Today we welcome guest blogger Yuko Noda, a food chemist in our processed flavors department. Yuko recently returned from a trip to Peru, and had lots to share with us about the experience, and the flavors!!
Last year, both Epicurious and Bon Appétit predicted that Peruvian cuisine to be the hot ethnic cuisine of 2009. True to their predictions, we are seeing more Peruvian inspired dishes and drinks making their way into magazines and on restaurant menus. As I had coincidentally planned a vacation to Peru, I was excited to find out more about this delightful cuisine on my trip.
Some people say that Peru has the best and most diverse food in all of South America. Peruvian cuisine is a melting pot of flavors ranging from Incan and Spanish cuisine to Chinese, Japanese, African and other European immigrant influences. One example of this is the popular dish lomo saltado, a beef sirloin stir-fry seasoned with soy sauce, vinegar and aji chili pepper (Peruvian hot pepper). It is served with French fries, which are sometimes mixed with the stir fry, and white rice. Visually, it seemed kind of strange – but then again, how can you go wrong with deep fried potatoes?
Speaking of potatoes, Peruvians adore potatoes and grow a few thousand varieties of them, ranging in color, shape and size. Potatoes were in virtually every dish that I ate on my trip-as one of the main ingredients in dishes like causa (potato mashed with aji chili and layered or stuffed with a mixture of tuna, chopped red onions, avocado, boiled eggs, lime juice and mayo) and lomo saltad. They were also served as sides or garnishes in dishes like ceviche, alpaca steak and roasted cuy (roasted whole guinea pig which is a specialty in the area around the town of Cusco). If you’re wondering, both the cuy and alpaca were quite tasty. Alpaca meat was tender and the flavor was similar to a cross of goat and lamb. And cuy tasted kind of like rabbit. I cheated and got the shredded cuy confit, instead of the whole animal with its head and feet. (Seriously, would you want this thing staring at you from your plate??)
One of my favorite dishes was arroz con pollo. Arroz con pollo is a popular dish in the Latin world but what makes Peruvian arroz con pollo special is the use of cilantro. Cilantro blended with water is added to the cooking liquid, giving the whole dish a green hue. People who don’t like cilantro may actually enjoy eating this dish since the cilantro flavor is very mild. The same flavor profile is seen in seco, a stew with cilantro sauce made with beef, lamb, chicken or duck.
From munching on Inca protein bars (containing quinoa, amarath and popped wheat and a hint of anise) while hiking on the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, to enjoying aji de gallina (shredded chicken in a rich creamy aji chili sauce served over rice) in an upscale restaurant overlooking the pre-Inca ruin in Lima, my trip to Peru was definitely a culinary adventure!
Tempted to try some Peruvian flavor for yourself? Stay tuned to dmflavors.com! Yuko will recreate one of her favorite dishes for the August Recipe of the Month. Visitors to this year’s Innovation Roadshow will also have the opportunity to enjoy some Peruvian flavor at Yuko’s booth.