With a long multicultural history stretching back thousands of years, the South American nation of Peru is home to one of the world’s most exciting, delicious cuisines. Food in modern-day Peru is composed of a mélange of influences from a huge range of cultures. As well as being heavily influenced by the nation’s indigenous Inca civilisation, Peruvian cuisine has features of traditional Spanish, German, Italian, Chinese, and Japanese cooking. This influence, present due to the nation’s long and rich history of immigration, makes Peruvian food unlike anything else on earth.
As well as the traditional staples of corn and beans, prevalent throughout South and Central America, Peruvian cuisine incorporates the use of various species of potatoes as well as grains such as quinoa, which is native to the region. In addition, the use of various aji (local chili peppers) and exotic fruits add to the seemingly endless diversity of this cuisine, with meats such as chicken, lamb, beef and pork also eaten throughout the nation. However, Peru’s undisputed national dish just happens to be made from fish and this, of course, is called ceviche. Today, ceviche has become popular worldwide after chefs and foodies were alerted to its fresh, citrusy flavours, yet the very best examples can still only be found in Peru. A deceptively simple combination of lime juice, chili, and onion is used as a marinade for raw white fish, which is gently cooked by the acidity of this flavoursome liquor. It is eaten just so, and it’s no surprise that ceviche is one of the trendiest dishes around, beloved by enthusiasts from Lima to Lahore and everywhere in between.
Aside from being renowned for the quality of its ceviche, Peruvian cuisine has much more going for it. With a seemingly endless level of biodiversity, the nation is home to thousands of varieties of potato as well as a whole range of other exotic fruits, vegetables and legumes. These are too numerous to ostensibly list, however they include the Tarwi bean, the Mashua tuber, and fruits such as camu camu, prickly pear, and pepino. This huge diversity makes for a cuisine that’s very much regionally based, but always packed with flavour and colour. Much loved classics such as tamales, empanadas, stuffed potato, and an endless range of stews all make great use of the country’s endless variety of crops.
One of the more curious facets of Peruvian cuisine is that of Chifa, which is the name given to Peruvian-Chinese food born from the large-scale immigration of Cantonese people to Peru in the late 19th century. With many Chinese ingredients impossible to find in Peru, cooks adapted to using local products in their classic Cantonese dishes. This has developed into a modern fusion cuisine that is as unique as anything else in the nation or indeed globally. Classic dishes of the Chifa cuisine include Arroz Chaufa, a local take on Chinese fried rice that incorporates Peruvian meats and sometimes even uses the quinoa grain in place of the rice itself.
Certainly, Peru is experiencing a gastronomic boom at the moment. High-end restaurants are popping up all of the time across the national capital of Lima, as it seems that the world has finally woken up to the culinary delights of this beautiful and diverse South American nation.