For many of us, at least all human beings, a smell can transport us to that magical moment when we were walking through a meadow that just got wet by the rain or a tender sea breeze that makes us want to go back to the beach. Whichever is the situation, it’s proofed that a simple smell, tied with another sense (let’s say taste) improves the isolation of memory and amplifies the power to recall any experience associated with that. Can you imagine the number of memories you might have while travelling and “tasting” Peru? Say no more, I hear you…let’s dive together into this mouth watering experience.
In the last ten years, Peru has been recognised as one of the world’s best culinary destinations. According to Prom Peru (Peru’s Tourism Board) when someone refers to Peru, it is inevitable to talk about its food. It distinguishes itself for its spicy flavour, which is very common in many dishes. Undoubtedly, chili is one element that characterises Peruvian food. Because of it, the American magazine, in an article called “Un Mundo de Ajies” (A world of chilies) has recognised six types of chilies as a native of our Peru. The New York Times, in its article “Food of the Andes by the Golden Gate”, said that the Peruvian gastronomic offer is rising due to its biological and climate diversity. As a result, its land produces a wide variety of foods, the preparations of which have been influenced by the cultures of the Andes, Spain, China, Japan and Africa.
Source: Enrique Castro-Mendivil / PROMPERÚ)
The importance of potatoes in Peruvian gastronomy
The mix of flavours in Peruvian cuisine reflects the variety of cultures. Different cultures have arrived and mixed in Peru over the last 500 years. It began with pre-Hispanic cuisine that gave us dishes and cooking methods like pachamanca and cuy chactado (roasted guinea pig). Then, when Spanish colonisation began in the 16th century, Moorish influenced dishes were introduced to the menu. For example the onions, spices and honey desserts are now fundamental to every meal. When Chinese immigrants arrived in the 19th century, their cuisine seamlessly melded with Peruvian traditional dishes and created the very popular Chifa. Other big gastronomical influences are African, Italian and Japanese cuisines.
Ancient Peruvians discovered a healthy eating way before colonisation began. They knew the nutritious advantages of eating quinoa, potatoes, corn and other super foods. They would not have been able to build Machu Picchu or other wonders otherwise. While visiting Peru, you can also discover other healthy organic products not too well known outside of the country. For example there is camu camu (containing more vitamin C than lemon) or the energy-giving maca and yacon. And I know you’ve heard of the huge variety of potato types in Peru.
Well, potatoes are tubers native to the country. Out of the 5,000 varieties that exist in the world, you will find 2,694 in Peru. These potatoes come in all shapes, colours and textures. You can find 650 varieties of native fruit and 2,000 species of fish as well. Peruvians eat potatoes with almost every dish. Their devotion to the vegetable is so strong they even have their own national day: May 30.
Native Peruvian Potatoes
(Source: Edgar Amador Espinoza / WIKIPEDIA)
Gastronomic award:“Best Producer of the Year”
Peruvian cuisine is a product of cultural fusion, ingredients and cooking methods. The adaptation of traditional dishes to modern cuisine results from the gastronomical boom in recent years. Peruvian’s continue to mix everything. They mix popular street food “Combinado” which is a portion of cebiche, chifa and papa a la huancaina (potatoes covered with ají and cheese sauce) all in one dish. Also vanguard cuisine introduce new textures and flavours, often served in Lima’s fanciest restaurants.
And now that we have so much into the story of how Peruvian cuisine has developed over time and about the wonderful potato variety, I cannot finish this article unless I mention and inform you about my dear friend Manuel Choque. He’s an original farmer from Cusco. He won the Summum gastronomic award as “Best Producer of the Year” for maintaining the cultivation of many ancient varieties of native potatoes. It all started as a hobby. Motivated by his passion, Manuel Choque dedicated his life to the cultivation and production of many varieties of native potatoes. He studied Agronomy at the local university in Cusco and later on, he worked at the National Institute for Agrarian Innovation and the International Potato Centre. There, he learned genetic improvement techniques and all the learning acquired, he put them into practice in the land of his father.
(Source: Peru21, Local Newspaper - Perú)
Wine made from type of sweet potato
“Modern technology is used on my family’s land, but ancestral traditions are also respected, such as payment to the land.” He says, while explaining more about his personal story. “Every time I attended an agricultural fair, I saw different varieties of this tuber and was curious to experiment with them”. He started with 15 types of potato and little by little he grew more.
Currently, Choque grows more than 300 varieties and he produces a unique wine made of Oca, a type of sweet potato. It all started with his curiosity. After talking with some friends who told him that you can make wine from any sweet fruit, that’s why he developed the idea and create “Miskioca”. It is a type of wine which is unique for its texture and, of course, the source. Nowadays, he sells this product to well-known restaurants worldwide in Paris, England, Japan. Of course, he also sells to the best restaurants in Peru.
For those reasons mentioned above, and the ones maybe the memory left behind, you are more than invited and welcome, to come to this corner of the world- Here you will discover what memory will taste like, to indulge yourself with exquisite cuisine that has history itself, a huge range of flavours and a mystery. With every little bite that you will taste, you will discover and enjoy the fascinating and mouth-watering Peruvian gastronomy.