Eating & drinking Peru
There’s a new buzz word in the eating out world – and it’s Peruvian. Here's two of its stars: Ceviche and a Pisco Sour
Mexico’s offered plenty to the world in terms of cuisine – you’ve got spice, and lots of things beginning with T like tacos, tamales, tortillas, tlaydas and of course tequila! Their offerings don’t end there too, I just got stuck at the letter T. It’s also a cuisine that is becoming as increasingly common internationally as Chinese and Italian. Other than Mexcian and Argentinian steak, Latin American food in general hasn't transferred as well to the rest of the world.
But there’s a new kid in town and it’s making a big impression. The great thing is, you don’t need to go to Peru to try it because Peruvian restaurants are on the increase. Of course, if you do have the chance to go, you should – it’s an incredible country with a landscape as diverse as its cuisine. Hell, even their corn and potatoes are diverse with dozens of varieties found and consumed.
All about Maize (that’s corn to me and you)
Apologies for the mostly eaten picture of choclo - I have this terrible habit of eating first and then thinking oh, I should take a photo!
Street vendors abound on the streets of Peru sell boiled choclo – giant corn on the cobs. Whiter than the sweet corn we’re more familiar with and usually served with a chunk of home made cheese. To drink, the favourite tipple amongst the indigenous Quechua community is Chicha, which is made out of fermented corn. You can get that ranging from a pale cream colour to a dark purple (chicha morada).
chicha in a super vaso
It’s a homemade brew made daily in huge barrels and served in super vasos which are very large glasses almost the size of my head – as you can see from this picture!
Chicha for sale
You’ll know there’s chicha being sold by the wooden stick propped skyward by the front door with a red bag over it. It tastes a little like beer really. Not too strong but one super vaso will do the trick for me!
But like I said, you don’t have to go all the way to Peru for a little taste…
I met up with friends I’d travelled with in Latin America – all of us a little in love with Peruvian food and found a restaurant in Soho bringing Peru to London – and it’s funky, modern and has the essence of Leche de Tigre (Tiger’s milk) about it all.
Peru in London
It’s all about the ceviche at Ceviche in London – and the pisco too! Colourful and casually funky – the framed photos and Peruvian memorabilia dotted around make it feel cosy too. I particularly liked that they were playing cumbia music in the bathrooms. Actually, they might have been playing it in the restaurant too but it was packed out so harder to spot!
If you could only try one Peruvian dish, it’s got to be ceviche. Fresh raw seafood marinated in a juice made with Peruvian limes, chilli and other additional ingredients including onion, celery and coriander. Leche de Tigre is the name they give for this marinade and although it doesn’t involve an actual tiger’s milk (like one of my friends thought!), it certainly packs a punch like a tiger.
Ceviche in Soho love ceviche – and are justifiably proud of theirs. They do a variety including seabass, octopus and mussels as well as a vegetarian one with button mushrooms. Ceviche serve small tapas like dishes of ceviche, sides including fried yucca, quinoa as well as grilled skewers of juicy steak, beef heart and chicken. I didn’t try the beef heart here but did have a go at a street stall in Peru – it’s a very lean meat, cooked until it’s tender and tastes really delicious. At Ceviche, they suggest each diner orders 3-4 dishes and that they are shared. It’s a great way to try a little of everything. We tried a range of food including two types of seabass ceviche (sadly they didn’t have octopus when we were there), the cancha (crunchy salted corn), the quinoa salad, yukkas and steak anticuchos. If you’re looking for something to have all to yourself, they also do mains including the Lomo Saltado, which I tried in Barcelona when I happily discovered Peru was there too!
To wash it all down, the best cocktail in the world – the Pisco Sour. Pisco is a type of brandy made with grapes grown in the Pisco region of Peru – there is also a big pisco region in Chile (but I personally think the pisco sours in Peru are better!) As well as Pisco, a Pisco Sour is made with lime juice, angostura bitters, an egg white and a sugar syrup. It tastes so good – fresh and tangy with a good kick.
Ceviche 17 Frith Street London W1D 4RG www.cevicheuk.com For bookings, email: email@example.com
Another Peruvian restaurant set to open next month and to rock London’s taste buds is Lima – brought to the UK by chef, Virgilio Martinez, of the celebrated Central Restaurante in Lima, Peru’s capital.
Peru in Barcelona
I was pleased to find that there are quite a few Peruvian restaurants in Barcelona – perhaps in other big cities in Spain too. It makes sense, if you’re Peruvian and wanting to immigrate to Europe, you’d pick a country you can already speak the language too!
Sleek and stylish, Komomoto does industrial cool with post-it note chandeliers
Looking for food and heading towards the gothic part of Barcelona, my sister and I stumbled upon a place on Carrer de la Princesa called Komomoto. A place that brings Japan and Peru together in Barcelona. Actually, what it does is celebrate a long history of Japanese immigrants in Peru – and the cuisine that resulted from it (including ceviche!).
Being so in love with ceviche, I opted for a langoustine and crab ceviche which was served in a big bowl along with another of my favourite discoveries in Latin America – patacones! Patacones are chopped up green bananas that are sort of smashed to be flatter and then fried. Because they’re cooked before they’re ripe, they taste more like potato than they do banana and they’re delicious! I could eat a plate of those with just a little bit of salt.
My sister who was with me had the Lomo Saltado, which she kindly let me try too! Lomo Saltado is a traditional Peruvian dish made with pieces of sirloin steak marinated in soy sauce, spices and vinegar and then stir fried with peppers, tomatoes and onion. It’s served with a portion of rice and potatoes (usually chips). They like their double carbs in Peru! Also very tasty and perhaps the dish to try if you’re not too keen on cured seafood.
Komomoto Princesa, 35 08003 Barcelona +34 93 315 25 04 www.grupotragaluz.com/rest-komomoto