Flavours Of the World: Peru
If you cannot go to the world, let the world come to you. This time we decided to go on a culinary journey through Peru by cooking 3 culinary creations inspired by the fresh local produce that is native to this country. It was a great experience and super tasty. As a special bonus, we are also sharing the best Pisco Sour recipe that you have tasted.
Why Peru? We have some amazing Peruvian friends here in Kuala Lumpur who when they found out that we were doing a culinary journey through Cuba, strongly suggested that Peru should be next.
I have to admit that up until we did this, we did not know much about Peru. With shockingly little knowledge in Spanish and no personal connection to Latin America, the country was never really on our minds. Now it is and we cannot wait to travel there.
Here is what we have learned so far…
Official Languages: Spanish, Quechua, Aymara
Population: 31 million
The latter two are just two reminders of the highly developed ancient civilizations that once reigned along the western side of South America. Their influence rapidly declined under the dominance of the Spanish Empire which concurred vast areas of South America in the 16th century. Hundreds of years later in 1824, Peru finally achieved independence.
Peru is a fascinating country that attracts travelers from around the world. Bordered by Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia, and Chile, it is home to an incredible diversity of natural and cultural wonders including Lake Titicaca, the Rainbow Mountains, the beautiful city of Lima, the Amazon Rainforest, the famous Inca Trail and Machu Picchu.
The latter two are just two reminders of the highly developed ancient civilizations that once reigned along the western side of South America. Their influence rapidly declined under the dominance of the Spanish Empire which concurred vast areas of South America in the 16th century. Hundrets of years later in 1824, Peru finally achieved independence.
Culturally, the country is a melting pot of native and Hispanic traditions. Africans, Japanese, and even the Chinese left their marks on the countries culture as well. That blend is reflected in their art, music, fabrics, and of course their flavourful cuisine.
By the way, local fabrics and patterns are so famous that international luxury brands including the likes of Karl Lagerfeld and Dior seek inspiration here.
About Peruvian Cuisine
Thanks to the countries wide variety of climates and ecosystems, Peru can draw from an incredible diversity of homegrown produce. Common staples in Peruvian cuisine are potatoes, corn, beans, and of course quinoa, a popular crop rich in Vitamin B, protein, and dietary fiber. It has grown in popularity around the world.
Geographically speaking, the cuisine can be divided into three areas including the seaside, the mountains, and the Amazon rainforest. While the cuisine at the coast evolves a lot around seafood, dishes from the Amazon not only use fish from the rivers but also incorporate tropical fruits such as banana, cherry, lime, plantain, melon, orange, passion fruit and many more into their dishes.
Peruvian cuisine is a cuisine of opposites. Not only hot and cold but also acidic and starchy elements are combined on one plate, creating a delicate balance of flavours.
Other commonly used ingredients are beef, chicken, cuy (guinea pig), egg, aji chili, eggplant, corn carrot, cauliflower, onions, broccoli, cucumber, lentils, tomato, nuts, paprika, chickpeas, and rice. Even soy sauce and wasabi are no strangers to Peruvian cooks.
Much like the ingredients, cooking techniques used in Peru are a mix of local with African, European, and East Asian. This creates a delightful diversity of dishes that are unique to Peru and increasingly famous around the world.
Peru’s rich culinary heritage is a true treasure and a source of inspiration for many - myself included.
Did You Know the Fascinating Story Behind Peru’s Potatoes?
Potatoes are one of the most commonly eaten vegetables in the world. In Germany, we eat them almost every day. My grandpa even refuses to eat anything else - rice and pasta simply have nothing to do on his plate. Growing up, I simply assumed that they were native to our region. Well, I stand corrected.
Potatoes are originally from Peru. It wasn’t until the mid-16th century that potatoes spread beyond the shores of South America. Today it has become an indispensable element in the European diet.
Ok that is enough theory for today. Put on some music, strap on your apron and let's get cooking!
The Dishes We Cooked
All recipes that are suitable for vegetarians are marked with a (v). The indicated quantities are for 2 - 4 servings.
Ceviche, Ceviche, Ceviche
Preparation Time: 15 min
Cooking Time: 20 min
400g Red Snapper
1 Cup Fresh Lime Juice (1 Bag of Fresh Lime)
1 Red Onion
1 Can of Sweet Corn
Cilantro for Garnish
1 Pinch of Salt
*To Note: Don’t add tomatoes. That would be the Mexican version of the ceviche.
Navvin thought Ceviche was a Mexican dish. Nope! This inviting seafood dish actually originated in Peru and is made from fresh raw fish ‘cooked’ in fresh citrus juices and other seasonings including onion, cilantro, and salt. Add some sweet corn and you have yourself a succulent starter dish.
Step 1: Make sure the fish is deboned and the skin is removed. Then cut the fish into small pieces and put it in a bowl.
Step 2: Massage the limes before squeezing the lime juice into a cup. Then mix the fish with the lime juice. While stirring the mix, add some ice cubes to the mix. The ice cubes help to maintain a good level of acidity and keep the fish fresh. Keep stirring until they start melting and the fish starts to turn white. Don't wait until the fish is completely white as that could be a sign that the fish is already overcooked.
Step 3: Cut the onion into thin slices and add them to the fish. Then serve the fish with a little bit of sweet corn in a bowl.
Option 2 (From the Photo)
While we loved this recipe, we have also been experimenting a little bit with another recipe that we found in a cookbook published by the traveling chef Charlie Carrington.
Preparation Time: 30 min
Cooking Time: 20 min
400g Red Snapper (or Kingfish)
2 Stalks Celery
1/2 White Onion
2 Garlic Cloves
1 tsp Sugar
1 tsp Paprika for Dusting
4 Small Fresh Carrots
100 ml Tomato Juice
Step 1: Cook the Quinoa until it is soft. Then blend it. While blending, add a little bit of water until it becomes a puree.
Step 2: For the Sauce, mix celery, onion, garlic, ginger, salt, sugar, and coriander and blend it well. In a separate bowl, blend the carrots and extract the juice. As a next step, you need to boil the carrot juice over high heat until it thickens a bit. Then add the tomato juice to the carrot juice and let it cool down.
Step 3: Mix the fish with the quinoa. Then add the carrot and tomato juice. Extract the juice from the blend made in step 2 and discard the solids. Add the liquid together with the lime juice to the mix. Let the fish ‘cook’ in the juice for about 20 min until it changes color from pink to white.
Step 4: Cut some think slices of carrot and cucumber and let them cool in iced water for a few minutes. Then prepare the plates. Before serving dust some paprika over the ceviche. It will make your dish look even more professional and gives it an interesting spin.
Burnt Cauliflower with Ocopa Sauce and Crumbled White Cheese (v)
For this dish, we were once again inspired by Charlie Carrington and his book 'The Atlas Cookbook'. It is a nice vegetarian side dish which we recommend serving with potato wedges and maybe some grilled chicken.
Preparation Time: 10 min
Cooking Time: 1h
1 tsp Chilli Powder
1 tsp Api Amarillo Paste or Normal Chilli Paste
1/2 White Onion
70 ml Evaporated Milk
70 ml Milk
Step 1: Cook the cauliflower in a saucepan filled with salted water for a few minutes. Then transfer the cauliflower on a tray and sprinkle some olive oil on top. Bake it in the oven for about 25 min until the top is slightly burnt.
Step 2: For the sauce add all ingredients except the crackers and blend it. Then add the crackers until the paste becomes thicker.
Step 3: For serving, splash the sauce on the serving plate before placing the cauliflower on it. Then sprinkle the feta cheese over the dish.
Pork Chicharrones with Quinoa and Criolla
This dish is also inspired by the recipe of Charlie Carrington. We changed it a little to add our own creative spin to it.
Preparation Time: 25 min
Cooking Time: 2h
400g pork jowl
1 Red Onion
Quinoa 2 limes
1 Garlic Clove
1 tsp Chilli Paste
Step 1: Roast the pork in a pan until all sides are brown. While doing that, mix the spices in a separate saucepan with water to create a broth. When the pork is ready, cook it in the oven in the broth for 1.5h at 150C. Once done, let it cool down before cutting it into pieces.
Step 2: For the salad dressing, mix chili paste, lime juice, garlic, ginger, orange zest, and olive oil and set it aside.
Step 3: Cook the cauliflower in a small saucepan in saltwater.Once cooked, cut it into pieces and let it cool down in the fridge.
Step 4: Cut the remaining ingredients in thin slices before adding them to a bowl. Then add the pork, the feta cheese, the cauliflower as well as the dressing and let it sit for a few hours in the fridge before serving.
Preparation Time: 15 min
Lime (about a half a glass)
*To Note: Pisco is a type of brandy produced in the winemaking regions of Peru and Chile. Make sure you use the one made in Peru. It simply tastes better.
Pisco Sour is the perfect balance of sweet and sour in a cocktail. Add a dust of cinnamon to the finished drink and you have yourself a delicious drink that will be the hit of every party.
Step 1: Extract the juice from the limes and mix it in a blender together with Pisco and sugar. While blending, taste it from time to time until the strong taste of the Pisco disappears. That is when you have added the right amount of sugar. Don’t be surprised when your cocktail almost has a syrup-like consistency.
Step 2: Add around 10 ice cubes to the mix and blend it again.
Step 3: Add half an Egg white to the mix and continue blending it until it creates a foam layer on top.
Step 4: Pour the liquid into a glass and add some cinnamon powder in the center. Done!