Last year, National Geographic Traveller India and the Commercial Office of Peru came together to host an event in Kolkata which celebrated the diverse history and culture related to the world-renowned and celebrated gastronomy of Peru. Here are some of our favourite takeaways from the event:
1. Peru might be on the other side of the world, but the similarities, in terms of the cuisine and the ingredients used, are many and uncanny. Take their love for spicy capsicums and chilies, for example. Picanterías are popular local restaurants found in many cities in Peru. The ones in Cusco and Arequipa serve one pot stews, among other plates of delicious spicy food. The world “picantería” is actually derived from the Spanish word “picante”, meaning spicy or hot.
2. Peruvian cuisine, considered among the best in the world, owes everything to its history. A long process of cultural exchange between the Spanish, Africans, Chinese, Japanese and Italians immigrants, among others, has ensured that the local ingredients native to Peru, like the three thousand varieties of potatoes, hundreds of varieties of quinoa, maca, hot, yet flavor-some peppers like rocoto, combine with techniques and ingredients brought in by the immigrants, lending the food the unique character it enjoys today.
3. It is true that they love their proteins in the form of varied meats, fish and seafood which is abundantly found all through the long coastline facing the Pacific Ocean. Ceviche, their national dish celebrates the freshness of the fish by curing the fish in lemon juice only. A dash of chili and other condiments are added to prepare this beauty. Pollo a la brasa or rotisserie chicken is another favorite in Peru and even has a day dedicated to it, when all Peruvians step out to eat this delicacy. Cuy or guinea pig is roasted and savoured all through the highlands of Peru while alpaca meat is prepared in the Andes.
4. But Indians will be happy to find out that Peru is recognized as the most vegetarian-friendly country in South America, with a whopping 284 vegetarian restaurants all over the country. Even though meat consumption is high in Peru, it is ranked 5th Top Vegetarian friendly country in the world. Papa a la huancaina is a delicious yellow chili and cheese sauce which is poured over creamy potatoes. Another vegetarian favorite is Locro, a hearty scrumptious stew made of corn, beans, potato and pumpkin, cooked in a curry-based style.
5. If Bengalis can´t think beyond rice, Peruvians aren´t very far behind. Rice is a necessary accompaniment with most meats and a staple on every table across the length and breadth of the country. Arroz chaufa is the Peruvian version of our favourite fried rice and Arroz con leche is nothing more than paaesh for Bengalis or kheer for North Indians.
6. Adding to the joy of vegetarians, Peru is a land of superfoods and produces more than 30 varieties across its territory. Peru is home to the giant corn, each grain as large as your finger tips and also home to the beautiful purple corn which is the only source of natural purple colour in the world. Avocados from Peru are sweet and creamy, whereas lúcuma is a distant cousin of the Indian chikoo. Other superfoods found in Peru include maca, sacha inchi and camu camu, all utilized extensively for their medicinal properties. Now with their easy entry and availability in India, Peruvian superfoods heralds a greater push towards healthier, cleaner eating in here in India.