An Introduction to Peruvian Gastronomy
Until most recently, Peruvian cuisine was hardly noticed abroad. Few outsiders had heard of such dishes as ceviche or carapulca, let alone had tried them. Yet notwithstanding, Peruvian cuisine is one of the World's most varied and delicious. Now, thanks to a vital generation of young chefs and the efforts of people like Tony Custer or Gaston Acurio to make Peruvian cooking well known abroad, many connoisseurs worldwide are beginning to discover it.
The Economist magazine, for example, reported in a January 2004 article that Peru could "lay claim to one of the world's dozen or so great cuisines". Norman Van Aken, one of Florida's most gifted chefs, acknowledged that Peruvian cuisine was possibly the most enticing of those he had studied. And Patrick Martin, academic director of Le Cordon Blue, said that one of the reasons why they had a branch of the school in Lima was the excellent quality of local cuisine.
Two aspects converge to give Peruvian cuisine an uniqueness that few other enjoy. The first one is the country's enormous biodiversity. Peru is home to some 80 types of the world's 104 different biological zones, which assures an amazing assortment of fresh ingredients. Potatoes and hot peppers from the Andes, fish and seafood from the Pacific Ocean, mangoes and limes from the coastal valleys, bananas and manioc from the Amazon jungle: a chef's only problem is abundance of choice.
Second, Peruvian cuisine is the quintessence of cultural fusion. Ever since the first blending between Inca and Spanish traditions, local cooks have been capable of incorporating the flavours and techniques of the many immigrants that disembarked in the country's ports, in particular African, Chinese, and Japanese.
Andean cuisine maintains a strong relationship with Pachamama -mother earth in Quechua. Indeed, the essential highland dish is pachamanca, though it can't only be considered a dish.
Pachamanca, a Quechua term for "earth pot" or "when the earth transforms in pot", is a millenary ritual, generous and festive, usually reserved for religious and community festivities, such as the harvest thanksgiving.
Pachamanca consists in cooking several types of food -pork, chicken, cuy, potatoes, corn, etc- inside a hole in the ground, previously stuffed with incandescent stones and then covered with aromatic leaves. By eating directly from the earth's core, Andean cultures manifest their respect towards nature (or Pachamama), the source of fertility and life.
Carapulca, another millenary dish of Andean origin, is a peculiar pork and dry-potato stew, whose recipe includes chocolate, cumin, peanuts, port wine, and coriander. Boiled potatoes are the base of two of the most popular Andean appetizers, papa a la huancaína and ocopa. The former carries a cheese, milk and hot peppers sauce; the later, a sauce made with toasted peanuts, cheese, hot peppers, and huacatay (a native herb).
Peru is a country in which you can find different kinds of food. That is because during the 19th century we got the influence of another cultures, for example:
Chinese Influence: They came because they were broke, and it was because most of them were addicts to game. They came to Peru to work on rice fields.
Arabian Influence: They came to work and invest and share their food with us. They were a very small group.
African Influence: They came as slaves, and of course they didn't have enugh resources at hand and they made up some very delicious meals.
Japanese Influence: They came here to invest and to make some deals with peruvian entreprenours.
If you are interested in cookng some of the peruvian meals, find the recipes here.