Peruvian cuisine is the ultimate cultural melting pot: from the traditions of indigenous Andean and Amazonian cultures to the influence of Spanish conquistadors, African slaves and immigrants from Europe and Asia. Popular sub categories continue to emerge such as the Chinese-Peruvian fusion, Chifa, and Japanese-Peruvian Nikkei cuisine.
The most famous dishes comprise ingredients from the country’s multitude of dramatically different microclimates, with more than 3,000 types of potatoes in array of colours and shapes growing alongside corn linking back to the Incas’ agricultural legacy.
Peruvian food’s global renown is in no small part credited to some of the country’s leading chefs such as Gaston Acurio who pioneered high-end Peruvian cuisine after training at Le Cordon Bleu, Pedro Miguel Schiaffino and Peru’s best-known Nikkei chef, Mitsuhara (Micha) Tsumura who has earned widespread acclaim for his Japanese-Peruvian restaurant, Maido.
One of Peru’s most prominent chefs, Virgilio Martinez, uses indigenous ingredients from each elevation of its dramatic landscape. These products are then used in the fine dining menus of Lima restaurant Central and fine dining spot, Mil, in the Sacred Valley. By working with indigenous communities, Martinez hopes to preserve the culinary identity and native ingredients not known outside each particular area.
Fine dining aside, Peru boasts excellent street food, from ceviche and anticuchos, and home-cooked specialties like aji de gallina.
In London, tuck into Peruvian plates at favourites such as Ceviche Soho and Andina by Peruvian chef Martin Morales and try your hand at preparing signature dishes at home.
To start, try creating these five classic Peruvian plates.
Ceviche is often named Peru’s national dish. This is a signature Peruvian plate you’ll find all across Lima and much of Peru, as well as in Peruvian restaurants across London. Taking its name from the Quechua word ‘siwichi’, meaning fresh fish, ceviche combines raw fish marinated in citrus with sliced red onions, chilli and seasoning. Different versions bring in toasted corn and sweet potato.
Follow Martin Morales’ recipe for ceviche here.
Part Criollo and part Chifa, lomo saltado combines beef, which was among the produce brought to Peru by the Spanish, and native Peruvian ingredients such as Amarillo chilli with the use of soy sauce and stir-fry cooking style of the Chinese immigrants. A dish that originated in Lima, it is now popular across Peru.
Make lomo saltado at home with this Martin Morales recipe.
The first Africans arrived in Peru with the conquistadors in the 16th century. The Afro-Peruvian community descended from these first arrivals have had a lasting influence on country’s cuisine. Anticuchos—skewers of grilled beef heart and other meat—are said to originate from African slaves marinating the offal they were given to eat in spices and chilli. These skewers are now one of Peru’s most popular street foods.
Make anticuchos at home by following this recipe.
Aji de Gallina
A chicken and chilli dish characterised by its creamy sauce, aji de gallina is said to originate from immigration during the French Revolution as it borrows from French techniques. It’s now considered a classic Peruvian dish and one that’s found in restaurants across the country as well as in home cooking. In Peru, this dish incorporates a fresh yellow pepper paste known as aji amarillo.
Make aji de gallina at home by following this recipe.
There are two explanations behind this classic Peruvian plate’s origin. The first is that the name ‘causa’ comes from the Quechua word ‘kausay’, meaning life, reflecting the potato’s importance. ‘Causa’ also translates to ‘the cause’ in Spanish and it’s said this is the dish prepared for those fighting when Peru and Bolivia were are war with Chile. The now-popular Peruvian specialty consists of mashed potato layered with tuna, shrimp or chicken.
Make Causa at home by following this recipe.