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Peruvian cuisine

Peruvian cuisine

Emmanuelle Jary - 2011-09-26

Peru has an enviable culinary tradition drawing on a generous biodiversity, where fruit and vegetables of all varieties abound. Throughout its history there have been all kinds of cultural crossovers and now its food has been enriched by contributions from the Far East.

Its sea, mountains and jungle  help make Peru one of the seventeen countries of mega-biodiversity, It has all the gifts of mother nature at its disposal, a genuine land of plenty with 15 species of tomatoes, 35 ecotypes of corn, 150 varieties of sweet potatoes, 650 kinds of indigenous fruit and 2500 different kinds of potato! Peru also has one of the largest fishing stocks in the world, with over two thousand kinds of fish, from its rivers and the ocean. "Without Peru, the world would be poor and hungry," said José Antonio José Brack Egg, a former Environment Minister of Peru. You can’t dispute this, because even if you get sick here in this ancient land of the Incas there are numerous medicinal plants to help you get better.

On top of this biodiversity is also a cultural diversity:  44 ethnic groups (with 14 language groups) who have each developed their own cuisine and specialties that are classified according to the regions.
The cooking from the selva (jungle) is characterised by the presence of yuca (cassava), bananas, Cecinas (smoked peccary), paiches (large freshwater fish), lizards and chonta (palm hearts.)  Traditionally in this region game meat is also smoked for improved preservation.
There is also Amazonian hybrid cuisine with well known dishes such as Juane a dish consisting of rice, dried meat and spices ...
In the Andes, particularly in Arequipa (towards the extreme south), there are freshwater fishing products such as crayfish (cooked in soup and accompanied by red peppers, milk and vegetables), the Ocopa (yellow pepper sauce) with crayfish and walnuts, rocoto relleno (hot peppers stuffed with meat), as well as seafood salads and offal in vinaigrette.

Peruvian gastronomy has something for everyone and every taste, but there is always a kind of consensus for the national dish, the ceviche, made with fish or seafood and seasoned with lemon juice , salt, pepper and a little onion. Other classics on the menus of Peruvian restaurants are tamales verdes (tender cornmeal), seco Cabrito (goat stew with beans) or arroz con pato (rice with duck and coriander) ... Finally,  cuy ( guinea pig) is a very popular dish throughout the country. It is, of course, cooked differently in different regions, but roasting tends to prevail. In the Andes, it’s served with vegetables in hot peppers.

Peruvian cuisine’s revival

In Lima, the capital, the local gastronomy is strongly marked by Afro-Peruvian influences and a significant borrowing from the Asian immigrant populations from China and Japan. Historically, Peruvian cuisine has been true fusion cooking ever since the 16th century when the Conquistadors brought the food and traditions of their country with them.

Flavours and techniques from other cultures have gradually been adopted. The Japanese influence can be seen nowadays in the preparation of raw fish. China has opened the way for the use of soy and ginger which is also very present in Lima’s fusion cuisine.

Over the past decade, Peruvian cuisine has been well received in Asia, where it is considered one of the best in the world, and in North America too. With complex and varied dishes (apparently the nation has over 2,000 different recipes) it is a new continent that is well worth exploring. 

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