Peruvian cuisine's all the rage, complete with its Asian influences and rotisserie grills. Here we take a closer look at some of its historical culinary influences, a signature dish and the key foodservice equipment and supplies used in preparation of this cuisine.
TWO PERSPECTIVES, SAME COUNTRY
Q&A with Jesus Delgado, chef de cuisine of Tanta, Chicago
FE&S: Why do you think Peruvian cuisine continues to grow in popularity?
JD: Peruvian cuisine is becoming more popular because of the uniqueness and diversity of the flavors found in the cuisine — there is something for everybody.
FE&S: How would you describe Peruvian cuisine and culture?
JD: Peruvian cuisine is very diverse due to the influences naturally found in the landscape. Peru has many different climates, allowing for many different types of ingredients to be naturally grown throughout the country.
FE&S: Why are there Asian influences in the cuisine?
JD: About 170 years ago there was a migration of Chinese people into Peru, and they brought their traditional cuisine with them. These influences made their way into traditional Peruvian cuisine. One of the biggest influences is the use of the wok.
FE&S: What are some classic Peruvian dishes?
JD: Some classic Peruvian dishes are ceviches, causas and anticuchos. We have made them modern by altering the presentation and adding unique ingredients.
FE&S: What about cocktails, other than the pisco sour?
JD: The chilcano (pisco, lime juice, ginger ale and a dash of bitters) is a cocktail that you can find all over Peru.
Ceviche 101, Conrado Falco, director, trade commission of Peru in New York, sheds some light on this signature Peruvian dish.
FE&S: What is the history of ceviche in Peruvian cuisine?
CF: Ceviche (sometimes spelled cebiche) is a classic example of the importance that the Incas placed on food. They wanted to eat fish from the Pacific Ocean in Cusco , which is 10,000 feet above sea level, so they cured the fish in some herbs or chicha (a fermented or non-fermented beverage usually derived from maize or other grains and fruits) in order to preserve it. Since Incan times it has been a cherished Peruvian dish. When the Spaniards brought key limes to Peru, they started to mix ceviche with it. The choice of spices used in ceviche preparation are also endless; some use parsley and celery to create a very fruity or aromatic dish, others concentrate on the lemon, salt and garlic. Ceviche preparation also varies on the time the fish is cooked into the lemon juice or leche de tigre (tiger’s milk). It used to be cooked for hours and now the Japanese have even invented a dish which has the lemon juice on the deepest part of the plate; the fish is served on the higher part and you decide how many minutes or seconds you want your fish to be cured by the leche de tigre.
FE&S: Why is ceviche enjoyed on Peru’s Independence Day in July?
CF: Ceviche consumption has two characteristics. Either it is for celebrating something with friends or it is a summer dish. In Peru, Independence Day (the holiday is more than one day long) falls in the south hemisphere’s winter, so there you party with friends during the holiday days and enjoy ceviche.
The pisco sour — aka, the cocktail of Peru — was created in the 1920s by a bartender from San Francisco who moved to Peru. The drink is made with pisco, a distilled brandy made only from Quebranta grapes (an odorless grape), plus simple syrup, ice and egg whites.
Key Pieces of Foodservice Equipment for Preparing Peruvian Cuisine
Marita Lynn, chef/owner Runa, Red Bank, N.J. and proprietor of Marita Lynn Catering
- Rotisserie grill for pollo a la brasa
- Flat-top grill
- A sharp knife to delicately cut fish for ceviche and tiraditos
- Blender for spicy ají sauce (ají peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, onions) and cocktails