Andrew's Essential Fiery Food Facts that a Pyro-Gourmaniac needs to Know Part 10

Posted on 22nd April 2017

In my own personal opinion Peruvian cuisine is one of the most fascinating food cultures in the world. It is unmatched in both its diversity and individuality. It is a fusion of many different cultures; it retains unique elements of each, yet is a distinct cuisine all its own. Its main influences are the indigenous Inca peoples, the Spanish conquistadors, African slaves that were brought by the Spanish. A large wave of immigrants who became integral components of Peruvian culture and culinary framework.
The indigenous people already had a rich variety of native foods, recipes and cooking techniques before the invading Spanish arrived. Peru is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, and a multitude of important native foods were consumed throughout the country. Most notably the vast variety of Chillies, hot and sweet, which were and still are essential ingredients in many Peruvian recipes. Peanuts and many tomato and bean varietals were also cultivated and widely consumed prior to the Spanish invasion.
In addition to these indigenous ingredients, local cuisines were highly dependent upon the geographic area and climate of the region where they were. Much of the food overlapped, whoever there were three main diverse regions:
The mountain regions had a highly developed form of systematic Farming. With its terrace farming and its complex irrigation systems. Many mountain crops grow only at specific altitudes; these ancient farmers knew which crops grew best at which altitude, and Corn was a highly-prized staple amongst the indigenous People. There was a multitude of corn cakes and tamales, each serving a different meal or cultural purpose. Corn played a big part in the Ritual Beverages they consumed, Chicha morada is a drink made from purple corn, and chicha de jora is a fermented corn beer which held great ceremonial importance in ancient Inca life.
They also cultivated hundreds of tuber varieties indigenous to these region, especially the incredible diversity of potatoes, but also sweet potatoes and unique tuber varieties such as the olluca. Quinoa, amaranth (kiwicha) and other ancient grains were important for nutrition and culinary variety. While the majority of the common folk ate little meat, the Incas did hunt fresh game such as venison although usually in Ritual hunts. They also domesticated native animals, such as llama, alpaca, and cuy, or guinea pig, which they also sacrificed.
The Indigenous Peruvian people developed advanced preparation and preservation methods such as freeze-drying, which enabled them to endure times of scarcity and difficult weather conditions. Chuños / papas secas (dried potatoes) were and still are a staple, and a main ingredient in the stew carapulcra. The Incas also dried meat and freshwater fish. In fact, charqui (jerky) is one of the few Andean foods and Quechua words that have been adopted worldwide, which without them, Ironhide and Jim’s Jerky wouldn’t exist. 
Pachamanca was and to this day remains a huge celebration meal that is cooked in an earthen pit with hot stones. Native plants such as huacatay, a native herb related to marigold, and hot Chillies, seasoned and flavoured the Indigenous foods.
The Amazon River provided a multitude of fish and wildlife. Wild pigs and other jungle animals were hunted. This region contained vast quantities of tropical fruits, many of which are not often found outside of Peru. These included camu camu, lucuma, cherimoya, and guanabana. Also found are yucca, yam, guava, passion fruit, granadilla, and avocado.
Fish and seafood were staples of the Incan peoples. Ceviche , the raw fish or seafood marinated in lime juice was and remains a regional delicacy, with each area has its own version. Waterfowl such as duck were also common.
There were two subdivisions of the coastal regions.
The Northern Coast is extremely hot, with a desert savanna climate. In addition to an abundance of fish and seafood, Chicha de jora (corn beer) is used in cooking more frequently here. Also, maize tamales are more common, whereas corn tamales are made in Lima and the southern portion of the country. Goat and lamb, particularly in stews (secos), are common entrées in this region.
Lima and the Central / Southern Coast have a more subtropical / desert climate. Once home to the Spanish Hierarchy , Lima is now considered the Culinary centre of Peru, if not the whole of South American Continent . 
When Francisco Pizarro and the Spaniards arrived in Peru in 1532, they not only found a country and people weakened by civil war, they also brought smallpox and other European epidemics, which wiped out around 80 % of the Indigenous population by the end of the 16th century. Which resulted in a few people to fight the invaders or to be conquered. The Spanish used the remaining Inca as slaves often working them to death .As in Other conquered countries their culture and traditions were suppressed to the point that few ancient Inca artefacts or traditions remain. They also brought their own blended culture’s cuisine, which consisted of European and Moorish recipes, ingredients, and methods.
Aside from pure oppression, the Spanish brought European classical cuisine techniques and ingredients including: onions and garlic, cumin, coriander and parsley. And their prized fruit trees , grape, olive, citrus, apple, peach, and pear. They also brought domesticated livestock, such as chicken, cows, rabbit, goats and sheep. The Spanish also contributed important crop staples such as rice and wheat. The Invaders introduction of sugar cane turned Peru into a sweet-loving culture in a very short period of time.
The Inca’s ended up intermarrying with the Spanish, over the following generations, which resulted in the descendants being known as the Mestizo ( the Mixed). This resulted in a new lower middle class that took generations to develop. This began a mix of two cultures foods that would marry ingredients and cooking techniques, and finally become common place in the household. This style of cooking would become known as Criollo, or as we know it today Creole. Which meant locally born of foreign descent. A perfect marriage of Spanish Cuisine with Native Peruvian Inca Cuisine
Peruvian cuisine was later influenced by large foreign immigration. The Spaniards brought African slaves as unwilling immigrants. They contributed many culinary techniques and ingredients, often borne out of necessity (as they were being forced to use less appealing cuts of meat, leftovers). They Brought with them African methods, particularly frying foods in oil, which made a significant contribution to the cuisine. A few notable recipes include anticuchos and tacu tacu. Also, as servants in the Upper Class kitchens, they helped transform Peru into a sweet-loving culture: they mixed Spanish desserts with African undertones. Picarones and turrón de Doña Pepa are a few examples.
Peru formally declared its independence on July 28, 1821. In 1872, the Peruvian government created the Sociedad de Inmigración Europea (“European Immigration Society”), it offered financial support to Europeans looking to emigrate to Peru. Many immigrants – most notably Italians, Germans, and French – soon arrived. Classical French cuisine and Italian ingredients , like pasta were readily incorporated into the food culture. Many settled in isolated communities in mountain valleys and lowlands. The Italian and German enclaves in the mountain valleys and Amazon basin still exist today, and strive to maintain their ethnic heritage
Chinese immigrants arrived to build the railroads in the 1800s, and contributed tremendously to Peruvian Cuisine. Chifa , the Chinese-Peruvian cuisine blends traditional Chinese with native Peruvian ingredients. Peruvian cooks began to integrate Chinese ingredients into their meals especially ginger, soy sauce, and Eshallots which can be found in many Peruvian recipes. Chifa is quite different than bastardised Chinese American Food which was altered to suit American tastes, and is not generally consumed by Chinese people outside of the USA . It is a unique cuisine onto itself. Lima and the larger cities hold the greatest concentration of Chinese immigrants, and consequently the greatest number of chifa restaurants.
The last, but certainly not least the Japanese made their mark on Peruvian cuisine. Peru established diplomatic relations with Japan in 1873 and immigration to Peru began soon afterwards. Today, Peru is home to over 1.5 million Japanese-Peruvians. Partly through the expertise of sushi chefs, ceviche the traditional Peruvian dish of fish macerated in citrus juice , has been elevated to an art form in the haute cuisine kitchens of Lima. Tiradito , a sashimi-inspired dish similar to ceviche was the result of Japanese influence.
The cuisines of the Inca’s, Spanish, Africans, Europeans, Chinese, and Japanese have been incorporated into one melting pot that has become known as Modern Peruvian food culture. The result is Peruvian Cuisine, an exciting, vibrant, Spicy, eclectic mix of cultures, ingredients and recipes that continues to evolve today.

Now tease your taste buds with these recipes

Aji Amarillo Sauce (Green Dipping Sauce)
6 medium Aji Chillies, seeded
80 gm Onion, roughly chopped
1 clove Garlic
60 ml Rice Bran Oil
1/2 Bunch Coriander (leaves and stems)
1/2 tsp Salt
80 grams Feta cheese 
2 tsp natural Peanut butter 
Pour 2 Tbls of oil into a medium sized pan over medium heat.
Sauté Chillies, onion and Garlic until softened, 3- 4 minutes.
Pour into a blender the sauteed vegetables, 
Add the remaining vegetable oil, Coriander, salt, Feta Cheese and Peanut butter 
Blend on high until thick and creamy, about one minute.

Aji Roja

250 gm Roma tomatoes, chopped
80 gm onion, peeled and chopped
15 gm (3 ) cloves Garlic
¾ cup Red Bran oil
100 gm dried Serranos, (or another medium-hot dried red chilli)
½ cup Water
1/3 cup Cider Vinegar
1 tsp salt
Roast onion and tomato in the of the oven, turning occasionally, until nicely charred with most of the liquid evaporated. About 20 minutes. 
Sauté Garlic in 2 Tbls of Oil until brown.
Add the Chillies and cook till darkened, about 10 minutes. 
Pour the roasted vegetables, Garlic and Chillies to a blender, add vinegar and water and allow to macerate for ¾ of an hour. Add salt, grind to a paste and macerate some more. 
Now blend in oil pouring slowly so it completely emulsifies with the vegetables.
Serve immediately
This will keep a couple of weeks in the fridge

Peruvian Spice Blend
2 tsps gnd Aji Chillies
2 tsp gnd Cumin
2 tsp gnd Annato
2 tsp gnd Oregano
2 tsp gnd Garlic
1 tsp Smoked Paprika
1 tsp gnd Black Bepper
1 tsp ground Lemon peel
1 tsp salt
Mix all ingredients together.
Store in an airtight container in a dark place.

Ceviche Clasico
250 gm. Snapper, cleaned and deboned
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Jalapeño Chilli Finally chipped
1 Habanero julienned
25 gm Spanish Onion julienned
60 lime. lime juice, about 1 or 2 limes
250 gm cooked Sweet Potato, diced
Coriander leaves for garnish
Julienne the Red Onion, place in a small bowl and rinse with cold running water three times
Blice a Lime or two and squeeze 30 ml. of Lime juice into a small bowl
Add the Jalapeño and Habanero Chillies to the Lime juice, stir with fork and let rest
Cut the fish into small squares, 1 ½ x1 ½ cm
Place fish in mixing bowl, season with salt, and mix with fork
Pour the Lime juice with the Chillies over the fish, toss with fork for a few minutes until fish begins to cook and turn opaque
Toss in the julienned Red Onion, diced Sweet Potato, a few Coriander leaves, and continue to toss for another few minutes
serve on a small plate

Leche de Tigre ( Tigers Milk)

200 ml Fish stock
50 ml Lime juice
1 clove Garlic
1 tsp Ginger minced
1 tsp chopped Coriander leaves
30 gm Red Onion diced
30 gm Celery diced 
1/4 tsp Rocoto paste
1/4 cup Sweet Potato, cubed & cooked
celery leaves for garnish

Chop, mince, dice, and cube the fresh ingredients
Measure the fish stock and squeeze the Lime juice
Combine all the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth
Pour into a container and refrigerate to chill
Serve in shot glasses and garnish with Celery leaves

Peruvian Potato Salad
Ingredients for the Huancaina sauce
1 Red Onion, peeled and diced, about 3/4 cup
2 cloves Garlic, peeled and chopped
4 tbls Rice Bran oil
2 tsp Aji amarillo paste (see recipe above)
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp turmeric
500ml milk 
240gm. Feta, cut into 1 cm cubes
6 slices white bread, toasted, crust removed, and cut into 1 cm pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
Ingredients for the salad
4 Lg Potatoes, boiled in water, peeled, and cut into rounds
1 head Iceberg lettuce
2 hardboiled Eggs, peeled, and cut into quarters
8 Kalamata olives, pitted
Parsley for garnish

Sauté the Onion in a pan with oil over medium to high heat for a 3 of minutes 
Add the Garlic, Aji amarillo, Salt, Pepper, Cumin, Oregano, and Turmeric, stir and cook a few more minutes until the Onions become translucent
Remove from heat and transfer the Onion sofrito to a blender
Add Feta and milk, purée until smooth
Add the toast, a few pieces at a time, and continue to purée until sauce thickens
Pour the Oil in a slow stream, while continuing to blend
Transfer the sauce from the blender to a small jug
Arrange the Lettuce leaves and Potato rounds on a Plate, and pour the Huancaina sauce over the Potatoes
Garnish each plate with a quarter piece hardboiled Egg, Kalamata Olive, and sprig of Parsley Avocado and Cherry Tomato’s

Chinese-Peruvian Steamed Fish

Ingredients for the sauce
2 tbls Rice bran Oil
2 tbls Ginger, julienned
1/2 cup Water
2 tbls Soy Sauce
1 tbls Sesame Oil
2 Eshallots, julienned (only the green)
Ingredients for the fish
1 whole fish, Squire, about 500gm. Scaled & cleaned
1 tsp Salt
2 tbls Rice Bran Oil 
2 tbls ginger, julienned
1 teaspoon Aji amarillo
2 cups Chicken stock
Ingredients for the garnish
2 Eshallots, julienned
½ bunch Coriander
Heat 2 tbls Oil in a pan over medium to high heat, and add 2 tbls julienned Ginger
When the Ginger begins to sizzle, add the Water, Soy Sauce, Sesame Oil, Eshallot
Simmer 1 minute, remove from heat, and pour the sauce into a bowl, set aside
Score the Squire with a knife by making 3 cuts on the top and bottom, stopping at the spine
Season the Squire with the Salt, in and outside
To steam the Squire, heat 2 tbls oil in a pan over medium to high heat, and add 2 tbls julienned Ginger
When the ginger begins to sizzle, add 1 tsp Aji amarillo and sauté for 1 minute, lowering the heat if needed
Add 1 1/2 cups Chicken stock, and bring to a boil
Place the Squie in the pan and cover, let steam for 10 minutes until fish is done
If liquid is reduced before the Squire is cooked, add another 1/2 cup of chicken stock
Remove fish from pan and place on a serving plate
Pour previously prepared sauce over fish, and garnish with julienned Eshallots and Coriander