How did some Peruvian dishes originate?

Peru, a Mecca for foodies

Lima - one of the most exciting culinary cities in the world

The travel blog heldenwetter has existed since August 2011. Ariane Kovac, 21 years old and a political student who comes from Bavaria, studied in Jena and lost her heart somewhere between llamas and rusty minibuses in Peru, writes here. Since then she has wanted to learn as much as possible about other countries and cultures - if possible, firsthand. When she can't be out and about, she spends a lot of time running her finger over maps and exploring her own home a little better, preferably on foot. Always with her, whether near or far: camera and notebook, because without writing and taking photos, life would not be worth living for her. Between school and university, I was granted the privilege of living for a year in a modern, up-and-coming, chaotic and crazy city that is considered one of the most culinary cities in the world. No, I'm not talking about New York or Bangkok,but from Lima, the capital of Peru.

In the last few years Lima has developed into a Mecca for foodies, chefs and specialists looking for unusual ingredients and combinations - and yet Peruvian cuisine is still relatively unknown in Germany. Since I've been living in Germany again, I've set myself the goal of changing that and I'm busy cooking, serving and talking. I very much hope that with this article I can make Peruvian cuisine a little more tasty!

Versatility is on the agenda in Peru

It is no coincidence that Peru has made it to the food Mecca. Peru is one of the most diverse countries in the world in terms of climate and landscape: biologists have identified 103 possible forms of vegetation in the world and found 83 of them in Peru - in 20 different climatic zones. Peru can be roughly divided into three parts: All kinds of fish can be found on the coast, potatoes, corn and grains such as quinoa come from the Peruvian Andes, and a wide variety of fruits and the wonderful cassava roots grow in the rainforest. There are over 3,800 varieties of potato and 35 varieties of maize known in Peru.

Everything that can be found in the country meets in Lima. If you walk across the Mercado Central, the city's most important market, you can expect overstimulation. Hundreds of types of fruit, some of which are only found in Peru and many are completely unknown in Germany, potatoes in all colors and shapes, purple, yellow and white corn ... So many impressions and smells patter down on you. You can't remember everything you see there, and not even a year is enough to try everything!

Inca, Spaniard and Chinese wok - a wild combination

However, Peru is not only diverse from a biological point of view. The native plants and animals were joined by the foods that the Spaniards used. The colonial rulers brought preparation methods unknown in Latin America with them to the “new world”, with which creative new dishes were quickly created from well-known products.

During colonialism, not only did Spanish influences reach Peru, but around 100,000 people from Africa were also brought there as slaves. Therefore, especially on the coast of Peru, there are also African influences in the kitchen. Many very cheap and simple Peruvian dishes go back to the slaves, because they were often only allowed to feed on leftovers. Necessity became a virtue and many creative dishes were made from offal. Anticuchos, grilled beef hearts that you can buy on every street corner in Lima in the evenings, are an example of this.

Peru also has a special connection with Asia. The first Chinese arrived in 1849, back then as semi-enslaved contract workers in agriculture. At the beginning of the 20th century there was a second wave of immigration.

Those who stayed often opened Chinese restaurants called chifas. The typical Chifa cuisine is a fusion of Chinese and Peruvian flavors and is completely different from the Chinese food that we know from Germany. The Peruvians love their Chifa and the many restaurants with very different price standards have become an integral part of the Peruvian gastronomy landscape. But many classic Peruvian dishes also have strong Asian influences. The best example is probably Lomo Saltado, a meat dish with tomatoes and onions that is usually tossed in a wok and refined with soy sauce. I once published a recipe for the veggie alternative Broccoli Saltado on my blog. For the original Lomo, simply replace the broccoli with strips of beef!

A chef as a national hero

Sure, singers, actresses and footballers also have star characters in Peru. But if people had to choose a national hero, it would be Gastón Acurio. The chef became famous through a television show.

His cuisine, too, is, how could it be otherwise, the result of one "Mezcla", a mixture: Gastón learned to cook in Paris and Madrid before he returned to Lima and opened a French restaurant. As the procurement of the ingredients became increasingly difficult, he began to examine the ingredients of his home country more closely and developed the Cocina Novoandina, the New Andean cuisine. Traditional recipes and ingredients from the Andes are being rediscovered and made usable for modern gastronomy.

Associated with this is not only the desire to create new and creative dishes. Gastón Acurio and other chefs also try to strengthen the Andean regions, build fair economic relationships and awaken a new indigenous, Andean self-confidence. And Gastón has a pretty daunting mission - one that I would be very happy to see succeeded: “In 20 years there should be a Peruvian meat skewer restaurant (Anticuchería) next to a pizzeria, a Peruvian sandwich bistro (Sanguchería) next to a burger shop, a Peruvian fish restaurant (Cevichería) next to a sushi bar ...“Gastón is on the right track, as he now has 40 restaurants all over the world.

National dishes and national pride

The special thing about Peruvian cuisine is not only the versatility, but also the pride in it. In Germany we usually eat internationally, between roast pork and dumplings, pasta and tomato sauce or Asian-inspired vegetables are also served on the table. We are seldom aware of where the recipes we eat come from, and we like to try new things from cookbooks. It's different in Peru. Everything that is on the table in Peru is original Peruvian, a sign of national pride, and of course it only tastes good in Peru. Even if the main course is simply a fried fish with mashed potatoes, it is Peruvian food and cannot taste anywhere else ...

It is also interesting that Peru is one of the few countries in the world where Coca Cola is not the favorite soft drink. Instead, they prefer to drink Inca Kola, a sticky-sweet yellow drink that tastes like a mixture of gummy bears and chewing gum. Inca Kola is now part of the Coca-Cola Group, but 51% of the company's shares still remain in family hands.

The Peruvian national dish is ceviche, a dish made from fish that is marinated raw in lime sauce and chilli and thus "cooked". It is usually served with salted, half-popped corn (canchita) and sweet potatoes. Ceviche is not for everyone as it is eaten cold and tastes pretty hot. It is not for nothing that people in Peru say that a meal is perfect when your eyes water and you still lick your fingers ... But for me there is simply nothing better in summer! The national drink of Peru is definitely the Pisco Sour, a cocktail made from the Peruvian grape brandy Pisco, raw egg white and lime juice.

The typical family meal that is served at least once a week is arroz con pollo, rice in coriander sauce with chicken. Usually there is also potatoes in huancaína chili sauce. Arroz con Pollo is probably the dish from Peru that I miss the most. In Peruvian restaurants in Germany there are always special, unusual and exclusive recipes - something as bland as Arroz con Pollo is therefore particularly difficult to get here. However, I have already tried it myself and was thrilled! The green coriander rice in particular is a great and simple accompaniment to various dishes. A classic and very tasty Peruvian dessert is pie de limón, lemon cake with meringue crown.

So the next time you discover a Peruvian restaurant, sit in, order a pisco sour and a lomo saltado, a ceviche or one of the many other delicious dishes - and see for yourself! And if you are planning a trip to Latin America, then make a stop in Lima and try the many delicacies!

You can find a lot more great information about Lima in the Lima Traveler travel guide.

Or have you been to Peru before? What was your favorite dish? Write it to me in the comments!

Blogger, graphic designer & illustrator, foodie and passionate cook, cheese lover, travel junkie, workaholic, yoga addicted, 6 continents - 65 countries and still plagued by wanderlust ...