03 Jul

Curious facts about Peruvian Gastronomy

All the charm and flavour of the current Peruvian gastronomy has been achieved in a process of more than 5000 years of fusions until it has become one of the most varied in the world.

From the first pre-Inca culinary conceptions, the Inca influences, the Spanish heritage with its Arabic roots, the taste of African immigration, the French sophistication, the Chinese-Cantonese ingredients, the Japanese and Italian food until the 19th century, our gastronomy acquired that fantastic diversity of mixtures that today conquers the most select palate. But here we would like to share with you some interesting notes of this fantastic history of our gastronomy.

The delivery of the Incas

It is related in the Royal Commentaries, of our illustrious Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, that being in the city of Cusco, the Inca could afford the luxury of eating fresh fish of the day, brought by his famous chasquis from the coast of Peru, hundreds of kilometres away. These famous athletes ran in relays from Tambo to Tambo, a kind of real delivery in Inca times.
The predominant products were maize and hundreds of varieties of potato. They were often prepared with the use of hot stones in the style of the Pachamanca. Multiple varieties of ‘mote’ were made from the cooked maize, or it was toasted to produce dozens of varieties of ‘cancha’ depending on the type of maize or cereals such as ñuña. Other times it was ground and prepared into ‘humitas’.
But a curious fact was the use of salt in their diet. It was called ‘cachi’ in Quechua and ‘jayu’ in Aymara. It was used primarily to provoke thirst and thus force them to drink the chicha to calm down.
It was almost never included in the preparation of meals, but it was customary to have a lump near the food, and they would lick it before putting the food in their mouths.

African anticuchos

From African gastronomy our cuisine took that peculiarity of being well seasoned, based on yam, yautía, malanga, celery, yucca, cereal pastes and some fruits such as bananas and above all the use of sugar cane. One of the most emblematic African-influenced dishes of our days is the anticucho, which was originally prepared with cuts of beef heart meat that was part of the offal of the food that the Spaniards did not dare to eat and threw away. This is how the exquisite anticuchos were born. But not only this dish but many more remained in the culinary heritage of the 16th century and its fusions. Just a trip through the time of the culinary mestizaje can illustrate the surprising list of dishes with African influence, and among them we can appreciate not only the “anticuchos”, but also the “camote relleno”, the “cau-cau”, the “pancita”, the “rachi”, the “mollejitas”, the “patita con maní” and the “tacu-tacu”, among others very appreciated. And also desserts such as “frejol colado”, which started to be prepared in Chincha.

A Peruvian dessert of Hispano-Arabic ancestry

The conquistadors did not arrive alone, they brought with them various animals such as cows, pigs, goats and later chickens and rabbits. They also brought aubergines, coriander, wheat, vines, onions, spinach, parsley, rice, beans, chickpeas, lentils, sesame, cumin, oregano, fruits such as peaches, apricots, sultanas, almonds, oranges, figs, limes, dates, and of course sugar cane.
And a gastronomic crossbreeding began, especially when the first settlers from Andalusia and the Basque Country arrived as colonisers. And at the same time they brought Moorish servants with their Arab dishes, especially their exquisite sweets, among which were the buñuelo, the suspiro, as well as the picarón and the alfajor de Mil Hojas, which is an alfajor with several layers of puff pastry filled with blancmange and sprinkled with icing sugar.

Chifa in Chinese means “to eat rice”.

An indispensable element of Peru’s gastronomic mestizaje: the chifa. Chifa is the most popular fusion food in Peru. Its history is the story of those first culinary contacts that took place when in 1849 70 Chinese arrived from the Canton region. They were fleeing the poverty and hunger that existed in China. These Chinese workers were called “culíes”. They came to work in the sugar and cotton plantations on the coast, in the construction of the railways. In the Chinese language this word is a contraction of the Mandarin words chi and fan – literally “eat” and “rice”. And indeed, Chinese-Peruvian food has its authentic seasoning, forged in that marvellous crossbreeding that incorporated Asian flavours – sillao, kion, ginger and tamarind – with local flavours – from chilli sauces and aromatic Andean herbs.

by: Sixto Chavez

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