Part five- Fast Food
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.
Yes, Lima, just like any international city or capital, is afflicted by the curse of US fast food chains. These sprung up after the city was flooded with foreign investment and new prosperity after its dark 80s period. These are of course enjoyed by those who found themselves able to afford to eat in them, but, were they able to kill off home-grown options in the gastronomic capital of the Americas? Not at all.
Though US in style, there is something decidedly different about the hamburger joint Bembo’s. It’s something you notice the moment you bite into your burger, something about the taste. Yes, the burgers in Bembo’s are made from ground meat – not ground up fat, brain and cartilage. Not only is the difference in quality hugely noticeable, specials are regularly available that work typical Peruvian flavours into an otherwise plain hamburger. Go Criollo with the Bembos A lo pobre burger, which includes a fried egg, fried plantain and onions, or go Andina with the unique flavour of huacatay. And, you have NOT tried french fries until you’ve had french fries made from Peruvian yellow potato, that’s if you even choose fries – try the sticks of fried Yuca, the cassava plant root native to the continent.
After chifa, every Peruvian’s favourite meal has to be Pollo a la Brasa. This type of rotisserie-cooked chicken originated in the Lima about 60 years ago and is now leading the march of Peruvian food into foreign markets with restaurants across South America, Mexico and US cities, especially Washington, NYC and Miami. What’s so special about this roast chicken, other than it retaining all its juices thanks to the cooking method? The secret is in the spices it is basted with, particularly the Andean huacatay herb.
Chicharrones de Cerdo are not to be missed. Succulent pork is fried in its own fat, sucking in all the juicy good badness to create a treat with an overwhelming porky flavour. Served in bread with fried sweet-potato and rich Peruvian red onion, just the thought is enough to make my mouth water. But if you value your health, try to limit your consumption.
While chicharrones are associated more with breakfast, anticuchos are more of an evening treat. Meat from one of the more unusual parts of a cow is basted with Panca chilli, barbecued and served on sticks. Read about this delicious dish here.
The cost of fast food isn’t all the different from the cost of a meal in a nice local restaurant – not because fast food is expensive, but because all food here is cheap. It doesn’t matter what you pay in Peru for your meal, whether $20 or $3, the food is usually just as delicious- its the surroundings that change. Try fast food in the following locations:
Bembo’s – Across Lima, Chiclayo, Cuzco, Trujillo, Piura
Palermo (Sandwiches, Chicharrones) – Various locales
Pascuale & Hermanos (Sandwiches, Chicharrones) – Various locales
Pardo’s Chicken – Various locales
Tio Mario (anticuchos) – Puente de Suspiros, Barranco
Tia Grima (anticuchos) – Enrique Palacios and 27 de Noviembre, Miraflores
Or almost anywhere else!
What not to miss: