In the United States, many of my acquaintances inexplicably think I am in Peru. (Is it because Peru is one of the more travelled-to destinations in Latin America thanks to Macchu Picchu? Or, perhaps Peru just rolls of the tongue a little easier than Chile...)
I do, of course, correct them, but at least they would be pleased to know that I have access to some Peruvian culture here in northern Chile: namely, the food.
Peruvian cuisine is well known throughout Latin America mainly because several famous chefs have come from the country. Throughout the past decades, it has become a sort of fusion cuisine, taking a lot of influences from Asian and European cooking.
Last week I finally tried a Peruvian restaurant which had been recommended by a few of my friends. The restaurant was packed at lunchtime (which you will recall is the time of day most Chileans eat their main meal). This is always a good sign.
The menu had a plethora of choices; all different types of ingredients and flavours were highlighted. My three companions wanted a ceviche as an appetizer; I’m not usually a fan of ceviches, so I opted for a corn bread type appetizer. The ceviche features pieces of fresh raw seafood that had been “cooked” by being marinated in a lime juice-based sauce. The ceviche was also served with toasted corn kernels and slices of cooked sweet potato and a few onions and vegetables, a presentation we were assured by one of my companions – a Peruvian – that was authentic. My corn bread-esque appetizer was served warm, stuffed with a bit of chicken and with some diced tomatoes, onions and cilantro on top.
For the main course, all three of my companions had a lomo salteado, a very common dish in Peru, which is essentially cuts of beef stir-fried with red peppers and onions, served on a bed of french fries with rice. You can certainly see the influences from Asian cuisine in that dish – the french fries adding an unusual twist to a stir fry!
I opted for a traditional seafood soup called Parihuela. Cooked fish, mussels and scallops in a tomato and wine-based broth with cilantro and a dash of lime juice. Very fresh, rich and delicious!
It was nice to have a little taste of the eclectic Peruvian cuisine as a welcome diversion from the much more straightforward Chilean food.