Our 10 favourite Peruvian dishes
One of the great joys of travel is discovering the foods and flavours of other countries, and this is a topic which is never far from our thoughts. Today two of our most ardent food fans, David and Kristina, give us their tips for some of the wonderful recipes emanating from Peru, the gastronomic hub of Latin America.
All of these dishes can be feasibly cooked in the UK / US, as most ingredients are easy to source, though you may need to make the odd substitute (e.g. different potatoes etc). The one item that's harder to find, but that you should make sure you acquire, is aji amarillo (yellow Peruvian chilli) to get that authentic Peruvian flavour. This can sometimes be found in specialist ethnic supermarkets, but can also be purchased online, from websites such as vivaperu.co.uk.
So here is our Top 10, in no particular order:
This is a great dish for a dinner party - easy to prepare, with loads of flavour. It's basically stir-fried chunks of steak (best you can afford), together with onion, chunks of tomato, with oregano and chilli to taste. The trick is to flash fry the steak so it's not overdone, still pink, but has absorbed some of the lovely juices from the herbs and vegetables. Serve it all in a big dish in the centre of the table - with chips / French fries to soak up those juices!
Massively underrated in my view, this is an absolute classic, with which you can be as creative as you like. It's essentially layers of cold mashed potato, fish, tomato, egg, seafood, chicken, corn, avocado - really anything you fancy. Excellent choice as a fairly light summer dish.
Aji de Gallina
This, on the other hand, is much more of a winter warmer. You poach a chicken with some veg, then shred the meat. Cook up some of the stock with various herbs and spices, along with aji amarillo, walnuts, cheese and parsley. Then smother the chicken with the lovely sauce - creamy yet spicy - and serve with potatoes.
Papa a la Huancaina
Very good as a starter, side dish, or just using the sauce as a dip for crudités. You take your potatoes (a yellow variety is best if you can get them), and boil them up. The sauce is principally produced from white cheese, oil, crackers, and the aji amarillo in paste form. The level of heat can easily be adjusted to suit any taste.
Arroz con Pato
When done well, this is superb. Perhaps the most emblematic dish from the northern area around Chiclayo, Lambayeque and Trujillo, where many Peruvians consider the best of Peruvian food is produced. Rather more complicated than the two named ingredients (rice with duck) imply, at its best this is melt-in-the-mouth good. The main keys are to use very fresh and fragrant spinach and coriander (cilantro) leaves to produce the green rice, and marinade the duck in beer to give it a really rich flavour.
This is one of Peru's most popular dishes, and probably its most famous, yet is deceptively simple. Slices of very fresh white fish (such as seabass or sole) are marinated in lime and rocoto, a red Peruvian chilli - and served with sweet potato and thin slices of raw red onion. The key to this dish is getting the blend of acidity and heat in the marinade right - known in Peru as "leche de tigre" (tiger's milk). It's tricky, but if you can get fresh enough fish, and master your leche de tigre, you will be very popular with your friends and family!
In Lima, chicharron is a hugely popular - but not particularly healthy - breakfast treat on weekends. To make chicharron, pork is boiled first and then fried to make crispy slices of meat that go very well together in a sandwich with fried sweet potato and "salsa criolla", a condiment made from red onions, aji amarillo, coriander, salt and lime juice. A real Peruvian 'morning after' breakfast!
In Peru, anticuchos are a traditional street food of skewered slices of ox heart marinated in a blend of local herbs and spices including aji panca chilli and aji amarillo, garlic and cumin. Rump steak is a good substitute for ox heart if you prefer, chunks of chicken thighs are another option, and any fresh red chillis can replace aji panca.
This is a fantastic way to use left over rice and beans and make another delicious, simple and filling dish. Simply mix up the two and toast them in a pan like an omelette - you can then add meat, fish, or a seafood sauce if you wish.
Chupe de Camarones
A delicious and hearty shrimp soup with yellow potatoes and corn, this is wonderful in the winter, especially when a little extra heat is added by way of some aji amarillo. My adopted Peruvian grandmother's secret was to roast the aji amarillo before adding it to the soup to give it a wonderful depth of flavour.