When we think of this cuisine, most of us probably get a mental image of guinea pigs roasting away on an open fire. But before you get saddened or grossed out by the thought of eating cute, fluffy household pets, know that the Peruvian fare has so much more to offer.
For the longest time, Peruvians have kept most of their traditional food within the confines of their homes, prepared in portions just enough to feed family members. With their dishes seen as crude and unsophisticated, they left it to the posh French and Italian cuisines to run the dining scene in their own country.
But Chef Gaston Acurio, now revered as the ambassador of Peruvian cooking, showed the world that their national dishes belong on all dining tables, whether at home, on the streets, or in haute restaurants. (Read more about his work here!)
Peruvian cuisine is now shaping up to be a trend in different parts of the world, including Metro Manila where Peruvian dishes are making appearances on many food establishments’ menus.
Peruvian Cuisine 101
Did you know that Peru is in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the country with the most number of national dishes?! With 491 to boast of, it seems like Peruvians love to eat!
Due to Peru’s geography, with its jungles, long coastline, and the Andean highlands, it is a natural pantry for a wide array of ingredients. This means they get a lifetime supply of potatoes (they have four thousand kinds!), tomatoes, corn, and quinoa. Their waters are teeming with fish, too! Take all that food plus 500 years of fusion and evolution and you get the Peruvian cuisine.
The Spanish conquistadors, the African slaves, as well as the Japanese, Chinese, and Italian immigrants have all had a hand at molding Peru’s local fare, which explains the many subcategories that fall under it. The Peruvian-Japanese and Peruvian-Chinese cuisines are just some of its exotic permutations.
Try these Peruvian restaurants and dishes in Metro Manila!
Dish: Lomo Saltado
This hearty dish is the perfect representation of Peru’s hybrid cuisine. Beef strips, tomatoes, onions, and yellow Peruvian chilies are stir-fried Asian style in soy sauce and vinegar then served with a large helping of good ol’ french fries! Definitely not for those with an allergy to calories!
Order up a plate of Lomo Saltado at Nikkei, the new Peruvian-Japanese restaurant that has been piquing the interest of foodies in the Metro. Julie J. said in her looloo review that she enjoyed how the meat was tender and packed with flavor. Aside from french fries, you get a poached egg to top off your meal too!
Think of this entree as Japanese sashimi but with flavors that are unmistakably Peruvian. Comprised of thinly-sliced raw fish traditionally seasoned with freshly-squeezed lime juice and hot yellow pepper paste, it keeps the palate entertained with both the familiar and the unexpected. You can get acquainted with it as much as you want though because word is…it’s healthy!
Nikkei makes the Tiradito available to us and provides a wide selection of it too! With the Coco Tiradito, you get raw fish or octopus in salad sauce, coconut milk, chives, and capsicum, while the Peruanito Tiradito is made up of white fish in lime juice, cilantro emulsion, red chili, and sweet potatoes.
Dish: Pollo a la Brasa
This dish, more popularly known as Peruvian Chicken, seems to be everyone’s go-to comfort food these days. It’s hard to stop eating it when every mouthful is met with a delicious smoky-salty taste. Traditionally, the Peruvians kept it simple by seasoning the chicken with just salt and cooking it in charcoal. But nowadays, everyone has their own secret marinades to flavor their chicken.
Alyanna M. raved about her Pollo a la Brasa experience in her looloo review, saying she had no regrets when she ordered a whole chicken at Don Andres which was flavorful right down to the bone.
Dish: Arroz Con Mariscos
Rice and seafood are some of a Peruvian’s most favorite things to eat, which makes this entree a dream to dig into. A Peruvian version of the Spanish paella, it combines fresh ingredients like scallops, shrimp, rice, chili pepper, and parmesan cheese to make a dish that’s hard to resist. With a sprinkle of lime juice over the rice plus a glass of white wine in hand, you’re set for a great meal.
Arroz Con Mariscos is a dish you can’t miss at Don Andres. On looloo, it has been fondly described as colorful, flavorful, and packed with a generous serving of seafood. Seasoned with secret Peruvian spices, it’s unchartered territory for Filipino tastebuds so it’s something you need to try on your own to truly understand.
Dish: Ceviche de Pescados
If Peru had an official national dish, this would probably be it. The way Ceviche is prepared, marinating raw fish in lime juice, onions, and chillies, is already fascinating in itself. But tasting the delicate flavors and biting into its slightly chewy texture is an experience that’s truly Peruvian.
If you’re drooling for some Ceviche de Pescados, head to Mantaro and give your taste buds a treat. In his looloo review, CJ A. described the fish as fresh and the sauce as having just the right amount of acidity. You get sweet potatoes on the side too for extra richness and texture.
Dish: Choros a la Chalaca
In Peru, the best way to prepare mussels is to steam them and fire them up with a special hot sauce made of lime juice, onions, tomatoes, and the aji amarillo hot pepper (this chili is ubiquitous in many Peruvian dishes and is used to infuse food with a fruity kind of heat). The shell of the mussels act as the perfect container for the sauce, but putting the ingredients in spoon will do the trick too.
Get the Choros a la Chalaca at Mantaro for a refreshing start to your Peruvian feast. Just be sure to eat it all in one mouthful to get the full Peruvian effect! A glass of wine on the side wouldn’t hurt either.
History has it that the Spanish conquistadors in Peru would get the choicest cuts of beef for themselves and leave the organs for the slaves to consume. But it looked like they got the short end of the stick because the Peruvians took the beef heart and turned it into a classic dish. The Anticuchos, which are skewers of grilled beef hearts, is sold as street food by vendors all over Peru and is also served as an appetizer in fancy restaurants.
The newly-opened Cocina Peruvia in BGC has the Anticuchos on its menu. You could go for the Anticuchos de Corazon, made with the traditional beef heart or the tamer Anticuchos de Pollo which uses chicken instead. Both dishes are flavored with Aji Amarillo sauce and chimichurri.
Dish: Causa con Avocado
With a trip to Peru’s markets, you can easily observe how abundant potatoes and avocados are. So it’s only fitting that the Peruvians come up with a dish that makes use of these two ingredients. The Causa con Avocado is a casserole of sorts that layers them on top of each other and is served cold and sliced.
At Cocina Peruvia, shrimp is added to the dish for additional sweetness and texture. Edwin I. in his looloo review described it as clean, creamy, refreshing, and flavorful!