Part one – Seafood heaven
Peruvian food was all but unknown to the world a decade ago, but this has begun to change in recent years. In 2004 an article appeared in The Economist. “Peru can lay claim to one of the world’s dozen or so great cuisines“. As the news spread of the discovery of one of the world’s best kept secrets, the excitement began to build. In 2006 at the Madrid Fusion Fourth International Summit of Gastronomy, one of the field’s most important conferences, top chefs, critics and journalists were blown away. The rumours were true, and the city of Lima, where many of the nation’s 400+ national and regional dishes can be found in cheap local haunts and fancy restaurants alike, was declared the Gastronomic Capital of the Americas.
Sea Food Heaven
Blessed with a long Pacific coast with some of the richest fishing grounds in South America, Peru’s sea food offerings are outstanding. Lima, birth place of the majority of these dishes, can not be visited without also visiting a cevichería.
Ceviche originated somewhere on the central coast of Peru and is perhaps the nation’s most famous dish. The juice of the unique Peruvian lemon accompanied by thinly cut rocoto or ají limo chilli and sliced onions, marinates fresh seafood, often raw fish and/or cooked shellfish. The word “raw” immediately worries the squeamish, who perhaps think the world’s greatest culinary experts have got it all wrong, but raw fish is not the end result. The strong acids from the lemon, chilli and onions force the fish to undergo the same process as with cooking with heat. The result is a spicy dish served with corn and sweet potato probably quite unlike anything you have ever previously tasted.
Lima is famous for other dishes, two of which exist thanks to the city’s long history of immigration. The Italians brought with them delicious parmesan cheese and invented Conchitas a la Parmesana. Freshly cooked scallops flavoured with black pepper, olive oil, a dash of lemon juice, some butter and of course, parmesan cheese. The Japanese made their contribution in the form of sashimi-style fillets of fish doused in two or three sauces made from different Peruvian chillies – the dish is called Tiradito.
More shellfish, this time mussels that make up the base for Choritos a la Chalaca. Fresh mussels are cooked and left with one half of the shell. These halves are drenched in lemon juice then piled high with finely chopped onions and chilli – just till the point that the whole thing can be shovelled into an already-watering mouth.
For those not keen on onions, lemon and chilli, Arroz con Mariscos might just be your thing. As a rice dish you start with a familiar base, but the flavour is as new and outstandingly different as that of any other Peruvian dish. Essentially a stir fry with fresh Pacific sea food, the rice is flavoured not only with their juices but with the mild ají amarillo chilli that is so widely used in Lima cuisine.
Sea food in Lima is unmissable and worth the journey to Peru in itself. Whether you pay $20 or $3 in Peru, the food is just as delicious- its the surroundings that change. So depending on budget, from big spender to backpacker, try sea food in the following restaurants:
Pescados Capitales – Av. La Mar 1337, Miraflores
La Red – Av. La Mar 391. Miraflores
La Isla Escondida – C. Marie Curie 108, Urb. La Calera de la Merced, Surquillo
Sonia – Jr. Agustín Lozano 173, Chorrillos
El Verídico de Fidel – Jr. Abtao 935, La Victoria
El Fayke Piurano – Jr. de Huancavelica 165, Cercado de Lima
Or almost anywhere else!
More what not to miss: