World Travel Awards, regarded worldwide as the ‘Oscars of the Travel Industry’, has arrived in exotic Lima, Peru, where it will host the annual South & Central America Gala Ceremony on July 20th.
The gala evening will be held at the fabulous Huaca Pucllana temple, allowing capital Lima to reveal not only its ancient mystique and charm, but also its world renowned cuisine.
South America is a continent with a magical mix of cultures and unique landscapes.
Neighbourhoods are colourful; jungles teem with wildlife; beaches are mostly unspoilt and the history of ancient civilizations is evident wherever one goes.
Whether one explores cloud shrouded mountains, or cobbled streets lined with 16th Century Spanish Haciendas, this land has been crafted with earliest myths and legend.
Peru offers an empire of hidden treasures and is home to ancient cultures and a rich colonial tradition.
It nestles amidst the soaring Andes mountain range with lush expanses of Amazon rainforest.
Local cuisine must be one of the highlights of any visit to Peru.
Drawing inspiration from ingredients both native and contemporary, exciting dishes are created a mix of wonderful, unique flavours and textures.
With over 1,000 years of history, Lima, an ancient Spanish colonial city, is the capital of Peru and often referred to as the ‘City of Kings’ or the ‘Gastronomy Capital’ of Latin America, and is the ideal place to discover the multi-faceted array of Peruvian cuisine.
Peruvian fare is a reflection of the influences from different times and immigrant cultures as well as its three main geographical zones; the coast, the Andean highlands and the jungle.
It combines “Pre-Inca” and “Inca staples” with European, African and Asian influences brought by immigrants to the region.
This unique fusion of the culture, traditions and flavours of four different continents co-exist harmoniously.
The three traditional staples of Peruvian cuisine are corn, potatoes, and chilli peppers.
Staples brought by the Spanish include rice, wheat and meats (beef, pork and chicken).
Many traditional foods—such as quinoa, kaniwa, some varieties of chillies, and several roots and tubers have dramatically increased in popularity in recent years, reflecting a revival of interest in native Peruvian foods and culinary techniques.
While it has only been recognised internationally in the last few years, food and its preparation has always been an important part of Peruvian culture and a unique way to express Peruvian identity.
Typical Peruvian Main Courses are characterised by fresh local ingredients native to the region that each unique climate and landscape provides.
These ingredients vary in flavour and colour reflecting the native heritage, the three main geographical areas and of course the merging of traditional with foreign immigrant cooking styles.
Delicious dishes such as Lomo Saltado (salted beef tenderloin symbolising the fusion of Peruvian ingredients with Asian techniques of preparing food) are found around every corner.
Lomo Saltado is made of sliced beef stir stir-fried with red onions, tomatoes, yellow Peruvian chillies (aji amarillo), soy sauce, vinegar and cilantro and served with French fries and rice.
No meal is complete without at least three or four different mouth-watering salsas (sauces).
Peruvians love their salsas and enjoy them liberally with any food.
Salsas seem to intensify the flavours of local dishes and nearly all contain typical ingredients such as aji (chilli pepper), lime juice and local herbs.
Caution should be exercised when trying these salsas for the first time as they could prove either tantalisingly spicy or excruciatingly hot!
Salsa Criolla is the most popular sauce in Peru.
Prepared with red onions, aji amarillo, the juice of Peruvian limes and some freshly chopped coriander or parsley, Salsa Criolla accompanies numerous typical local dishes and is a must-have on the table when enjoying a Peruvian meal.
Peruvians also love their “dulces”.
Relatively unknown in pre-Hispanic times Peruvian desserts are heavily influenced by its Spanish and other foreign equivalents.
Some popular desserts in Lima include the famous Tres Leches and Picarones.
Tres Leches is a simple sponge cake soaked in milky syrup made of three different kinds of milk: sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and whole milk (or cream).
While extremely sweet and heavy, it is absolutely delicious and easy to prepare.
Picarones were developed in Colonial times to replace the Spanish Buñuelos.
African slaves simply substituted unavailable or expensive ingredients with Peruvian ones and created a dessert so popular that it is often sold by street vendors.
Picarones are a type of donuts made of a squash or pumpkin dough, deep fried and served with cane syrup called chancaca.
The first Peruvian drink that comes to mind is Peru’s National Drink Pisco.
Equally popular is Pisco Sour (comprising Pisco, lime juice, egg white and syrup), a typical cocktail to kick start a hearty Peruvian meal.
It is based on the Pisco (a type of brandy) which originated in Lima in the early 1920s.
Peru also produces some excellent red wines and delicious beer.
So, while Ceviche, Quinoa and Pisco Sours have become favourites in restaurants around the world, the best Peruvian specialties are still found at home.
Lima’s top gastronomic restaurants are located in the Miraflores district, although some are to be found in San Isidro, Surco and Barranco.
Astrid & Gastón, Miraflores
Opened in 1994 by celebrity Chef Gastón Acurio and his German-born wife, this restaurant continues to delight.
Pacific seafood occupies centre stage, in dishes such as “Ceviche of love”: raw sea urchin, clam, squid, mussel and shrimp marinaded in lime and three types of chilli pepper, served in an oyster shell.
Produce from all over Peru is showcased, from Andean lamb and a confit of paiche to a Peruvian curry of tubers, vegetables, grains, herbs and spices served with quinoa.
Malabar, San Isidro
Malabar has always ranked among the top five in Summum (Peru’s equivalent of the Michelin guide.
Start with a tiny square of tofu flavoured with chonta (heart of palm) with armoured catfish caviar and a broth of cecina (smoked pork); other stand-out dishes were tiradito (a refined ceviche) of sole dyed magenta using a medicinal herb from the Amazon, with tumbo juice (from an Andean fruit) in the marinade, served with tobiko (flying-fish roe); and freshwater shrimp with yuyo (a type of marine algae) and a carpaccio of pig’s trotter with Mediterranean flavours: parsley, garlic and olive oil.
Perroquet, San Isidro
This colonial-style restaurant at the five-star Country Club Lima Hotel is surrounded by embassies and opposite the golf course.
Start with sea bass ceviche, or a trio of causa (yellow potato mash) with fillings of, respectively, avocado and crab, chilli and shrimp, and sea bass in a spicy pickling mixture.
As a main, try lomo saltado (stir-fried beef, Chifa-style) or fillet of chita (a white fish) on a bed of creamy sliced potatoes, sautéed with onion and white wine.
One starter or main will serve two.
Mesa 18, Miraflores
Mesa 18 is quirky and contemporary and situated at the Miraflores Park Hotel by Orient-Express.
It serves Japanese cuisine made with the best local ingredients. Try the gyoza (pork and shrimp dumplings) followed by ceviche maki – a sushi roll of salmon, cream cheese (very Peruvian) and avocado, covered in white fish slices marinaded in lime juice and chilli. Scallop ceviche with maca – an energy-giving herb or Grouper in a light, sweet soy marinade topped with ginger julienne is also worth a mention.
Set inside a vivid red 1920s house with a modern interior and Art Deco details, Rafael Osterling’s warmly welcoming restaurant serves Peruvian fusion with Mediterranean influences.
Pizza, prosciutto, figs, basil and pine nuts jostle on the starter menu with ceviche of sole, scallops and black baby clams, and tiradito Nikkei – yellowfin tuna sashimi with yuzu (a Japanese citrus fruit), mirin (rice wine), guacamole and smoky sesame oil.
Mains include a stew of North Peruvian grouper cheeks with vongole, calamari and confit potatoes, and a Peruvian dish of rice and puy lentils with pan-fried foie gras, river shrimp, scallops and roast banana.