Thursday, 20 February 2014

La Comida Peruana II.

As some of you may remember, a while ago I did a little post about Peruvian cuisine. Unfortunately, at the time, I didn't have many photos of what I was trying to describe, thus limiting what I could actually post about the amazing food they have over there! Peru is not the gastronomical capital of South America for no reason! 

Last time I gave a brief overview of what the general cuisine was like, and also showed you all what ceviche, anticuchos, papa rellena, arroz con leche, picarones and causa were. This time around, we have pachamanca, guinea pig, choclo con queso, Amazonian food and Andean food! Click through the link to have a further read!

First up is pachamanca, a traditional dish dating back to Inca times. Meat, potato, sweet potato, broad beans, corn and various vegetables are buried in the ground over hot stones, which are then covered in dirt and are left to cook for a long period of time (anywhere from a couple of hours to an entire day). It is typically served in the Andes, and is especially delicious after a long day of hiking through the freezing mountains. Nowadays, pachamanca is also prepared in the coastal areas and in Lima, though usually during food festivals or at special events.

Aji de gallina is probably one of the most emblematic Peruvian dishes, and is a common lunchtime staple in most Peruvian homes. This thick, curry-like dish is prepared using stale bread or soda biscuits in the sauce, shredded boiled chicken, and lots of different types of chili. Ironically enough, it's usually not too spicy and is served over a bed of potatoes with rice. The plate is never complete without the traditional half of a boiled egg and an olive on top.

Though not a typical 'traditional food', Limenians pride themselves on their cakes. It's very hard to walk a block in Lima without seeing a pasteleria (cake shop) selling a variety of cakes and sweets. While these cakes hardly look real, a Peruvian birthday party is not complete without one. They are incredibly creamy (though all made with imitation cream, as many Peruvians are lactose intolerant), and incredibly rich in flavour, making only a small portion of cake necessary. The creaminess of the cakes is also quintessential to a Peruvian tradition - before cutting the cake, the birthday boy/girl must take 'a bite of the cake' - which almost always results in them getting a face full of cake!

Guinea pigs, or 'cuy', as they are called in Peru, are a traditional food and are most definitely not kept as household pets like they are in Australia! They are bred to be killed and eaten, and cuy farms exist just as cattle and sheep farms do here. They are spit roasted and served either whole or halved, paws, head and organs all still intact - which makes the experience of eating one a lot more realistic! Cuy are quite hard to eat, as they have so many little bones and their skin is reasonably tough to chew through. The most sensible way to eat them is with your hands, although I did feel even more like a crazy carnivore in doing so! I can't compare their taste to anything I've ever tried before - so if you're curious, I guess you'll just have to find out for yourself!

Amazonian food is completely different to what you'd typically find in Lima - one of the things I love so much about Peruvian cuisine, every area has its own plates! Selva, or jungle food, typically consists of native animals - fish, worms, turtle and alligator. The worms ('suri') are perhaps the most interesting. They are skewered alive, washed quickly and then cooked alive on the grill, essentially cooking in their own fat. As soon as they stop squirming, they are served! Personally, I never tried one, but my friends who did said that they didn't taste that bad, but the head was unsettlingly crunchy!

And last but not least is choclo con queso - or put more simply, corn with cheese. Sounds pretty boring, but this common street food is a delicious snack in between meals, especially when you're travelling. Corn in Peru is very different to corn in Australia, the kernels are bigger and have a sweeter taste, and the cheese is more floppy and fresh tasting. I honestly can't compare queso fresco ('fresh cheese') to anything we have here in terms of taste, but combined with the Peruvian corn it's heavenly!

That's all for today folks - next up, some photos of downtown Lima!

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