Saturday, September 09, 2006

Isabel Quispe Aquino: The Best Parihuela in the World

Photo: María Elena Cornejo at Mucho Gusto Perú.

This item comes to us from María Elena Cornejo, and her Mucho Gusto Perú blog, where she posts many of the articles she publishes as a restaurant critic at CARETAS, a leading Peruvian magazine.

Doña Isabel: From the Chorrillos Market to the World by María Elena Cornejo.

Isabel Quispe Aquino's life took quite a turn when it was touched by Gastón Acurio's magic wand.

An excellent cook, she has long owned a stand in the Chorrillos market, next to the fishmongers and the shellfish vendors, from whom she always obtains the freshest products available. Her marketplace stand has four high stools at an immaculate, white-tiled counter, and nearbly, two small tables, with blue tablecloths and flower vases. For the past 25 years, she has been serving the locals her seafood dishes, never once stopping, never once throwing in the towel.

Isabel Quispe Aquino knows about seafood.

At the age of 15, she began working at the Muelle de Pescadores, the Fisherman's Wharf, in Callao. Later, she married Papo López, a born fisherman who knows all the secrets that hide just beneath a fish's scales.

One fine day, Gastón Acurio, known as el curioso, the curious one, 'discovered' this marketplace hole-in-the-wall, and he included Isabel's name in one of his books, declaring she made the best parihuela, Peruvian seafood soup, in the world.


The next day, there was a a line around the block, waiting to sample Isabel's parihuela, which was immediately christened El Campeón, The Champ.

And in fact, it is a champ. At just ten soles, this succulent dish can raise the dead.

Isabel decided to rent a bigger space on the outskirts of the market, where she could have more tables, all with their distinctive blue tablecloths, and more straw-seated chairs. Every table has its own distinctive napkin dispenser, and on the wall, there was a blackboard where she noted the daily specials.

A colorful sign, decorated with a palm tree and a mermaid, declares: Cevichería Restaurante Isabel.

After I greet her, doña Isabel shows me the famous book in which she is mentioned. The pages have been carefully encased in plastic.

Over time, people kept coming and filling her second locale as well, so she opened a third one, much larger, with wooden chairs and even posters on the walls. In her third restaurant she plays salsa music, has a long counter, and displays hand-drawn art on the walls. Now, she has business cards embossed with a palm tree and a mermaid, which say: Reconocido con la parihuela en los libros de la gran cocina peruana de Gastón Acurio, Recognized by her parihuela in Gastón Acurio's books on great Peruvian cuisine.

"This last place I named Isabel y Papo," she says. She also raised the prices a bit, but explains, "I charge the regulars from the market the same as always."

In October, Isabel wants to hold a Ceviche Festival, so she can celebrate her seafood cooking. Of course, she hopes her mentor, Gastón himself, will attend and sit at the place of honor she has reserved for him.

Meanwhile, she does her homework for her classes at Universidad del Pacífico. She began taking classes, she tells us at a mile a minute, because "I was told I should learn more about gastronomy and food handling and all the other subjects I'm studying."

If you go there, and you should if you like seafood soup, it doesn't hurt to have a reservation, just in case.

All three locales are in or around the Mercado Modelo in Chorrillos.

Isabel Quispe: Three Locations
Mercado Modelo Número 1, in Chorrillos
Puesto 39
Avenida Alejandro Iglesias 649
Reservations: 234-8311.

Av. Alejandro Iglesias 633
Reservations: 260-2729

Avenida Ferrocarril 154
Reservations: 252-1225

Click here for the Peru Food main page.

TAGS: Peru, Peruvian, food, cooking, cuisine, cocina, comida, gastronomía, peruana


Unknown said...

Me encantó la traducción. El abracadara le da un toque que supera el original. Muchas gracias, Alejandro.

Mario Navarrete Jr. said...

Buen aticulo.
Mario Navarrete jr

::Alejandro:: said...

MEC: Me alegro que te gustó! Un abrazo.

Chef: Sí, muy bueno el artículo. Gusto verte por acá.


Anonymous said...

q7QMC3 write more, thanks.