In celebration of MISTURA 2011, Peruvian Food Festival and Latin America’s biggest gastronomy event, I am reposting this blog entry about probably the best cuisine in the planet!
PROVECHO (bon appetit)!!!
Each Latin American country has its own “Comida Criolla” (pronounced kri-o-ya) as the phrase which means “home-grown food” historically stems from native mixed with Hispanic flavors.
For Peru, “Comida Criolla” is basically concentrated where the Spanish conquerors along with their native-African slaves have settled, followed by Chinese and Japanese migrants thus, “Comida Criolla Peruana” is essentially Andean-Spanish-Afro-Peruvian food with Chinese & Japanese influences. Talk about fusion and multitude of menus! Comida criolla peruana is popular mostly along the coast, especially in Lima and the Central region.
Peruvian Comida Criolla, are basically served with Salsa Criolla (julienne onions marinated in lime with chopped chilies) seasoned, topped or served with Peruvian Aji Amarillo (yellow) or Rocotto- red chilies.
To start, typical breakfast fares are Tamales (corn dough seasoned with chilies, stuffed with olives, chicken or pork and wrapped in banana leaves), Humitas (the same as tamales, but wrapped instead in corn husks, with Andean cheese or the sweet version, with manjar-caramel) Chicharron, deep fried pork slices on country bread or Butifarra – pork ham sandwich - all served with Salsa Criolla.
Cold enticing entradas (appetizers) include the popular Peruvian potato salads, namely Papa a la Huancaina , Ocopa and Causa, of course the all-time favorite Ceviche or Tiradito and the classic salad of Solterito, mixed vegetable salad of fava beans, choclo serrano (Andean corn kernels), olives and fresh cheese with its light lime vinaigrette.
For Hot Starters, popular preferences are Anticuchos (grilled skewered beef hearts) served with boiled potato, corn and chili sauces; Rocotto Relleno (chili red bell pepper stuffed with ground meat and topped with melted Queso Andino -Andean cheese) and Papa Rellena (meat stuffed mashed potato and deep fried like croquettes). During the long coastal winter (Fall, Winter and Spring all rolled in to one grey foggy cold season), savory soups such as Chupe de Camarones (Cray fish chowder), Sopa a la Criolla (angel hair soup in chili broth with ground meat) and Caldo de Gallina (chicken soup) are the favorites.
Top main courses, are Aji de Gallina (shredded chicken in creamy yellow chili sauce), Seco de Pollo or Cabrito (chicken or baby goat meat in coriander green sauce) usually accompanied by Frijoles (boiled beans, almost pureed) and its variation, Arroz con Pollo o Pato (chicken or duck rice cooked in coriander sauce), Asado (beef stewed in tomato, chilies and red wine), Lomo Saltado (beef tenderloin tips sautéed in onions, tomatoes and chilies, with a dash of Chinese influenced-soy sauce). Carapulcra (dried potatoes in tomato-chili sauce), Cau cau (boiled tender tripe cooked in yellow chili sauce with chopped Huacatay-Andean mint herbs) and Olluquito con charqui (root veggie with bits of alpaca jerky).
Delectable dessert choices are Suspiro a la Limeña (condensed milk, butter and cream pudding), Arroz con Leche (Rice porridge with milk, cinnamon & clove-pictured right), Mazamorra Morada (purple corn pudding with pineapple and prunes), Picarrones (sweet potato and pumpkin paste formed in rings, deep fried similar to doughnuts and served with syrup or honey), Alfajores, Peruvian pastry with manjar-caramel, Milhojas, layered pastry crisps also with manjar and the classic ice creams in a variety of indigenous flavors - Lucuma, Chirimoya, Guanabana, Coca, Purple Corn or Algarrobina.
In Lima, relish the most authentic and excellent Comida Criolla at Restaurante Jose Antonio in San Isidro, Señorio de Sulco in Miraflores fronting the Pacific Ocean, Manos Morenas in the bohemian district of Barranco and Casa Hacienda Moreyra, an impressive hacienda house in San Isidro. Its sister-outlet, Rosa Nautica is famed for its unique setting right on the ocean, but over-rated and too touristy. Cafés like Mango’s and Café-café in Larco Mar Mall also serve superb Comida Criolla.
Here in Tokyo, Japan, Miraflores serves authentic Peruvian cuisine with branches in Shibuya & Daikanyama, while NOBU in Tokyo, co-owned by Robert de Niro, serves Nikkei dishes, Japanese with a touch of Peru in some of its entries such as Tiradito and Anticucho.