By Jeff Crace
Recently I noticed more and more Peruvian restaurants in Southern California and even noticed two Peruvian restaurants in Louisville, KY last month. So, I got curious and decided to do some further research into the flavors, cuisine and produce of Peru.
Over the last 10 months, I had the opportunity to visit Peru three times to explore its cuisine. From street food at the Mercado de Surquillo in the heart of Lima to one of the top restaurants “Astrid and Gaston” and numerous places in between, the food was simply amazing! I also spent one day at Le Cordon Bleu in Lima where I worked with a local chef creating some of Peru’s national dishes, including Aji de Gallina, Solterito, Arroz Chaufa and Lomo Saltado. While all of these are simple dishes the flavors were amazing.
Here are a couple of ingredients that really popped out to me on the trip:
- Aji Amarillo – This fresh “Yellow Chili Pepper” is what I would consider Peru’s “national” pepper and contains some great flavor. It is fruity but don’t let that fool you! It packs a punch with 30,000- 50,000 Scoville.
- Rocoto – The Rocoto chili pepper is also a staple of their cuisine. Often, it is used in salsa and ceviche. The flavor reminds me of a red ball pepper. Again, these pack a punch with the Scoville rating between 30,000-100,000!
- Aji Limo – Another widely used pepper in Perivian cuisine is the Aji Limo. It gives off the aroma of lemon and lime, again with the Scoville rating of 30,000-50,000.
- Lucama – A stone fruit that grows in the Andean Valley of Peru. The golden fleshed colored fruit has a maple custard-like flavor to it and melts in your mouth. In Peru, it is mainly used in dairy products like yogurt, smoothies and even Frappuccino’s at the local Starbuck’s. It is also commonly paired with desserts and chocolate.
If you have the chance to visit Lima, the cuisine alone is a fun and tasty experience!