food and beverage underground

Craving for Comida Criolla (Peru's Creole Cuisine)

by Suzy
(Lima, Peru)

Carapulcra, dried potato stew, most popular in Chincha & Ica, at Peru's southern coast

Carapulcra, dried potato stew, most popular in Chincha & Ica, at Peru's southern coast

Each country in the entire Latin American region has its own "Comida Criolla" (pronounced kri-o-ya) in their particular cuisine due to the fact that the term which means ?home-grown food? historically stems from native mixed with Hispanic flavors.

For Peru, "Comida Criolla" is basically concentrated where the Spanish conquerors along with their native-African slaves have settled and were followed by Chinese and Japanese migrants thus, "Comida Criolla Peruana" is essentially Andean-Spanish-Afro-Peruvian food with Chinese & Japanese influences. Talk about fusion and multitude of menus! Comida Criolla is mostly along the coast, but typically concentrated in Lima and the Central region.

To mention Peruvian Comida Criolla dishes, we have to emphasize the fact that most items are served with salsa Criolla (julienne onions marinated in lime with chopped chilies) and almost always seasoned, topped or served with Peruvian chilies Aji Amarillo or Panca- the yellow and red variety.

To start, typical breakfast fares are Tamales (boiled grated corn in chili condiments stuffed olives, chicken or pork and wrapped in banana leaves), Humitas (the same as tamales, but wrapped instead in corn husks, with Andean cheese or the sweet version, with manjar-caramel) Chicharron Sandwich (deep fried pork slices on country bread) or Butifarra (rolled ham or pork sandwich) both served with salsa Criolla. Cold enticing entradas (appetizers) are the popular Peruvian potato salads, namely Papa a la Huancaina , Ocopa and Causa (mentioned in previous entry), of course the all-time favorite ceviche or tiradito and the classic salad of Solterito, mixed vegetable salad of fava beans, choclo serrano (Andean corn) kernels, olives and fresh cheese with its light vinaigrette. For Hot Starters, popular preferences are Anticucho (grilled skewered beef hearts) served with boiled potato, corn and chili sauces; Rocotto Relleno (ground meat stuffed chili red bell pepper topped with melted Queso Andino -Andean cheese) and Papa Rellena (meat stuffed mashed potato and deep fried like croquettes). During the long coastal winter (Fall, Winter and Spring all rolled in to one grey foggy cold season), savory soups such as Chupe de Camarones (Cray fish chowder), Sopa a la Criolla (angel hair soup in chili broth with ground meat) and Parihuela de Mariscos (seafood & Cray fish chowder) are the most craved.

For main courses, we classify them into major types such as SEAFOOD (Mariscos): Picante or Arroz con Mariscos (Sautéed or Rice with Seafood), Fish fillet ?A la chorillana? (sautéed onions & tomatoes in chili spices), "Sudado"(fish simmered in onions, tomatoes and Chicha de Jora-brewed corn), Chicharrones (battered deep fried fish, squid or shrimps) and Jalea, the same as Chicharrones, served in a bed of fried cassava with salsa Criolla. For MEAT/CHICKEN entrees, the all-time favorites are Aji de Gallina (shredded chicken in creamy yellow chili sauce), Seco de Pollo or Cabrito (chicken or baby goat meat in blended coriander green sauce) usually accompanied by frijoles (boiled beans, almost puree) and its variation, Arroz con Pollo or Pato (chicken or duck rice cooked in coriander sauce), Asado (beef stew in tomato, chilies and wine), Lomo Saltado (beef tenderloin tips sautéed with onions, tomatoes and chilies, with a dash of Chinese influenced-soy sauce) and a variation Tallarin Saltado this time mixed with noodles. Carapulcra (dried potatoes in tomato-chili sauce), Cau cau (boiled tender tripe cooked in yellow chili sauce with chopped Huacatay-Andean mint herbs) and Olluquito con charqui (root veggie with bits of alpaca jerky, described in earlier post).

To cap these scrumptious selections, delectable dessert choices are Suspiro a la Limeña (condensed milk, butter and cream pudding), Arroz con Leche (Rice cooked in milk with cinnamon & clove), Mazamorra Morada (purple corn pudding with pineapple and prunes), Picarones (sweet potato and pumpkin paste formed in rings, deep fried similar to doughnuts and served with syrup or honey), Tres Leches (layered cake in 3 types of milk-condensed, evaporated and cream) Alfajores, Peruvian pastry with Manjar-caramel, Milhojas, layered pastry crisps also with Manjar and the classic ice creams in a variety of indigenous flavors - Lucuma, Chirimoya, Guanabana, Coca, Purple Corn or Algarrobina.

To appreciate the most authentic and excellent Comida Criolla, we go to Restaurante Jose Antonio, in its classic ambience of Republican interiors, Señorio de Sulco in Miraflores fronting the Pacific Ocean, Manos Morenas in the bohemian district of Barranco and Casa Hacienda Moreyra, an impressive archetypal hacienda house in San Isidro. Its sister-outlet, Rosa Nautica in a unique setting right on the ocean, is more popular, but over-rated, too touristy and quality is sacrificed when they cater to tour groups. Contemporary café style restaurants like Mango?s and Café-café in Larco Mar Mall also serve superb Comida Criolla.

Dozens of dishes are yet to be tried, tested (and written in future posts), but for sure, when one starts to crave for Comida Criolla, an abundant array awaits your perceptive palate.

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