Wednesday, April 1, 2009

World's greatest undiscovered cuisine

Varying climates and genetic diversity lend to great cuisines. This I confirmed while browsing for culinary hotspots, with the expected, like Lebanon, and unexpected, like Azerbaijan. A humbling late discovery for me is Peru, which should be expected for a land that grows 4000 potato varieties. Add another 2000 types of sweet potatoes, a rich coastline and, well, you should have a head start to fantastic cuisines.

Foodies have been well aware of Peruvian cuisine. However, it remains lesser known than the (always arguable) greatest cuisines of the world: French and Chinese. And Indian, for those who do not blatantly generalize it as curry. Yet Peruvian rivals them with all it has to offer. This post wouldn't be the last of Peru surely, just an ode to its fusion culture.
Fusion Lomo saltado, stir-fried beef and french fries. Why not? (recipe)

Before it became chic, there was already fusion in Peruvian cuisine. It is exemplified in the popular Lomo Saltado, beef marinated with vinegar and aji amarillo, topped with french fries - then stir fried, Chinese style with soy sauce and culantro. It's funny to be eating stir-fried french fries with rice[*], yet oddly comforting. French fries are nothing special, neither is stir frying, but some thinking-out-of-the-box Peruvians thought, so why not? Exciting dishes need not exotic ingredients nor fanciful cooking techniques, just unusual combinations that work.

Mexican ceviche, inspired by the Peruvian trademark dish (recipe).
Peru's fusion tradition is deeply rooted since the discovery of Americas which combines Spanish kitchen and indigenous South American ingredients. For instance, since pre-Colombian times, Incans have perfected consuming fish, sometimes raw, with herbs and aji peppers. Spanish explorers imported Seville oranges and lemon, and there one of the greatest culinary achievements was born: the ceviche, the Peruvian hallmark and national dish. This brilliantinvention, and I don't use that term often, is raw fish cooked in lime or lemon juice.

The lime juice "cooks" the fish without heat, as it alters proteins the way normal cooking does. But it doesn't lose its freshness, so it's like a win-all situation. There are hundreds of varieties of ceviche in South America, yet I tried the Mexican version with raw onions and tomatoes, served on warm tortillas. If I'm not clear yet, I'll say it again: it's heavenly. As are many I discovered:Chupe de Camarones, rich thick shrimp soup with queso fresco, corn and egg; Suspiro de Limena, a meringue dessert as light as the sigh of a woman from Lima. Perhaps, it wouldn't be the world's greatest unknown cuisine for much longer.

More gems of Peru: Chupe de Camarones (recipe) and Suspiro de Limena (recipe).

References :
1. Peruvian cuisine from Wikipedia [1]
2. Peru: A gastronomic revolution from [2]
3. Peruvian food: Magic Spell Of Peruvian Cuisine With Seafood [3]
4. Ceviche, from What's Cooking America?[4]
5. Ceviche on Gourmet Sleuth [5]
6. Lomo Saltado recipe from AllRecipes [6]

[*] If you think rice and potatoes are too rich carbohydrate-wise, wait for the next item on my list: the Egyptian Kushari: lentil, corn, spaghetti, macaroni and rice.
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Blogger Ujang said...

Does the Food Magellan take request?

April 10, 2009 at 2:13 AM  
Blogger Aree said...

Name your request, Sir! Happy to oblige.

April 11, 2009 at 7:34 PM  
Blogger Ujang said...

I know you've done west African food before. How about going east? A narrative on the Ethiopian dish Kitfo and the relationship, if any, with its French counterpart, steak tartare. Also, will experimenting with injera be too much too ask? Oh.. I'm drooling already.

April 11, 2009 at 9:31 PM  
Blogger Aree said...

Hmmmm.. that sounds extremely interesting!! Let me research from an Ethiopian restaurant, consult with an Ethiopian colleague and find a (very) reliable butcher for the experiments :-)

April 12, 2009 at 9:15 AM  

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