Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

I'm Being a Guinea Pig for Peruvian Food

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

I'm Being a Guinea Pig for Peruvian Food

Article excerpt

Until recently, if you knew anything about Peruvian cuisine, it would probably be its penchant for cuy--the guinea pig and a startling thing for any tourist to find spreadeagled atop a pile of potatoes. That, however, was before it became The Next Big Thing.

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"Peruvian is the new Mexican", screamed the Independent last month, while the Food Channel declared it a hot trend for 2012--but then, they also forecast it would be big in 2007 and 2009 and it's not difficult to believe a repertoire that includes cold mashed potato and purple corn jelly might have had trouble winning fans abroad. But Peruvian gastronomy has much to justify the Economist's description of it as one of the world's dozen or so great cuisines". For a start, it's mind-bogglingly diverse. With a geography encompassing subtropical desert, high mountain and jungle, it produces everything from abalone to alpaca.

Then there's the cultural mix, which, for once, justifies the phrase "melting pot". The Inca influence remains strong in Peru, with recipes such as potato stew and llama jerky still widely consumed in the mountains, and the Spanish conquistadors left their culinary mark, too. But the yam-flour doughnuts brought by the Spaniards' African slaves, the pasta popularised by 19th-century Italian immigrants or the flavours contributed by the country's significant Chinese and Japanese communities might come as more of a surprise.

It's estimated that up to s per cent of the population is of Asian descent and dishes such as lomo saltado (stir-fried beef with chips and chillies) and tiradito (spicy sashimi served with corn) are all now as Peruvian as quinoa. The world's most famous Japanese chef, Nobu opened his first restaurant in Lima, explaining his fondness for Latin American ingredients and techniques.

That Peru is an interesting place to eat is beyond doubt--Ferran Adria, the genius behind El Bulli in Spain, who's just finished making a film about the food scene there, goes as far as to describe it as "unique". …

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