Monday, January 29, 2007

The Weekly Peruvian Food Festival In Lima's Plaza Italia

For the visitor to Lima, the humble Plaza Italia, just a few short blocks from Lima's bustling Central Market and Chinatown, may not seem like much.

Yet, like much of colonial Lima, it has had a storied history that belies its current circumstances.

More importantly, for lovers of traditional Peruvian food, every Sunday there is a Peruvian food festival that is set up in the Plaza Italia, offering a smorgasbord of traditional dishes to be eaten at small tables while watching passers-by traipse through what is one of Lima's most ancient public squares.

The Plaza Italia is located between Jirón Junín and Jirón Huallaga, at the intersection of Jirón Huanta.

Photo: Plaza Italia.
I confess I do not recall where I obtained this photo;
if it's yours, let me know .

Prior to the arrival of the Spanish, where the Plaza Italia is now located was the site of a very important huaca, or ceremonial temple, which housed an oracle, second in importance in the region only after Pachacámac.

This oracle was so beloved by the local people, the Spanish felt they had to destroy it and build a plaza in its stead. The new plaza was shaped like a trapezoid, in keeping with pre-Columbian design, which is why today's Plaza Italia is unlike other colonial plazas in Peru, which tend to be square or rectangular.

The huaca was also an important pre-Columbian crossroads, with the Inca highway to the Andes passing through the vicinity of what is now the Plaza Italia.

During the early colonial period, this plaza was also one of the boundaries of Lima.

Photo: Plaza Santa Ana, 1800s.
Universidad Nacional de San Marcos

By 1550, a church named after Saint Anne was built on a corner of the plaza. The Iglesia de Santa Ana still stands to this day, although it has long lost its colonial glory. For centuries the plaza was known as Plaza de Santa Ana.

In 1550, one of the first hospitals in colonial Peru, the Real Hospital de Santa Ana, or Royal Santa Ana Hospital, was moved to a location facing the plaza. During the colonial period, this hospital only treated indigenous people, but at Independence in 1821, it became a general hospital. Eventually, the hospital was moved a few blocks away, where the current Hospital de Maternidad, or Maternity Hospital, still stands.

In 1811, the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery of San Fernando, Colegio de Medicina y Cirugía de San Fernando, also opened its doors facing the plaza.

Photo: Plaza Santa Ana, 1800s.
Biblioteca Nacional del Perú.

The Plaza de Santa Ana was also the site of some of the earliest movie theaters in Lima, now long-abandoned and converted into parking lots or evangelical churches. The two theaters that functioned well into the 1980s were the Francisco Pizarro and the Mazzi.

During the early 1900s (I've been trying to find the exact date to no avail), the Plaza Santa Ana was renamed Plaza Italia, in honor of the many Italian immigrants who arrived in Peru from the late 1800s to the early 1900s.

In particular, it was meant to honor Milan-born Antonio Raimondi, who became a prominent geographer and scientist in his adopted homeland.

Photo: Antonio Raimondi, Wikipedia.

Antonio Raimondi emigrated to Peru in 1850 and became a professor of natural history. Later, he became one of the founding professors of the medical school at the University of San Marcos.

Throughout his career, he displayed a passion for all things Peruvian. He undertook no less than 18 extensive journeys to all regions of the country, studying the nation's geography, geology, botany, zoology, ethnography, and archaeology.

In 1875, he collected his findings in the massive tome he called simply, El Perú. There is a statue in honor of Antonio Raimondi in the Plaza Italia.

Photo: El Perú by Antonio Raimondi, Wikipedia.

But, as often happens, I digress. This is a blog about Peruvian food; so, let me whet your appetites with some photos I took the last time I was in Lima of the Feria de Comida Criolla held every Sunday in Plaza de Italia.

Arroz con pato, duck in seasoned rice.

Cuy with frejoles and rice.

A view of the vendors, nice ladies from the neighborhood who cook early in the morning and serve all day.

Ají de gallina, chicken in a spicy creamy sauce.
(Gracias por la correción.)

Seco de res, beef in a cilantro-based sauce.

A pot of bubbling frejoles, Peruvian beans.

Juanes from the Amazon, similar to a tamal, stuffed with rice and chicken.

Cecina from the Amazon, salted beef served with tacacho, a banana-based accompaniment.

Chicha de jora, an ancient corn-based frothy drink.

Estofado de carnero, lamb stew.

Another view of the friendly ladies at the Feria de la Cocina Criolla.

Chanfainita, a spicy pork and potato dish.
(Gracias por la aclaración.)

Chicharrón de chancho, fried pork served with salad and potatoes.

A word of caution: This is a very busy area in central Lima and care should be exercised. Also, the Plaza Italia should be the boundary of a tourist's visit to the Barrios Altos, the district where Plaza Italia is located. Sadly, going beyond the Plaza Italia (away from central Lima), the area becomes dangerous. Please do not go beyond Jirón Huanta. The plaza itself is safe, since there is a police station which abuts it.

Click here for the Peru Food main page.

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

Saturday, January 27, 2007

One Year Old: Happy Birthday Peru Food!!!

El agradecimiento en castellano viene a continuación.

Incredible as it may seem (at least to me), one year ago I decided I was going to start three blogs.

All of them had to do with Peru, and my reality as a Peruvian-American from California: one was in English, one in Spanish; and the third, in English about Peruvian food.

Of the three blogs (which I never thought anyone would read), my little homemade Peruvian food blog took off like I had never imagined.

In one year, Peru Food has had over 100 thousand hits (which in Internet terms is not much; but, in my terms seems like quite a lot).

I used to tell my friends, 'I am not a Peruvian food expert; I'm just learning as I go along'.

But, one of my dearest friends, a Rastafarian chef told me: Alejandro, stop. You may not have been a Peruvian food expert; but, in this past year, you have become one.

To all of you who have landed on this page, left comments, sent e-mails, linked me, and otherwise made me feel as if my little homemade labor of love was meaningful: from the bottom of my heart, I thank you.

And now, the thanks in Spanish.

Para todos los que han llegado a esta página, que me han dejado comentarios, que me han enviado correos, y que de algún modo me han hecho saber que este blog caserito mío les ha servido, mis más humildes agradecimientos.

Hace un año comencé tres blogs a la vez, todos relacionados con mi realidad como un estadounidense de padres peruanos, viviendo entre California y el Perú: el primer blog en castellano, el segundo en inglés, y el tercero también en inglés, pero sólo sobre la cocina peruana.

Juro que nunca pensé que más de cuatro gatos me iban a leer.

Pero pasó algo alucinante---de repente, noté que el blog en inglés sobre la gastronomía peruana, Peru Food, comenzó a volar por si mismo, y en un corto año, me han llegado mas de cien mil visitas, que en el mundo del Internet es poco, pero que en mi mundo, me parece increíble.

A todos ustedes que se han tomado la molestia de visitarme, mencionarme, enlazarme, leerme, comentarme, o corregirme, se los agradezco profundamente de corazón. Me dan ánimos para seguir adelante en este proyecto.

Admito que no soy experto en cocina, ni chef, ni gastrónomo, ni nada relacionado a la industria de la cocina. Soy sólo un estadounidense, de origen peruano, que desea promover la cultura y la gastronomía del Perú. Ojalá que este humilde blog casero sea útil y sea algo que sirva para ese fin.

Sin más, muchas gracias, y que siga la fiesta.

Thank you all for your support, and let the party begin.

Click here for the Peru Food main page.

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

Friday, January 26, 2007

Trujillo Sweets: Sweets For The Sweet

If you have a sweet tooth, these mouth-watering photos come to us courtesy of Giuce at Truxillo Daily Photo who tells us these Trujillo sweets are available at a small shop run by Doña Carmen.

There are countless small businesses like this in Peru, which have a loyal following and where good food is made according to old family recipes.

Mazamorra morada, purple corn pudding,
and arroz con leche, rice pudding.

Suspiros limeños, a creamy Trujillo version
of a classic Lima dessert.

Higos rellenos, stuffed figs.

I like what Giuce had to say:

"If you want to taste traditional desserts you have to go to Doña Carmen, an old-fashioned place to eat mazamorra morada, a dessert which takes on the color of one of its main ingredients: purple corn; and arroz con leche, made with rice, milk, sugar, and cinnamon. You can also find higos rellenos, figs with a sweet, creamy milk and sugar filling, and suspiros limeños, made with cream and sugar, ... and many other sweet dishes."

Sweets anyone?

Click here for the Peru Food main page.

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

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Washington D.C. Area Peruvian Gastronomic Festival

This is a late-breaking post about the first annual Peruvian Gastronomic Festival being held in the Washington D.C. area (it's actually taking place at a restaurant in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland).


"Chefs Maria Ines Pinto and Pedro Mendoza, who head a culinary school in Lima, join executive chef Javier Angeles Beron at Ceviche for a weeklong Peruvian Gastronomic Festival, a celebration of cooking and ingredients from the Andes and Amazon. At the buffet lunches ($25) and dinners ($50), you can graze over traditional preparations of lomo saltado and sundried potato stew. They get bonus points for doling out free samples of Pisco.

When: Lunch, noon to 3 PM; Dinner, 6 to 9 PM.
Where: Ceviche, 921-J Ellsworth Rd., Silver Spring; 301-608-0081."

Here is a link to the Ceviche website.

This link to a news item on local station WUSA, has a short video clip of the chefs preparing ceviche and lomo saltado.

Chef Javier Angeles Beron says the event will last until Sunday, January 28, and on Friday and Saturday, there will be live music. This event is being organized in collaboration with the Peruvian Embassy.

Click here for the Peru Food main page.

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

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Dance: The National Marinera Competition In Trujillo, January 24 to 28

Many believe, myself included, that one of the most elegant and beautiful dances in Peru is the marinera, which is most popular along the coast, although there are variations danced in the Andean regions.

Yes, this is a blog about Peruvian food; however, every January, there is a festival combining dance, music, and food that merits mention.

Of course, I am referring to the Concurso Nacional de la Marinera, the National Marinera Competition, held annually in the northern Peruvian city of Trujillo for the last 47 years.

Dancers from all over Peru and abroad converge in sunny Trujillo to participate in a competition unlike any other.

During this time, Trujillo comes to a complete standstill with everyone watching and waiting to see the who the new marinera champions will be.

Traditional northern-Peruvian dishes are served during this time, such as frejoles y cabrito (Peruvian beans and stewed kid goat) and arroz con pato (duck in a seasoned rice), all washed down with great quantities of the local beer, Pilsen Trujillo.

If you have never seen the marinera, in this very short clip from the phenomenal documentary Soy Andina (soon to released in the US), we hear the thrilling drumroll which signals the beginning of a marinera.

The video shows dancers competing in Trujillo's Coliseo Gran Chimú, where the competition is held.

Video: Soy Andina
posted on You Tube by laberintoon2
Running Time: 1:10.

This annual event is organized by the Club Libertad Trujillo, which chooses an annual Queen of the Marinera Festival, as well as organizing parades, and all the activities related to the competition.

The 2007 Marinera Queen is Emilia Santa María Mecq, pictured below.

This next video is not of the best quality; however, it does portray a lovely rendition of the marinera as seen on the Peruvian television show, Mediodía Criollo, broadcast on TNP.

If you watch this video (and I recommend you do) watch the footwork of both dancers, It is simply wonderful to see, and underlines why this is considered such an elegant and complex dance.

The dancers are Yanina Salgado and Koki Beteta, who often perform at Las Brisas de Titicaca in Lima (unfortunately, their website is down, but here is a link to information about this cultural center that offers an excellent dinner show highlighting Peruvian folklore).

The song is called La Verónica, and the dancers are very skilled. Both have won awards for their dancing.

Like I said, watch the footwork!

Video: Marinera Norteña: La Verónica on Mediodía Criollo
posted on You Tube by criollisimo
Running Time: 4:29.

If you don't know much about Trujillo, here are some of my pictures which I took in December. This historic city has managed to preserve many of its colonial buildings and is well situated to visit some of the most important pre-Columbian sites, Chan Chan and the Huaca de la Luna.

And, since this blog is about Peruvian food, here is a photo of another traditional Trujillo dish, arroz con mariscos (seafood in seasoned rice).

Although I do not dance the marinera, I would love to learn. As a start, when I was in Trujillo, I bought the hat.

Finally, if this post has (hopefully) interested you in learning more about this traditional Peruvian dance, here is a short documentary about the marinera, in Spanish with English subtitles.

I love the beginning, in which Peruvian diva Susana Baca says, 'I could tell you that at the first compass of the marinera, I feel that my skin bristles and I can't control it."

I feel the same way.

Video: Marinera, Passion of Peru
posted on You Tube by ricararroyo.
Running Time: 8:49.

¡Qué Viva la Marinera!

Click here for the Peru Food main page.

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

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

La Casa de Don Cucho in Pachacámac, Part Three: The Video

There are three different recent posts about La Casa de Don Cucho:

First off, it's not my video but one I found posted by RafaelAndes on You Tube.

It looks like it was made as a promotional piece by Instituto de los Andes in Lima, which trains future chefs and food professionals. The video is in Spanish, but there really is very little dialogue. A techno Afro-Peruvian soundtrack accompanies the entire video.

First, we find Cucho La Rosa at work making his famed lomo saltado at the outdoor kitchen of his restaurant, La Casa de Don Cucho in Pachacámac. He uses a common technique in coastal Peruvian cooking, essentially stir-frying in large pans over high heat.

Don Cucho then greets the director or an official from the Instituto Los Andes.

The first batch of scrolling text reads:

La Casa de Don Cucho, Lima-style criollo cuisine and pachamanca (referring to the Andean cooking method in which the food is cooked underground withhot rocks).

We watch Don Cucho prepare one of his signature dishes: Lomo Saltado Ocucaje.

Ocucaje is a fine Peruvian pisco; this dish is Cucho's interpretation of the classic lomo saltado (beef, onion, and tomato stir fry topped with fried potato strips). In Cucho's version, the dish is flambeed with Ocucaje pisco.

Watch as the dish is plated. The upside-down bowls contain perfectly-shaped mounds of Peruvian white rice.

Next, close-ups of Peruvian beverages: the classic pisco sour and chicha morada, a sweet yet tart purple corn drink. There is a close-up of a frothy cóctel de algarrobina.

Next, the Piqueo de Papas y Cremas, Andean Potatoes in Three Creamy Sauces.

The text names the three potato strains used: papa amarilla, papa huamantanga, and papa huayro; as well as, the three creamy sauces: huancaína, rocoto, and huacatay.

We see a causa limeña, the potato terrine, also made with the flavorful yellow potato, papa amarilla.

The text reads:

Chicken, avocado, and mayonnaise; loved by all.
La que gusta a todos; What everyone likes.

Camaronada de Camarones one of the appetizers we ordered on our visit, consists of stir-fried marinated shrimp, and is absolutely delicious.

The Tacu Tacu a lo Misio, or Poor Man's Tacu Tacu, is Cucho's variation of a hearty coastal dish which involves mixing rice and beans, frejoles, and shaping them into little patties, which are then fried and served with breaded meat, cooked plantain, and topped with a fried egg.

For dessert, the video shows us picarones, fried pumpkin fritters, and a close up of the very sweet and creamy suspiro a la limeña.

Finally, the video has a short plug by Cucho:

"Los Andes is the university of haute Peruvian cuisine. Come do your internships here; call me at 9-920-6219. Together we can reclaim the old, traditional, criollo cuisine. We're waiting, thanks ."

There is a shot of the handwritten menu chalkboard, which reads Arroz con Pato (duck with seasoned rice), Frejoles y Cabrito (kid goat stew with Peruvian beans), Lomo Saltado (beef, tomato, and onion stir-fry), and Seco de Res (beef stewed in a cilantro sauce).

The video concludes with some exterior shots of La Casa de Don Cucho.

Click here for the Peru Food main page.

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

Monday, January 22, 2007

La Casa de Don Cucho in Pachacámac, Part Two: The Locale

As mentioned, our visit to La Casa de Don Cucho was one of the culinary highlights of the 2006 Peru Food Tour.

There are three different posts about our visit to La Casa de Don Cucho:

The Hacienda Casa Blanca is a house from the 1800s, built on the outskirts of Pachacámac village, about 40 minutes southeast of Lima.

Cucho La Rosa has refurbished and reconditioned the house, and rebaptized it, La Casa de Don Cucho. The atmosphere of this historic house located on a country lane enhances the dining experience.

To get there, we take the southbound Panamericana Sur expressway. Soon after passing the ceremonial complex of the Temple of Pachacámac, we turn inland onto the road to Pachacamác village. This is a popular destination and there are many roadside eateries for all budgets.

The road winds inland past fields and homes. Along the way there are signs leading us to La Casa de Don Cucho. Passing the village, we turn left and follow a dirt road until we reach the restaurant. There is a bucolic quality to the air, the river is nearby, and we feel we are truly out in the country.

As we enter, we proceed along an outdoor passageway lined with antique batanes, the carved rocks traditionally used as mortar and pestle. The colorful walls are decorated with geraniums. In the distance, we hear birds singing.

Cucho also has a collection of antique batanes from various parts of Peru inside the restaurant. We can tell their age because they are smooth from much use grinding herbs and spices.

They remind me of my grandmother's; she had two, a small, bowl-shaped one, and a large flat one.

Once outside in the garden, there are cooking stations. Here, anticuchos are being prepared. On the wall is a chalkboard indicating one of the house specialities: lomo saltado Don Cucho. The aromatic smell of grilled meat fills the air.

Cucho La Rosa is a welcoming host and cooks in full view of his diners. This is his outdoor kitchen, where he crafts his classic criolla dishes. As diners come in, Don Cucho greets them personally.

The alfresco lunch was perfect for a long, lazy Sunday afternoon lunch. There were strolling musicians: a guitarrist and a cajonero, a man playing the cajón. Since it was a pleasantly warm day, by mid-afternoon the outdoor dining area had filled up.

There is a small petting zoo and games for children. It is very much a gathering spot for families at the weekend. We never felt rushed; on the contrary, we felt like we could have spent all day there.

Next time in Lima, we're heading back to La Casa de Don Cucho.

La Casa de Don Cucho
Antigua Hacienda Casa Blanca
Calle 8, Lote 14-A
Open Tuesday to Sunday, lunch and dinner.
Closed Monday.
Reservations: 231-1415, 9920-6219

Click here for the Peru Food main page.

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

Sunday, January 21, 2007

La Casa De Don Cucho in Pachacámac, Part One: The Food

La Casa de Don Cucho Outside Pachacámac Village

Our visit to La Casa de Don Cucho was one of the culinary highlights of the 2006 Peru Food Tour.

I have so much to comment about La Casa de Don Cucho, I am going to make three different posts (as I post, I will link):

La Casa de Don Cucho is owned by Cucho La Rosa, known as Don Cucho, an extremely popular Lima-based chef who has a long running radio show called Divinas Comidas on Radio Programas del Perú.

This country-style restaurant is located outside Lima, about 40 minutes south, near the archeological site of Pachacámac. Don Cucho has refurbished a traditional hacienda-style house, some kilometers inland along the fertile Lurín Valley, on the site of the Hacienda Casa Blanca, and just east of the village of the same name as the ruins. This area has some weekend homes, but it is also home to many local families who work in farming in the valley.

On this map below, click to magnify the image, and you can clearly see Casa Blanca just east (inland) of the village of Pachacámac.

Lurin River Valley @ Club de Exploradores

Don Cucho opened La Casa de Don Cucho in 2006, and it has become a popular destination, especially at weekends. Cucho La Rosa prides himself as one of the leading proponents of 'traditional criolla cuisine' and his restaurant is often full.

One Sunday in December, we headed to La Casa de Don Cucho, to understand why he was so beloved.

The Drinks

Chicha morada, made with sweetened purple corn.

It was warm the day we went to La Casa de Don Cucho, and after walking in and settling down in the breezy outdoor dining area, we ordered some refreshing drinks. We like chicha morada, which is made from purple corn that is boiled with pineapple and then flavored with lemon and sugar, and also pisco sours.

Cucho La Rosa is said to make among the best pisco sours in Lima.

I've read that Cucho La Rosa makes the best pisco sours in the city, so we were eager to sample them. I don't know if they are the best, in a city known for its superlative pisco sours, but they were refreshing and came in a generous glass.

The Appetizers

Since there were three of us, we decided to order a few appetizers and thereby sample some of Don Cucho's specialities. All of the appetizers were magnificent. They came out quickly, and were just the right mix of flavors. Kudos for Cucho La Rosa's appetizers.

I've already mentioned Andean potatoes at Madrid Fusión.

Our first appetizer to arrive was a three-potato and three-sauce dish, a perfect marriage between Andean potatoes and three spicy, creamy sauces.

There are many potato strains in Peru, unknown in North America or Europe. This dish featured three of the most flavorful potatoes, the famed papa amarilla, or yellow potato, (Solanum goniocalyx); huamantanga, considered to be among most delicious; and, the huayro (Solanum chaucha), grown in the cold heights of the Andes and perfect for soaking up sauces. This dish also features three sauces that are liberally drizzled on the potatoes (from left to right): rocoto sauce, huancaína sauce, and huacatay sauce. Simply exquiste.

Camaronada, an almost sinful explosion of shrimp.

We also sampled the famed camaronada, which was a plateful of cooked shrimp in a spicy vinegar based sauce, and topped with marinated onions. The flavor of the shrimp was complex and juxtaposed quite nicely with the tartness of the onion dressing.

Chicharrón de cuy, crispy deep-fried cuy.

Yes, that is the tasty herbivore raised in the Andes for millenia as a delicious source of protein (known in English as guinea pig), served with an onion and rocoto dressing. Very delicious.

The Main Course

There is a photo of a main course missing, and I can't for the life of me recall what the third dish we ate there was.

I admit we were not convinced with the two main dishes shown here. After our visit to Don Cucho's we heard that the best entrees to order are his lomo saltado, the beef, onion, tomato and potato stir fry dish; or; the arroz con pato, duck with seasoned rice. Now we know for the next time.

Carapulcra, chicken and freeze-dried potatoes,
slowly cooked in special seasonings.

Carapulcra requires patience and time to make correctly, and while Don Cucho's potatoes were quite flavorful, we felt the chicken pieces were too big to be eaten easily. We prefer a carapulcra made with more finely chopped pieces, although the flavor of the chicken complemented the potatoes very nicely. The seasonings were good, but the dish was dissapointing.

Ají de gallina, a creamy spicy chicken dish.

Likewise, the ají de gallina was dissapointing. There was something amiss in the preparation, and we thought that what it needed was for the chicken to be cut into much smaller pieces. The flavor of this creamy dish was quite good, but the texture was all wrong. We felt it needed to be much more delicate and sublime to be convincing.


Picarones, pumpkin fritters, and a cóctel de algarrobina,
a creamy drink made with pisco and algorrobina liqueur.

I finally figured out what algarrobina is, a tree that grows mainly in the arid region near Piura in northern Peru, and that it has a small, pod-like, fruit which is collected to make a liqueur. This frothy and creamy drink is made with that liqueur.

I have posted about Cucho La Rosa before here on Peru Food. I've also read about him at Mucho Gusto Perú.

I had wanted to visit La Casa de Don Cucho in Pachacámac for a long time: when we went, it
turned out to be one of our favorite restaurants on our recent trip to Peru.

La Casa de Don Cucho
Antigua Hacienda Casa Blanca
Calle 8, Lote 14-A
Open Tuesday to Sunday, lunch and dinner.
Closed Monday.
Reservations: 231-1415, 9920-6219

Click here for the Peru Food main page.

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