Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Photo: Juanes, The Quintessential Amazonian Food

A New York City painter I know asked me recently, "So, what's Amazonian food like?"

I had to admit the only time I tried Amazonian food was when I was trying to impress an Amazonian friend of mine in Lima and I decided to find the best Amazonian restaurant in town.

Of course, I can't remember the name.

The place was in Lince, a district of Lima, not too far from the Lince's Mercado Central, Central Market.

There aren't that many restaurants that serve the cuisine of the Amazon in Lima, but among the best known are Bar Restaurant Maquisapa and El Bijao. Both are in Lince.

I don't know if it was one of those two where I went that day, but I do recall eating juanes, pictured above, which are similar to a tamal, except made with rice, spices, a stuffing, and wrapped in the the leaf of the bijao, or Heliconia bihai, an Amazonian plant often seen in florist shops because of its extravagant flowers. The stuffing can be fish, chicken, or even simply yuca. There are some good pictures of Heliconia bihai, sometimes known in English as lobster claw, at this link. If bijao leaves aren't available, some people use banana leaves.

Amazonians eat a lot of fish, and they sure do love theiryuca. They also enjoy their traditional liquors, like siete raíces, a concoction made from the essence of seven different plants.

If you read Spanish, there is a recipe for juanes at Yanuq. Otherwise you'll have to wait for me to translate or locate a recipe in English.

As for me, I think, "Who cares about the food?"

Above all, Amazonians know how to have a good time.

I must be craving an Amazonian fix.

Bar Restaurant Maquisapa
Avenida Petit Thouars 1789
Lince, Lima
Phone: 265-8033

El Bijao
Avenida Ignacio Merino 2051
Lince, Lima
Phone: 265-3012

Click here for the Peru Food main page.

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


Kateryn Hidalgo said...

La cocina selvática peruana es realmente exótica. Es toda una aventura por descubrir.

Mi plato preferido es el tacacho con cecina y el inchicapi (sopa de gallina). Espectacular.

Ver en Chanchamayo a las cocineras con su juanes, los suris, su cecina, chorizo, me dejó asombrada.


::Alejandro:: said...

Kateryn, gracias por escribir. He probado el tacacho con cecina pero lo que más conozco de la comida selvática son los juanes, riquísimos.



Don Ball Carbajal said...

Great post, Alejandro. In Iquitos this summer, I had a local tell me that the best juanes are prepared in people's homes, especially on special occasions. At that point, I was sad to be a tourist and not have some friends or family to stay with!

Say, I'm ready to start blogging again and want to do a post about your blog. Would you be able to reveal your secret identity?

Take care,


::Alejandro:: said...

Don, you're right. From what I hear, the best Amazon food is at people's homes but also at the local markets.

Glad to hear you're going to be blogging again.

Send me an email.