Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Eating in Peru

Zorritos, Peru
Written by Karen.
Peruvian food is seriously good.  Not only does it have spice, subtlety, depth and interest, but it has a history which invokes passion, a necessary component of creating good food.  Litha, a cooking aficionado and student of the culinary arts - and probably a chef extraordinaire someday - said to us one day when we were discussing the different Peruvian foods that we had tried, 'I love cooking Peruvian food because it is our history on the plate.'  It's an interesting and compelling thought.  The different types of potatoes, corn, meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, spices and herbs tell a story of the past and the present.  The marriage of those various components make for some pretty tasty things to eat.  

One of the most delicious aspects of crossing the coastal border from Huaquillas, Ecuador to Zorritos, Peru was the ceviche.  We had heard that the Peruvian ceviche was good.  It's better than that. It is delicious. The Peruvian lime is bigger, juicier and a little sweeter than the limes that I'm used to. The Peruvian ceviche is simple.  White fish and/or shrimps, octopus and squid are placed in a lime citrus bath with tiny pieces of aji pepper (very spicy hot), salt, pepper and cilantro.  Eaten before the fish and/or shellfish becomes completely "cooked" by the acid, the ceviche is a symphony of the ocean, citrus, herbs and heat.  We ate ceviche every day for the week we were on the Peruvian coast.  

We ate our way throughout Peru, enjoying ceviche wherever we went, but also trying some other regional specialties.  However, we did not  sample cuy (guinea pig).  I was on the fence about this menu item for quite awhile.  But, after seeing the cuy up close and personal, I'm in the no column for trying this specialty. 

We were staying at a little hotel in Ollantaytambo where they had a little house outside in the garden for the cuy to live in. I thought to myself how cute that was.  It looked like a Nativity scene, with little rooms for the six or so cuy to live in and a thatched peaked roof to shelter them.  I took some pictures and watched them play and eat.  The next day, there was only one cuy in the house. We asked where the rest of the cuy went.  Did they escape?  No...Cover your eyes now....They were eaten the night before.  The cook comes out and picks one of them up when he has an order, and that's it for them. 

Cuy is a staple protein for those who live in the Andean highlands - but it's a little different for those who have had guinea pigs as pets in the past.  

Adam was willing to give the grilled beef hearts a go, and who knows, I might also.  We are headed to Uruguay, where the average person eats 130 pounds of meat each year!  We just might get our chance.

Fresh battered fish with sauteed veggies, steamed rice and fried plantains
Shrimp ceviche with dried corn and plantain chips
Mixed ceviche with sliced red onions and bell peppers.  On the side is the typical sweet potato and yucca, all served cold.
Sweet, fresh mango, banana, papaya and apple with strawberry yogurt and candied sprinkles.
Mazamorra Morada.  A delicious desert made from purple corn.  Chicha was a typical drink also made from purple corn. 
Causa Rellena.  Yellow potatoes filled with chicken and avocado.
Michael is a proud and passionate manager of a local Lima riverfront restaurant called La Muralla.  He was eager to share recipes of typical Peruvian dishes with me.
A light custard and multi-colored jello dessert 
A layered caramel, custard and berry pastry made with a flaky dough 
We ate these more often than anything else while in Lima.  Light, delicious, spicy - a perfect evening dinner.  Each cook had his very own take on this delicious sandwich. 
Adam ordered a pepperoni pizza and was surprised to see it delivered with sliced hard boiled eggs on top... 
Once the pizza was suitably modified, Adam pronounced that it was okay!
One of my favorite dishes: Spicy Fettuccine with fresh fish and vegetables
Ezekiel and Adam.  Ezekiel was another passionate food aficionado who is also a business student at the local university.  He is working his way through school as a waiter - and he's a really good one.
Pepperoni pizza found in the large Italian district in Lima.  This pepperoni pizza was nicely done with a bunch of arugula and drizzled balsamic vinegar in the center. 
A different version of causa. This one is made with tuna.
Fresh fruit.  The grapes were the size of golf balls.
The cuy housed in Ollantaytambo.  This picture was taken in the late afternoon when there were perhaps six of them hanging out in their little house. It was a rough night...


David in SF said...

Okay, now i'm entirely dissatisfied with the veggie burger that i have waiting for me at lunch!

How fun to experience a wide variety of layers during travel: culture, culinary, and geographical

elward eliason said...

wow great pictures great writing..my mouth watered at every picture..great area great food..it would take me at least a year to come back,to plain potatoes veg and fis..love dad

Kelly said...

Wow! The food looks great and you guys look even better. The journey clearly agrees with you both. I understand what you said about the guy...I know I'll never eat a rabbit! Love reading your posts.

Observers of Life said...

Hi David!

Just add a side of aji (pepper sauce) and everything goes up a notch! :)


Observers of Life said...

Hi Dad!

Just wait for the next post....meat in Uruguay! You should be here!


Observers of Life said...

Hi Kelly!

Thanks! It's hard to believe that today is day 101 of our journey! :)