More than Inka Kola
January 23, 2007 5:15 AM   Subscribe

We're all familiar with Peruvian ceviche/cebiche (and if you're not, you should be), but what about ají de gallina (shredded chicken in walnut-cream-chile sauce)? There's also papa a la huancaína (potatoes with spicy cheese sauce) and ocopa (the same, but with pecans and huacatay/black mint). Oh, and don't forget anticúchos (marinated beef heart skewers) or causa limeña (hard to explain, but it's like a really amazing potato salad). Peru has a substantial and long-standing Chinese population, which has resulted in Chifa (some debate on whether that's Cantonese or Mandarin), Peru's "indigenous" Chinese culinary tradition. A staple (and my comfort food) of chifa is arroz chaufa (from Cantonese "chow fan," --> "fried rice").

Peruvian cuisine is getting a boost of interest around teh interwebs, thanks in no small part to dedicated blogs in English (1, 2, 3) and Spanish (1, 2). Even Wikipedia has a substantial entry in English and Spanish (and French). And the tourism industry hasn't missed out on this either (warning, food pr0n & YouTube).
posted by LMGM (37 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
p.s. self-link: a recipe for ají de gallina, photoblogged step-by-step.

Oh, and ají is a particular kind of pepper, often ají amarillo or ají mirasol. Finding ají paste at a latino market near you helps these recipes a lot.
posted by LMGM at 5:21 AM on January 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh, good Lord, now I'm gittin' hongry. Reading about the papa a la huancaína got me thinking about aligot -- French comfort food -- but sounds waaaaaay better.
posted by pax digita at 5:22 AM on January 23, 2007

Talking about Peru's indigenous Chinese culinary tradition, does anyone subscribe to the theory that China discovered the world in 1421?

I read the book and must admit that the circumstancial evidence is compelling.
posted by jeyoung at 5:26 AM on January 23, 2007

Thanks for alerting me to aligot, pax digita! It sounds like a less hockey-night-in-Montreal version of poutine (sans gravy, of course). Potatoes are wonderful things.
posted by LMGM at 5:30 AM on January 23, 2007

You're much welcome. Believe it or not, I'm applying for a US passport specifically so I can drive to Québec City or Montréal because I want to try poutine. (If there's other stuff to see and do and maybe some pretty girls to talk to, so much the better...)
posted by pax digita at 5:33 AM on January 23, 2007

Anthony Bourdain en Peru [youtube]
posted by roboto at 5:35 AM on January 23, 2007

LMGM, thank you.

Thank you particularly for the English translation for aji de gallina. I think I'll have to try that soon.
posted by rachelpapers at 5:39 AM on January 23, 2007

(apologies for tangent-ing) If you're heading up to Québec, you need to eat: poutine, montreal smoked ham, montreal-style bagels, tourtière, sugar pie, and possibly beaver tail soup (more a novelty than anything). And check out Montreal Poutine for a list of restos, varieties, and recipes.
posted by LMGM at 5:42 AM on January 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Anybody who wants to try Peruvian food in London could do worse than visit Tito's in London Bridge and in Exmouth Market. They do some excellent vegetarian dishes. Also tea apparently made from coca leaf.
posted by randomination at 5:43 AM on January 23, 2007

More than Inka Kola indeed.

That being said, Inka Kola is still pretty sweet.
posted by Colloquial Collision at 5:45 AM on January 23, 2007

Huh. I live in a big center in New York for Peruvian (Jackson Heights) but I've never tried it because I felt too bored by eating at the Colombian or Ecuadorian places around here. (a plate of which is usually just rotisserie chicken, rice and some flavorless fried pork thingies. zzzz) So maybe I'll have to give it a shot.
posted by fungible at 5:48 AM on January 23, 2007

Wow, fantastic post, and that last recipe seems to be influenced by the African slaves brought by the Spanish.
""En los tiempos en que llegaron españoles con esclavos ha (SIC) integrar nuestra tierra y cultura, las vísceras de las reces eran el alimento de los excluidos de la nobleza. A alguien, entre los afroperuanos se le ocurrió cocinar al carbón el corazón ensartado en palitos. Y con nuestro ajicito, y nuestra papita... nuestro anticucho ha conquistado el mundo. I love culinary crucibles!

It's clear that the further we get from the means of producing our food, the less likely we are to eat the offal, probably for very good hygiene reasons, but now with Farmer's markets popping up everywhere, maybe it'll be easier to get hearts. But I don't know that I'd cocinarles al carbon... is that just Peruano for well-done?
posted by Wilder at 5:51 AM on January 23, 2007

Colloquial: Yes, I heart Inka Kola in a way that will one day give me diabetes. I'm a bit amused that every indy boy in Chicago seems to be wearing Inka Kola t-shirts.

And for Peruvian Dining, I can recommend El Bodegón in Toronto, Ay Ay Picante or Rinconcito Sudamericano in Chicago, and Picaflor in Paris.
posted by LMGM at 5:53 AM on January 23, 2007

OK, I should preview before posting zillions of comments. Consider me self-chastised.

Fungible: Yes, Peruvian cuisine is substantially different from Columbian (my dad is Columbian, so I've had my whole life to make the comparison).

Wilder: I'm guessing "cocinar al carbon" here just means BBQ over charcoal. Whenever my mom made anticuchos, she would send my dad out to start the BBQ, even in the freezing cold of Canadian winter.
posted by LMGM at 5:57 AM on January 23, 2007

Vegan Peruvian
posted by LMGM at 6:14 AM on January 23, 2007

When in Amsterdam, try Casa Perú ... and don't forget to order a Pisco Sour.
posted by magullo at 6:27 AM on January 23, 2007

LMGM, you mah hee-row, as we used to say down in Dogpatch.
posted by pax digita at 6:37 AM on January 23, 2007

There are several excellent Peruvian places in the DC metro area. Of particular note are the various Peruvian chicken joints--always cheap, always fabulous. Crisp & Juicy was Phyllis richman's favorite, though I'm especially partial to Edy's Chicken and Steak--no finer chicken on the planet.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:39 AM on January 23, 2007

What, no cuy?

Pisco sours are the worst thing that could happen to pisco. That stuff (well, the good stuff) is awesome straight up.
posted by gurple at 7:36 AM on January 23, 2007

Now that I think about it, my favorite dish in the Andes was Rocoto Relleno -- this little pepper, stuffed with various things and fried. When done well, it was pretty amazing.
posted by gurple at 7:48 AM on January 23, 2007

Be careful talking about Pisco and Peru as the Chileans may take offense.
posted by peeedro at 8:30 AM on January 23, 2007

Chicha morada drink. Deeeelicious purple corn sweetness.
I'm sitting here eating chica morada flavored candies but no luck in google. Hope me!
posted by lalochezia at 8:34 AM on January 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Damn. My favorite Peruvian restaurant in NYC (on Houston St.) closed many years ago, and now I miss it more than ever. Nobody does potatoes better than the Peruvians (as somebody once said, who else would have a dish called "potatoes with potatoes"?), and ají de gallina is one of my favorites.

Talking about Peru's indigenous Chinese culinary tradition, does anyone subscribe to the theory that China discovered the world in 1421?
I read the book and must admit that the circumstancial evidence is compelling.

No, it's complete crap, sorry. We discussed it a year ago; as I said there, "Cheng Ho's expedition is well known, and it's also well known how far it got: to wit, East Africa."
posted by languagehat at 8:56 AM on January 23, 2007

What about lomo saltado? ...mmmm.

I really need to start doing the dishes my mom spoiled me with.
posted by MrMulan at 9:01 AM on January 23, 2007

Any readers of this post who live in or around Los Angeles are HIGHLY encouraged to go to Lola's Peruvian, it's a hole in the wall in Sherman Oaks, on Victory & Willis, and get the Lomo Saltado. Freakin' amazing.
posted by jonson at 9:09 AM on January 23, 2007

No, it's complete crap, sorry. We discussed it a year ago; as I said there, "Cheng Ho's expedition is well known, and it's also well known how far it got: to wit, East Africa."

Well enough known, in fact, that the contrary's contemporary currency within China deserves to be seen as a very worrisome symptom of an emerging, agressive Chinese nationalism.
posted by jamjam at 9:24 AM on January 23, 2007

Monsieur Mulan: My bad for forgetting Lomo Saltado. I'm also a big fan of palta rellena (avocado salad served in its shell) and the Peruvian version of escabeche de pescado. There's also Cau Cau (tripe in spicy tumeric seasoning), which I detest (because I detest tripe), but which every other Peruvian I know seems to consider manna from the heavens.

oh, and I forgot all about alfajores. They're not exclusively Peruvian, but I'm awfully fond of how they make 'em in Lima.
posted by LMGM at 10:28 AM on January 23, 2007

mrmoonpie, i totally beg to differ.

edy's chicken and steak is pretty damn good, but does not compare to el pollo rico on the other side of arlington. the chicken is by and far the best i've ever had in my life and seems to be the de-facto chicken for the dc area. although crisp and juicy is an excellent runner up and has better sides than pollo rico.

not peruvian, but i also love the food at caribbean grill on lee hwy in arlington. yum.

i also live a few blocks from super-pollo (across from the ballston mall) and their chicken is decent, and has the interesting benefit of serving near/middle-eastern-style chickpeas (i think the restaurant used to be a kebab place)

i love me some inca cola with my pollo ala brassa. even though it tastes like weird bubblegum.
posted by kneelconqueso at 10:30 AM on January 23, 2007

f you're heading up to Québec, you need to eat . . . montreal smoked ham

Montreal smoked meat, that is - it's beef brisket, akin to pastrami (but much tastier), and its prime purveyors are old-school Jewish delis, which of course don't do ham.
posted by gompa at 11:29 AM on January 23, 2007

Right you are, gompa! I've been living in Paris for the last few months, and I seem to have absorbed their ham-by-default ways. Either way, get it shredded on some poutine for maximum heart-attack.
posted by LMGM at 12:14 PM on January 23, 2007

Ahh - some cuy, some anticuchos de corazon, papas a la huancaina, polished off with some maté de coca con pico de pisco (scroll to entry for 2000.7.17 19:48 and further) and an alfajor...

...Now we're talking beige-person soul food. When I think of mi Abuelita Carcochita, I certainly don't think ceviche.
posted by objet at 12:29 PM on January 23, 2007

Wonderful post, LMGM. Thanks for including your own lovely pictures of preparing ají de gallina, a dish I didn't know. Calvin Trillin's "Desperately Seeking Ceviche" is worth checking out (as are all the other essays in his book). We used to get the most surprisingly fresh and wonderful ceviche at La Parrilla in Lawrence, KS -- I want it this very minute. Anyone know where the dreamy ceviche is in Portland, OR? There must be some what with all this fresh fish flopping around here. (And objet, thanks for the fantastic additional links.)

(As an Ecuadorian aside, looking for the text of Trillin's ceviche essay reminded me that he also recently wrote about fanesca. I've never had it, but it sounds so nourishing and soul-satisfying and delicious.)
posted by melissa may at 1:17 PM on January 23, 2007

Excellent post, thanks! I had ají de gallina a few weeks ago at a friend's house (yum).
posted by sleevener at 1:48 PM on January 23, 2007

I always loved El Pollo Inka in Hermosa Beach (might technically be Manhattan Beach).

Pollo Saltado
Agi (Sp?) spicy green salsa on rolls.
Inka Kola.
posted by gummo at 2:02 PM on January 23, 2007

When I was in Puno two years ago, the big thing in all the restaurants was chicken in a coca-cola sauce. Took a bite, and it was oddly, well, not good, but compelling.
posted by moonbird at 3:07 PM on January 23, 2007

Mmmm, chaufa, lomo saltado, ceviche....

Also, how 'bout that Andean version of arroz con pollo with salsa verde (cilantro and peas)?
posted by rob511 at 7:09 PM on January 23, 2007

i had some ceviche in a restaurant in Lima near a market and completely loved it. thanks for the post. anyone know where to get good Peruvian cuisine in Bristol?
posted by nihraguk at 1:00 PM on January 24, 2007

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