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Peruvian streetfood

In Lima, there is a true street food culture where food stands come out in the evenings to sell the most delicious street food. Nowadays, you find them all over Lima during the nights, but back in the days, the street stands were only found in unsafe areas with a lot of crime. The majority of Peruvian street food is Afro-Peruvian fusion. Being slaves, people were poor, and they did not have many ingredients, so they had to be very creative. For example, they marinated ‘garbage’ meat with herbs available. Street food is popular all over the country, but the street stand culture is most popular in Lima. Signature street food: anticuchos, arroz con leche, cassava croquets, picarones, sanguches, tamales and tequeños.

Top 7 of Peruvian street food

Street food is very popular and diverse in Peru. Different time slots during the day also mean different food stands. The following dishes are the most popular:

  1. Anticuchos –grilled beef-heart skewers marinated in vinegar chilli and herbs and then grilled on coal grills. This dish goes back to the pre-Colombian era. During the colonial period in the 16th century, it evolved. The Spanish Conquistadores would slaughter cows and gave the offal, which they considered inferior and garbage, to their slaves. The slaves learned how to cook them, using different seasonings from the Spanish and the Andes region, transforming them into delicious morsels of meat. After the slaves were freed in 1874, they moved to the cities to start a new life, and the women started selling anticuchos in evenings on the streets. Today, everyone loves anticuchos. You can find them in anticucherias . Traditionally, anticuchos are made of beef-heart, you also can eat them with chicken, vegetarian or with squid. They are served with a boiled potato and bread.
  2. Arroz con leche with Mazamorra Morada – Rice pudding with porridge made from the deep purple corn. Mazamorra Morada was my favourite dessert when I was a kid!
  3. Papa rellena – potato croquet stuffed with meat, raisins, olives and a boiled egg. Also made of yuca or cassava. 
  4. Picarones – Peruvian doughnut made of sweet potato and squash that is deep-fried and served with chancaca (cane syrup). Traditionally, people eat picarones after eating anticuchos.
  5. Sanguches – Sandwiches are very popular in Lima. The signature sandwiches are with sausages, pork rind, turkey, chicken, beef or vegetarian with avocado. They are served on round sandwiches with French fries, yuca, salsa criolla and a wide variety of (spicy) sauces. Salsa criolla is a cold relish, served with a lot of meat dishes, consisting of sliced onions, vinegar, tomato, red bell pepper, olive oil and cilantro.
  6. Tamales – Steamed corn dumplings with meat, olives, chilli, topped with onions wrapped in a banana leaf.    
  7. Tequeños – Peruvian fresh cheese sticks. They originate from Venezuela but are very popular nowadays in Lima. In Peru, they use wonton dough, and are eaten with avocado.

Anticucherias

Anticuchos can be found on street food stalls, the anticucherias. In the evening the stalls come out, and the anticuchos are grilled on coal grills.

Cevicherias

Cevicherias are the equivalent of pizzeria’s but then with only ceviches on the menu. In Peru, you mainly find them in the coastal area. Traditionally, most cevicherias are open for lunch, so the fish is being served right from the boat onto the plate.

Picanterias

A traditional lunch restaurant where you can eat soup and a small main dish chosen from a week menu. You can predominantly find them in and around Arequipa and Cuzco. These used to be places in the countryside where field workers had their lunch, sitting on large tables with benches. Arequipa is the place where you still can find some traditional rustic picanterias.

Examples of dishes served are: shrimp soup, stuffed chilli, potato cake, guinea pig.

Sangucheria

These sandwich shops are very popular in Lima, they sell all kinds of sandwiches, sodas and fresh juices. People come and eat the sandwiches in the evenings or at night after going out. The most well-known sangucheria in Peru is La Lucha in Lima.

Fusion cuisine

The magic of the Peruvian cuisine lies in its constant ability for change and creation. It is characterised by the mixture of cultural flavours and customs from abroad and from the Peruvian regions. Moreover, because of the biodiversity there is a wide variety of ingredients: the Pacific Ocean, the Andes and the Amazon offer a wide range of products and flavours.

Creole cuisine

Many Inca dishes still are cooked just like centuries years ago, good examples are carapulca and pachamanca.
During the Spanish conquest starting in 1521, many culinary techniques and ingredients were introduced, such as olives, grapes, dairy products, beef, chicken, and rice. They brought Arab and Moorish influences and they brought African slaves, of whom many worked in the cuisines of the noble and the wealthy. Over the years the African influence proved essential to Peruvian culture, particularly regarding music and cuisine. They created the most wonderful dishes from poor discarded ingredients. This was an additional step to the Creole cuisine as we know it nowadays. Examples of signature dishes are: Anticuchos, Tacu Tacu, Papa a la Huancaina, Causa and, Ají de Gallina.

Chifa cuisine

In 1849, the first Chinese immigrants from the Canton region arrived in Peru, mainly to work in cotton and sugar-cane plantations and mines. They conserved their cultural identity and traditions and when their contracts expired many moved to the capitol city, In Lima, this was the foundation of Chinatown. Because of a lack of ingredients, the Chinese immigrants were unable to prepare their cuisine in the authentic way. So they started preparing their familiar dishes using Peruvian ingredients. In Lima they opened small shops introducing frying techniques and new ingredients. such as kion (ginger) and soy sauce. This cuisine they called the Chifa cuisine, meaning "to eat rice" in Mandarin. Examples of signature dishes are chaufa (fried rice dishes), lomo saltado (a stir fry dish), tallarin (noodles made with egg) and wonton soups.

Nikkei cuisine

In 1899, the ship ‘Sakura Maru’ arrived in Callao with the first Japanese immigrants to work on Peru's coastal plantations. By that time, the people of Lima looked down on fish and seafood. Meat was in their perception more sophisticated. Around 195o the Japanese immigrants had eradicated this prejudice. In their restaurants they served fine fish and seafood dishes that became very popular. A culinary revolution began as they brought their cooking techniques, such as a unique way of cutting fish. They used those in combination with local ingredients as they could not get hold on Japanese ingredients, creating for example tiradito out of ceviche. Peru is after Brasil the second largest country in the world with Japanese immigrants. In Brasil the Japanese could get hold of their ingredients, so there was no reason for the birth of a fusion kitchen. Nowadays, this fusion kitchen ‘Nikkei’ is very popular all over the world. The most famous Nikkei pioneer cook is Nobuyuki Matsuhisa. Early seventies he stayed in Peru for a couple of years to discover the Peruvian Creole and Nikkei cuisine, after which he opened his first Matsuhisa restaurant in Beverly Hills. The Nikkei signature dish is tiradito.

Italian cuisine

After independence in 1821, a wave of French and Italian immigrants arrived in Peru among which my Dodero family. It took my great-granddad 2 years by boat to get to Callao in Peru. Most of the immigrants by that time where rich young single men who were looking for adventure and business. They brought their cuisines and provided an additional twist to the culinary melting pot. Most of the culinary influences from Italy came from Genoa as most where from that area. Economic crisis that occurred in Italy and the Italians were attracted to Peru initially by the guano of the islands, and also because they saw that Peru was a stable country. Many original Italian dishes have been 'creolised'. Pesto noodles used to be based on basil, vegetables, and pine nuts. The Creole version adds spinach, broad beans and walnuts Examples of signature dishes are: pasta a la Genovese, minestrone soup, red noodles prepared with tomato sauce, pizza and panettone.

This is Boccadasse, the village where my roots lies