Just how did Peru become “gourmet paradise” – top of the South American and international culinary scene? What flavors can you discover on a trip to Peru?
1. Rich and diverse food
Peruvian cuisine, the pride of South America, has the largest number of dishes in the world! 491 are listed by Gustavo Rodriguez in his book ‘357 listas para entender cómo somos los peruanos’. The richness and diversity of Peruvian cuisine is under no threat from French cuisine, or Creole or Chinese for that matter.
With 7000 years of history and many influences, Peruvian cuisine is essentially based on Inca tradition tempered by many waves of migration. China is one influence. But it is probably the Nikkei cuisine resulting from the blend of local ingredients and techniques used by the largest Japanese community in South America which has been most successful.
The natural variety found in Peru, the world’s breadbasket, has always inspired Peruvian cuisine. There are more than 2,400 varieties of potato, 2,000 species of fish, 650 varieties of native fruit in Peru. Suffice to say, there’s something for everyone.
Peruvians have a remarkable talent for preserving their ancient culture while adapting to modern culinary capacity. As culinary tourism flourishes, cookery schools emerge to satisfy the demand: The very selective Culinary Institute of Pachacutec is based 40 km from Lima and ruled with a iron hand by the famous chef Gastón Acurio.
Gastón Acurio, Peruvian chef
Literary Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa said about Gastón Acurio: “Nobody has contributed more to helping the world discover and recognize that this country, which has suffers so many disadvantages, has a cuisine as sophisticated as France or China. He restored pride to his people. “
“Cooking was one of the few activities in which Peruvians could indulge their creativity freely and without risk. It provided refuge during the authoritarian era.“
Although Peruvian cuisine is distinguished by variety, it is very often combined with rice and “aji” to make spicy and colorful dishes.
2. Cuisine de la Sierra, Andes mountains
In the Andes mountains, maize and potatoes are the main staple foods of Peruvians. Meat and vegetables are cooked on a bed of red-hot stone. This method of cooking is also seen as a way of honoring Mother Earth. When it comes to Peruvian cooking, we can’t forget the guinea pig or Cuy Chactao. Millions of Cuy are consumed each year. Cuy is so prominent in Peruvian culture that in the Cathedral of Cuzco ,in the painting of the Last Supper, the last meal served to the Apostles is … a flat guinea pig!
The Last Supper, Cathedral of Cusco, Peru
3. Coastal cuisine
The Pacific Ocean is a source of great wealth for Peruvian cuisine, along with the Amazon and Lake Titicaca. In these regions, dishes typically contain fish including shellfish. You have to treat yourself to one of Peru’s best signature dishes, Ceviche.It’s found everywhere, prepared in many different ways. The Chupe de Camarones is also very famous! Sophisticated enough to be considered gourmet, it’s a kind of thick soup made from crayfish, potatoes, pepper and milk.
A restaurant in the city of Callao has held the world record since 2008 for serving up the most ceviche ever – 6.8 tons in one afternoon! One of the cooks declared “A Peruvian who does not eat Ceviche is not Peruvian”.
The world’s largest Ceviche, Peru
4. The kitchen of Lima
Lima’s cuisine epitomises the blending of Peruvian cuisines, many of which have been around for nearly 70 centuries. With Indian, African, Spanish, French, Chinese and Arabic influences, Creole cuisine is the most prevalent in this cosmopolitan city. Tacu-tacu and Aguadito are two examples of this kind of cooking. Some of the most popular Peruvian cooking schools aim to emulate dishes eaten by Spanish nobility by using various hard to obtain ingredients. In Peru’s capital you can also find many pastries such as alfajores and arroz picarones.
Written by Clara Beniac – translated by Alistair Moore
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Born and bred in London, UK but is now based in Berlin, Alistair is Viventura's resident Englishman with responsibility for marketing to Viventura's English speaking customers. His professional ... Read Full