroz con Pato, his other favorite, Sebastian simply replies with, “What Peruvian doesn’t like Arroz con Pato?”
Janice and Jose
Janice and Jose like ceviche with white fish because “it’s delicious.” They prefer their ceviche without conchas negras (black snails).
Mercedes Basquez says that all of the food at Mistura is good … chancho al palo, cuy, ceviche … Her favorite Peruvian foods include ceviche de pescado,Mercedes Basquez, and arroz con pato (rice with duck).
When I ask her about why she likes Aji de Gallina, she lists all of the ingredients including the garnishes (olives, boiled eggs, and lettuce) and then explains the steps involved in making it. Peruvians are often very precise and knowledgable about how their favorite foods are prepared. She finishes by summarizing why she likes this dish by saying “I am a Peruvian. I like aji and I like gallina [hen].”
When I ask her about ceviche, she says that ceviche is very good for the brain.
Andre and Raquel in Transit
Andre and Raquel are from Brazil and are visiting Mistura during an eight hour layover. They liked the Chancho Al Palo because of the taste and presentation and ceviche because the fish is “fresh out of the Pacific”. They also enjoy trying cuy prepared in different styles.
Maria Elena, Daniel, and Luciana
Maria, her brother, and her friend also selected Chancho Palo as their Mistura favorite. They also Anticuchos because it’s a traditional dish. Ceviche is their favorite food out of all Peruvian food. Their reasoning is simple. They say that “There’s no Peruvian that doesn’t like Ceviche.”
When I ask them for recommendations on where to eat ceviche, they recommend Punto Azul. They contrast ceviche with Pollo a la Brasa, another favorite. “With Pollo a Brasa, you can enjoy it at polleria which can be found at every corner, but with a cevicheria, you need know a good cevecheria.”
Sophia and Kevin
Sophia and Kevin admit that they’ve “mostly tried beer” during their time at Mistura. However, they are just getting started. This was their first day in Peru. They heard about Mistura during their taxi ride from their airport and decided to check it out. They tried the chancho, churro relleno (stuffed churro), and especially enjoyed the bread sampler pack because of the many different types of bread that comes with it. Plus, the bread was warm and tasty.
More to come …
Stay tuned to read about day 2 of my interviews. I get marginally better at asking questions in Spanish and come across a couple of surprises along the way. Please chime in the comments about your favorite Peruvian dish.
Thank you to all of the participants for agreeing to be part of this experiment. Thank you to my teacher, Fabriz, for helping teach me how to interview people in Spanish. And a thank you to Soraya Pastor for letting me use one of her photos for the feature image. I took pictures of Mistura but forgot to take pictures of the crowds!