TRAVEL : QUIXO PERU : Special Interests
Your Guide: Catherine Criolla
Peruvian cuisine is wonderful. It was developed out of a hybrid of Spanish/continental cuisine and local South American ingredients into something that is far richer and more interesting than the sum of its influences or parts.
Until very recently Peruvian food was virtually unknown outside of Peru, and most recipes were family recipes, passed down orally or in hand-written notebooks, mostly from mother to daughter. In Lima and a few other cities there were a few fancy restaurants, a range of mid-level places that specialized in providing ample food for reasonable prices, and ‘street food,’ both that sold on the street to Peruvians of all economic levels and in the stalls in open markets, aimed at the working class. Today all that has changed. Young and now not-so-young chefs who studied in France and other places returned to Peru to open excellent and very successful restaurants like Astrid y Gaston serve Peruvian fusion food that is hard to beat anywhere. More traditional Peruvian restaurants like Francesco and specialize in amazing local and regional food that is completely distinctive and wonderful.
My favorite Lima restaurants are:
- Astrid y Gaston — Continental/Peruvian restaurant that is still hard to beat for hors d’ouvres and/or dinner
- La Tratoria de Mambrino — Peruvian Italian restaurant fun and delicious for lunch or dinner
- Las Brujas de Cachiche — The best weekday luncheon buffet on the planet. I generally despise buffets, but this seafood feast is unbelievable
- Francesco — go for Sunday afternoon meal (if you can get in) – amazing seafood
- Wa Lok — Chinese with a distinctive flavor — wonderful (and I grew up in San Francisco, where the Chinese food ain’t bad) — again the seafood specialties are extraordinary.
What to eat
(traditional Peruvian — not necessarily in the fancy places, sometimes can be great in the more old fashioned spots)
- Ceviche (on the coast only — must be fresh!) — This wonderful mixture of seafood, Peruvian lemon (similar to key lime) and aji (Peruvian hot peppers) served with sweet potato is spicy and sublime. Great at traditional open air cevicherias and in better restaurants. In the fancier restaurants the simpler and less spicy Tiradito made with mild fish is also wonderful.
- Frutas del Mar — a mixture of seafood done with a range of sauces — wonderful, often contains items like pulpo al olivo (octopus in olive sauce – fabulous).
- Papa a la huancaina — potato in a delicious cheese and aji sauce (an appetizer)
- Corvina (sea bass) al ____. — This mild fish is generally offered with a range of sauces and preparations, some quite exotic and others simple such as in black butter or garlic sauce.
- Lomo saltado — this dish features strips of beef filet, vegetables, spices including Peruvian aji, and French fries, all served with rice. It’s great in it’s many incarnations, and is offered at restaurants of all but the top levels. You can see our Lomo Saltado recipe here.
- Aji de gallina — another traditional dish, shredded chicken in a slightly spicy sauce served with rice — delicious when done right (again, many good versions at lower and mid-level restaurants)
- Rocoto Relleno — hot pepper stuffed with delicious meat filling.
- Adobo — marinated pork traditionally served early Sunday morning to keep away the hangover
- Chupe de Camarones — this is basically crawdad stew and is served all over the South — fabulous
- Picantes (meats cooked in a sauce) — Picanterias are the traditional small eateries of Arequipa featuring a wood-fired stove.
- Cabrito (goat stew) — it really can be delicious!
And ceviche is often good here too
- Tony Custer's book The Art of Peruvian Cuisine (once only available in Peru) can now be purchased in the U.S. via Amazon. It provides a general introduction to the development of Peruvian cuisine and discusses some of the key ingredients of Peruvian food and their origins. You can buy it here.
- Culinary History of Peru provides a general introduction to the development of Peruvian cuisine and discusses some of the key ingredients of Peruvian food and their origins.
- Peru Food Blog has great information including interviews with top chefs, information on what’s going on with food in Peru today, and many links to sources of information and recipes.
- Yanuq is a website of Peruvian recipes and information. This link is to the English version. These recipes are from Peru, and I have found that the recommendations on ingredient substitutions by people rating the recipes aren’t very good (BTW I actually use the Spanish language recipes). I have had good luck substituting pureed Peruvian aji (chiles) for the fresh aji that is called for in the recipes. The flavors are unique enough that Mexican and American peppers just don’t do it. There are several internet stores that sell Peruvian prepared food but I haven’t tried any of them. In West Los Angeles I get Peruvian ingredients including several kinds of aji in jars at El Camaguey Market on Venice Blvd.