Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Following the Shrimp Route in Azpitia, Cañete Province

Original article: Radio Programas del Perú (RPP), 09/18/05
To read the original Spanish article, click here.

This translation is from the wonderful Peruvian cooking show, Divina Comida (Divine Food) on Radio Programas del Perú (RPP), hosted by Cucho La Rosa, one of the leading proponents of Peruvian cuisine, known for ceaselessly searching out the best food in the most off-the-beaten path locations. I hope this translation does him justice.

The text and the photos are all from the
RPP website.

Happy eating!

The shrimp route leads us to Azpitia, in the province of Cañete.

From the program Divina Comida on RPP

Azpitia (also known as San Vicente de Azpitia) is located one hour south of Lima, in the province of Cañete, and is a paradisiacal location where you find the freshest and most attractive shrimp, which come from the area near Calango.

Azpitia offers visitors many different types of local delicacies, and locally produced, good quality, wines and piscos.

Angela Caballero, the guisandera

Angela Caballero calls herself a guisandera (stew-maker). She is the owner of the El Mayoral restaurant and hotel, and although she never attended a culinary institute in her life, her good taste has led her to prepare sophisticated dishes utilizing locally grown products.

Camarones Chacareros

One of Angela's greatest inventions is a dish she calls camarones chacareros (the word camarón means shrimp). This impressive meal is made of shrimp and boiled yuca root, seasoned with a sauce made of ají­ amarillo and saffron, which is cooked, and then served, wrapped in a banana leaf.

Duck in a creamy ají­ sauce served with yuca

Her ravioles cholos and her duck in a creamy ají­ sauce are other mouth-watering dishes at her country-style restaurant, which is well-known among gastronomic tourists, those visitors who are constantly searching for places like hers, that offer wonderful culinary experiences.

Ravioles Cholos

In Santa Cruz de Flores, near Azpitia (also in Cañete province), you can also spend a pleasant time with your family or friends visiting the Bodega San Andrés, owned by Marí­a Arias, who produces good quality wine and pisco. Thanks to her efforts and dedication, she has won local prizes for the excellence of her product.

Marí­a Arias and her award-winning pisco

In September, Azpitia celebrates its Pisco Festival, and you can easily obtain this grape-based spirit at a reasonable price directly from the producers.

To reach El Mayoral, you need to head south on the Panamericana Sur, until you arrive at León Dormido beach (at kilometer 80), where you find the turn off. You need to continue along the old coastal highway to the town of San Antonio, and from there, follow the signs.

As a special treat, Angela Caballero has provided us with her recipe for her famous
camarones chacareros.

Camarones Chacareros as made at El Mayoral

Preparation for one person.


8 fresh medium-sized shrimp
2 tablespoons of
ají­ amarillo cream
1 hearty splash of extra virgen olive oil
1 teaspoon of finely-diced garlic
1/4 teaspoon of saffron
Salt and pepper
Banana leaves, previously smoked
6 pieces of boiled yuca root


In a bowl, combine the
ají­ amarillo, the oil, the finely-diced garlic, the saffron, the salt and pepper, and mix well. Place the shrimp in this mixture, and let them marinate for about 15 minutes.

In the meantime, place the banana leaf (once you have cut it to the right size) on a table. Place the pieces of boiled yuca, and then the shrimp, in two rows upon the banana leaf. Add the remaining mixture on top of the shrimp and yuca. Fold the banana leaf as if you were making a small package, and tie it. Steam cook the package for 10 minutes.

Serve in the banana leaf itself.

Click here for the Peru Food main page.

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

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Mega Post of Restaurants on Peru Food

2008 Update: It's January, and a year ago I said I would update this post ... sad to say, that was one of my resolutions that fell by the wayside in 2007! LOL...

Let me just say: one of these days....

Note: You may have noticed this list has not been updated in a while. It is one of my 2007 New Year's resolutions to update it before the year is over!

This is going to be the Mega Post of all of the restaurants discussed on this blog. As I discuss new restaurants, I will add the link to this post. The link to this post will always be in the sidebar, for easy access.

Just click on the restaurant name below to find the restaurant you're looking for on Peru Food.

I'm hoping this will make for better organizational system.

Happy eating!


La Gorda in Madrid

El Mayoral in Azpitia, Cañete

El Arlequín in San Isidro

Asia de Cuba in San Isidro

La Choza Naútica in Breña

Wa Lok in Lima's Chinatown

Mi Perú in Barranco

El Rocoto in Surco

Café Haiti in Miraflores

Restaurante Cebichería Mi Propiedad Privada in San Miguel

La Canta Rana in Barranco

El Mesón del Almirante in Central Lima

El Fayke Piurano in Central Lima

Manhattan Café Restaurant in Central Lima

Bar Maury and the Salón de los Espejos at the Hotel Maury in Central Lima

L'Eau Vive in Central Lima

Bembos in Central Lima

Pardo's Chicken in Central Lima

Bar Cordano in Central Lima

Restaurante La Muralla in Central Lima

Titi in San Isidro

Restaurante Royal in San Isidro

Hou Wha in Miraflores

Salón Capón in Lima's Chinatown and the Jockey Plaza

San Joy Lao in Lima's Chinatown

Astrid & Gaston Restaurant

Cebichería Barranco

Bar Juanito in Barranco

Casa Hacienda Moreyra in San Isidro

Los Vitrales at the Country Club Lima Hotel in San Isidro

Delicass in San Isidro and at the Jockey Plaza

Delphos Café at Hotel Los Delfines

Dulcinea Pastelería in Miraflores

La Bonbonniere in San Isidro

La Factoría in Miraflores

La Rosa Náutica in Miraflores

La Tiendecita Blanca in Miraflores

La Vista at the JW Marriott Hotel in Miraflores

Le Café at the Swissôtel in San Isidro

Mangos Larcomar in Miraflores

Select at the Holiday Inn in Miraflores

Monday, March 27, 2006

El Arlequí­n in San Isidro

Note: Sadly, this restaurant is now closed.

Original: Marí­a Elena Cornejo, CARETAS, 02/23/06
Click here to read the original article at Mucho Gusto PerÆ.

As a result of this blog, I have been fortunate to make the acquaintance of Marí­a Elena Cornejo, journalist and food critic for one of Peru's leading magazines, CARETAS.

On her blog Mucho Gusto Perú, Marí­a Elena posts some of her articles about food and the dining scene in Lima.

Very graciously, she has allowed me to translate and post her articles on this blog. I hope this expands your interest in Peruvian cuisine and of good places to eat when in Lima.

This first article I am translating is about a small restaurant, El Arlequí­n in San Isidro, that has been garnering rave reviews since its opening just a few short months ago.

I hope you have a chance to visit El Arlequí­n and sample some of the extraordinary fare Marí­a Fé and her husband Jorge have to offer.

Happy eating!

Spiritual and sensory enjoyment at
El Arlequí­n

By Marí­a Elena Cornejo

This charming European-style restaurant is part of the intimate Hotel Basquiat in San Isidro.

The entryway and bar are decorated with furnishings that used to belong to the Arteaga grandparents, now inherited by Marí­a Fé, who along with her husband Jorge, are your hosts at El Arlequí­n.

The library bookshelves form the backdrop of the bar, and a collection of antique weapons, pottery, and carved wood furniture harmoniously decorate the different rooms.

There are high ceilings with moldings and paintings of harlequins by Peruvian artist Victor Humareda (the name of the restaurant, El Arlequí­n, means The Harlequin). The owner's own colorful paintings provide a modern touch without detracting from the understated elegance.

The kitchen, under direction of chef Melvin Iriarte, who developed his craft under Gastón Acurio, Rafael Osterling, and at Sogo Room, offers a modern international menu, adapted for the palate of foreign visitors and local lunch time customers. There are no jarring flavors or surprising combinations.

They make a proper pisco sour here, both the traditional version, or the Arlequí­n sour made with plum-flavored pisco (with a lower alcohol content).


Starters include salads, ceviches, beef brochettes, and the classic causa stuffed with chicken. The star of the starters is a highly-recommendable tuna sashimi in shoyu sauce (made with sesame oil at an extremely high temperature) and served with sweet rice and avocado tartare.

The pastas are homemade and very good. I sampled the ricotta tortellini in almond sauce, and a fetuccini that accompanied a steak smothered in a blue cheese sauce, served alongside flambéed prawns. The mushroom risotto (made with three types of mushrooms) and also served with steak was spectacular, as was the tuna steak seared in sesame seeds and served with an Asian juice reduction and stir-fried yellow potatoes.

Ask your server for the day's dessert. Desserts generally include cheesecake, sherbets, or the classic Lima dessert,
suspiro a la limeña.

Sesame Chicken

The Hosts

For the past three months, Jorge Gálvez and Marí­a Fé Arteaga have been in charge at Hotel Basquiat (named as a personal tribute to the provocative American painter, Jean-Michel Basquiat) and its warm restaurant, El Arlequí­n (a tribute to yet another painter, the Peruvian Victor Humareda, whose depictions of harlequins the couple collects).

María Fé and Jorge

Jorge, who has a degree in Business Administration from an American university (where he landed thanks to a tennis scholarship,) and Marí­a Fé, who has a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management from a school in Boston, respond to our Mucho Gusto Perú questionnaire:

MEC: Where do you shop for food?

In the Lince and Surquillo markets. For fish, in the Productores market. Also, at the Nikkei market on Conquistadores.

MEC: What's your drink?

Her: Red wine. Him: Pisco sour made with
quebranta-style pisco.

MEC: And your sport?

Her: Squash. Him: Tennis.

MEC: Name your one extravagance.

Him: Watching international tennis matches in the middle of the night.

MEC: And clothes?

Him: Informal. Her: Anything that looks good on me.

The Regular

Marita Tapia, one of the regulars at El Arlequí­n, says:

"I love the exotic dishes not easily found in just any restaurant. Here the dishes are served beautifully decorated. The presentation is very good, as is the service."

Asian-style Chicken

"One Sunday night, we closed down the house to throw a dinner party for some friends who were arriving from abroad, and everyone was delighted with the food. During the day, there is a private dining room where you receive a more personalized attention. That's very important because you can have meetings, showers, or celebrate birthdays, without bothering the other clients. My favorite dish is their shrimp
tacu tacu, made with fresh pallares beans, and served with a shrimp-based sauce."

El Arlequí­n
Avenida Dos de Mayo 1421, San Isidro
Reservations: 222-7744, 222-7743
Monday to Saturday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Sunday, only open for breakfast.
All credit cards accepted.
Median price: 30 soles.
Executive lunch special: 18 soles.
Corkage: No charge.
There is a basic wine list.
Smoking and non-smoking areas are available.

Click here for the Peru Food main page.

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

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Mega Post of Recipes on Peru Food

2008 Update: It's January, and a year ago I said I would update this post ... sad to say, that was one of my resolutions that fell by the wayside in 2007! LOL...

Let me just say: one of these days....

Note: You may have noticed this list has not been updated in a while. It is one of my 2007 New Year's resolutions to update it before the year is over!

This is going to be the Mega Post of all of the recipes discussed on this blog. As I discuss or post new recipes, I will add the link to this post. The link to this post will always be in the sidebar, for easy access.

Just click on the the name of the dish below to find the recipe you're looking for on Peru Food.

I'm hoping this will make for better organization of this blog.

Happy cooking!


Cesar's definitive papa a la huancaína

Camarones chacareros: Banana-leaf wrapped steamed and seasoned shrimp and yuca

Papa a la huancaína: Potatoes in a spicy cheese sauce

Pisco Sour: The Quintessential Peruvian Cocktail

Causa: Peruvian Potato Pastry

Picarones: Pumpkin Fritters

Parihuela: Sea Food Soup

Ají Verde: Peruvian Spicy Green Hot Sauce

Recipe: Papa a la Huancaí­na

This is the story of the little potato and cheese dish from the central Andes region of Peru that traveled around the world.

Almost every Peruvian restaurant anywhere in the world serves a variation of this dish.

Papa a la huancaí­na is a cold starter made with boiled potatoes served on a bed of lettuce leaves. The potatoes are covered in a creamy, spicy huancaí­na sauce made with fresh, white country-style cheese and ají­ amarillo. The dish is garnished with black olives and hard-boiled egg slices.

Papa a la huancaí­na means potatoes covered in a sauce in the style of Huancayo, a city located in the fertile Mantaro River Valley.

About a six hour road trip from Lima (involving a climb from sea level to 15,80 feet ---4,820 meters-- at the Ticlio pass, and down to the Mantaro Valley, located at only 11,000 feet ---3,300 meters) Huancayo is famous for its Sunday market, the many festivals in the outlying villages along both banks of the Mantaro River, and the quality of its cuisine, made fresh with local products.

This papa a la huancaí­na is made in the traditional way at
Huancahuasi, a bastion of local cooking in Huancayo.
The sauce is so thick you can't even see the potatoes.

Photo from Perú Llacta.

Huancayo itself is not a picturesque city; rather, it is a bustling commercial hub, busy building for the future. Having said that, Huancayo is also rich in Andean traditions, and papa a la huancaí­na is part of that tradition.

I admit to having a soft spot for Huancayo and the Valle del Mantaro; as a child, I lived there with my grandparents, the first two people to instill in me a love for Peruvian cuisine.

When those who form part of the Peruvian diaspora began opening Peruvian restaurants in cities as disparate as Boston, Madrid, Tokyo, and Sydney, they began to include papa a la huancaí­na on their menus.

Nowadays, it's hard to find a Peruvian restaurant anywhere in the world that does not offer some variation of this classic Mantaro Valley dish. Part of its appeal is its adaptability, the main ingredients can be easily located or substituted in most parts of the world. The sauce is easily made in a blender.

This papa a la huancaí­na has a very creamy sauce.
Photo from USA Peruvian Restaurants.

The papa a la huancaí­na I eat at my local Peruvian place here in Los Angeles may not be my grandmother's papa a la huancaí­na, made by hand using a stone mortar and pestle to grind and mix fresh country cheese and recently harvested ají­ amarillo, but it still evokes that piquant freshness featuring the key Andean crop, potatoes.

As I've mentioned before, I myself am not a chef, but a good Internet researcher; so, I have compiled here the best recipes in English for papa a la huancaí­na that I have found online. Let me know how they turn out.

If you have your own variation or a link to a different one, feel free to leave a comment or send me an e-mail.

This is another creamy papa a la huancaí­na.
Photo from TQNYC.

When preparing a jaw-dropping papa a la huancaí­na, make sure you use the most flavorful potatoes available. In my area, I prefer organic Yukon Gold potatoes. The lettuce should be crisp and fresh. Use the tastiest eggs you can find.

And now, the recipes:

This is the easiest variation of a papa a la huancaí­na recipe I found, from Chef 2 Chef, using feta and cream cheese (and peanuts, which is more reminiscent of an Ocopa sauce).

This more elaborate recipe from Chef 2 Chef, using evaporated milk, fresh cheese (or if not available, mozarella or munster), is evocative of the real deal.

This recipe is from the Goya company, so it promotes the use of its products, but it's easy to follow if you can get
ají­ amarillo (and better yet, real papas amarillas, the famous yellow potatoes of Peru), but skip the salsa on the side this site recommends, that doesn't seem very Peruvian at all, at least not to accompany papa a la huancaí­na:

The following recipes are best for large gatherings, as they call for large quantities of papa a la huancaí­na, which is a perfect party dish.

This recipe from serves ten, and uses cottage cheese:

This easy-to-follow recipe for a large-gathering is from Astray (It calls for two pounds of potatoes). The author has even included a Bolivian variation:

And, this is almost the identical recipe as above from Food Down Under, with a different format which may be a little easier to follow:

Yet another recipe for ten, this one from Recipe Bazaar. It seems easy to follow, and includes a review from a satisfied customer at the end:

Update: Now, you can read César's excellent recipe for papa a la huancaí­na by clicking here. He and Sury have a blog they say is about, 'All things FOOD from Peru and India.' Intriguing, isn't it?

Enjoy the papa a la huancaí­na!

Click here for the Peru Food main page.

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

Saturday, March 25, 2006

How did you learn to cook?

Someone on a message board posed this question: How did you learn to cook?

This was my response.

Growing up with my grandparents in a small city in Andean Peru, I would accompany my grandmother every morning to the local market where she would select the food she would make that day.

I can still hear the sound of the vendor ladies calling us to look at their wares as I held tightly to my grandmother with one hand and to the canasta full of produce in the other.

Back home, I would take a seat in her kitchen, and as she would regale me with stories of the past, of family trials, triumphs, and tribulations, I would watch her chop and dice and stir and mix.

Every so often she would call me closer and slip a delicacy into my mouth. "Shh!" she would say, "don't let your grandfather see, otherwise he'll want this morsel for himself." This is where I learned that making food is synonymous with love.

Once I returned to live in the US, although my mother is a great cook in her own right, the pace of life was much more hectic, and the only days I could hang around the kitchen were on weekends, when Mom would open a bottle of wine, turn on some classic Hollywood movie on the TV, and scour her cookbooks to prepare us elaborate meals.

I didn't realize all that childhood observation had paid off, that I had learned to cook almost by osmosis, until I was in my 30s and set up the first proper household of my own (as opposed to the bachelor crash pads I lived in during my 20s).

Before I knew it, I too was spending all weekends creating elaborate meals.

And word got out: just like in my childhood home in Peru, where people just drop by before mealtime, in my California home, friends learned that Saturday afternoon was a good time to drop by my home, announced or unannounced, to get a piping-hot meal much better than at any local restaurant.

My philosophy: if there's enough for two, then there's enough for three or four.

Although I don't cook like that any more, I know that I can if I want to. And I will always be grateful for those intangible lessons the kitchen has taught me.

How did you learn to cook?

Friday, March 24, 2006

Another Interview with Gaston Acurio

Original: Milagros Leiva Gálvez, El Comercio, 9/11/05.
Click here to go to original Spanish article

This is an in-depth interview by Milagros Leiva Gálvez, writing in El Comercio, which I have unofficially translated for Gaston Acurio's English-speaking fans. We learn more about this great Peruvian chef, his background, his life, even his politics, and of course, his passion, Peruvian food. I hope you enjoy reading this interview as much as I did. There's a link to his Astrid & Gaston website, and to other posts about Gastón Acurio on this blog, at the end of the interview.

Our Hodgepodge Cuisine Makes Us Different

By Milagros Leiva Gálvez, El Comercio
To read the original Spanish article, click here.

Gastón Acurio, recently named Latin American Entrepreneur of 2005, has a goal: to introduce Peruvian
cebiche and Peruvian cuisine to the rest of the world.

He walks through the Surquillo market in Lima as if he were walking through his own home. Police officers overseeing traffic at the market ask him for recipes. Parking lot attendants don't charge him. Everyone he passes wants to know the secret to a good
tacu tacu. And all the while, Gastón simply smiles. That's just his way. He is genuinely a humble man.

When he approaches one of the market stands searching to buy
huacatay or cilantro, the vendor ladies all know that first he tastes whatever he's buying.

Before cutting any deals, Gastón Acurio always samples his fruits and vegetables

Two years ago, when I first interviewed Gastón Acurio, his restaurant, Astrid & Gaston, had been open for nine years and still headed the list of the top ten restaurants in Lima. At the time, Gastón had a cable TV program, a published cookbook, and a branch of his restaurant in Santiago, the capital of Chile.

Two years ago, Gastón Acurio was a successful chef and businessman.

Now things are even better.

His story is that of any chef who ever dreamed, and later triumphed, with his recipes.

Currently, Gastón Acurio has opened two additional restaurants in Lima, one in Colombia, one almost ready to open in Caracas, and another in Quito. In the near future, he plans on opening a Peruvian-style sandwich shop in Lima.

And as if that wasn't enough, he has just published a ten-volume encyclopedia on Peruvian cuisine.

What else can Gastón Acurio desire?

América Economí­a magazine has just named him the 2005 Latin American Entrepreneur of the Year.

The chef is having a hard time adjusting to this new sauce in which he finds himself. He claims the prize isn't just for him, but for Peruvian cuisine in general. This is true.

His is the story of a man who is much more valuable than solely his worth on paper.

Gastón Acurio loves Peru, and Peruvians love him for that.

MLG: What's the secret of your success?

GA: I'm afraid of failure. I don't have any intention of becoming an old man and being part of yet another generation of failures that did nothing to change this country. That's why I leave my blood on the sand, and work 15 or 18 hours a day.

If you have to take risks, that's just the way it is.

MLG: Is Gastón Acurio a brand?

GA: I don't know. One of my objectives had been to turn Astrid & Gaston into a brand and to be able to do that, it was important to transmit a philosophy, refine the tools, and create the staff so that we could expand this vision to Chile, Colombia, and Ecuador.

The idea was to make Peruvians feel proud about our cuisine. And we have accomplished that.

MLG: When you just arrived back to Peru from Europe [Note: where Gastón Acurio trained at the Cordon Bleu], you were a young chef with French affectations. At what point did you look deep into your own navel and realize you had to cook for Peru?

GA: I was a stupid kid who had been trained in France and thought that French cuisine was the only and best cuisine in the world. My first menu was completely French; by the second one, tacu tacu had made an appearance followed by lomo saltado. And by the third year, I was only cooking Peruvian food with my own touches.

I tried to cultivate one of the great virtues that we Peruvians have with regards to cooking: the total absence of any kind of nationalist chauvanism.

In Peru, we don't close our culinary borders to anything that is good and delicious. We are Chinese, Arab, Spanish, and Japanese, all at the same time. That's our key virtue, what distinguishes us, and makes us powerful: our willingness to accept the hodgepodge nature of our cuisine.

MLG: What happened to that eight-year old boy who used to make his own calamari chicharrón?

GA: I'm an eternal child because the kitchen is a place of enjoyment, of happiness.

A bitter chef can never make anything good, and neither can a chef who only thinks about money.

The only concern of a true chef is the client's happiness.

You can't skimp on anything; you have to try to attain perfection and reach even the must unsuspecting limits of your creativity. At first, you have to completely devote yourself so that later you can figure out how it can become something profitable.

MLG: Well, it appears you have reached your goals. Today, investors pay you to cook for them.

GA: I've managed to convince them that is the best way to guarantee their investment. I'd be lost if I had to sit at a desk all day. I have to be in my kitchen, doing what I know best. That's the trick.

MLG: How did you manage to attain that dream: that a Peruvian cebicherí­a would have as many branches in the world as an Italian trattoria?

GA: I'm cooking so that in the next 20 years there will be 5,000 cebicherí­as in the world. That would mean an increase in Peru's exports of ají­ amarillo, our sweet potato, our chefs.

MLG: Do you dream about that day?

GA: Daily. And, I believe it can come true. The face of sheer pleasure I see on tourists' faces when they savor a Peruvian ceviche for the first time is something unique. I want our cebiche to become popular and I always tell [Peruvian] Minister [of Tourism] Ferrero that he has to promote causa and tiradito because that's the only way we can increase the demand for ají­ amarillo.

MLG: I've met people like you, who had a dream, who began from nothing, and then triumphed. There's always a common factor: passion. And the patience to work hard to attain each goal.

GA: As far as I'm concerned, things only have one path but different processes. Desperation is not a good counselor for perfection.

Currently, I am getting ready to expand my La Mar
cebicherí­a worldwide and I need to simplify to the maximum the processes so that here in Peru, or in China, the person who is preparing the tacu tacu has no room for error.

To attain my dream, I have to attain the flavor base that is the most pure essence of
tacu tacu. That's what the Chinese have been doing for years, working hard at it, and why they now export so many sauces.

For the past six months, I have been experimenting, tasting, and rejecting; full of patience, because I know where I want to go.

I want to be able to travel to Singapore and find a
cebicherí­a and a sangucherí­a [Peruvian sandwich shop] where I can get a sandwich of chicharrón.

MLG: Who taught you to love Peru?

GA: My father. At home, we always talked about politics, and about Peru above all else.

MLG: What do politicians taste like?

GA: Like grapefruit. You can't always swallow them. Lack of leadership is one of our country's greatest problems.

MLG: Who's your candidate [in the upcoming Peruvian presidential elections]?

GA: I would hope someone who can attain a consensus. We need that for at least another ten years to lead us to a new stage of social peace.

MLG: Are you drawn more towards [Alan] Garcí­a or [Lourdes] Flores Nano? [Note: at the time of the original interview, the two leading presidential candidates; García won the election.]

GA: The first thing I consider are ethics, and I don't see how Garcí­a fits into that mold.

MLG: So, it's Lourdes...

GA: No. I prefer Yehude Simon. I think he has been able to reconcile the position of workers with that of businesspeople thanks to a modern vision that doesn't betray his leftist ideals. Why couldn't he join forces with [former President and current candidate] Valentí­n Paniagua?

MLG: Is Gastón a man of consensus or is he a radical?

GA: I am a man of consensus except with regards to two things. I can't stand it when the powerful overrun the powerless. And I can't stand someone who grew up with all the benefits, and despite that background, ends up looting the country. I have nothing to say to those kinds of people. We are on opposing teams.

MLG: You have a particular closeness towards people of humble backgrounds. On your television program, you take us to small hole-in-the-walls where the cooks are simple people, who create delicious flavors.

GA: I learn a lot from humble people. They are the ones who with very little create something beautiful. Their lack of material posessions make them creative, sophisticated. Every week, I learn from them and I become more convinced of how insignificant I am, that I know nothing at all.

MLG: If you were mayor of Lima, would you allow the vendors of street food to come back?

GA: Of course. I would turn them into a well-founded institution so they form part of the urban landscape. Tourists love that sort of thing --eating picarones, anticuchos, papa rellena-- on a street corner. But you know what our history is like, we're the first to boycott ourselves.

MLG: Are fried eggs on white rice still one of your favorite dishes?

GA: Of course, and now it's among my daughters' favorite dishes.

MLG: You once told me you had a very prickly personality. That people either loved or hated you.

GA: These days I am more prickly than ever. I have become a loner which goes against what people may imagine about me. The sensitivity I demonstrate in the kitchen takes time away from the people I love. There are many people who depend on me now. The public is always wondering about future projects, and I feel such a strong pressure that I seek refuge like a prickly sea urchin. I keep my charms safe within an armor full of spines.

MLG: And who takes care of that prickly sea urchin?

GA: My family is my refuge. But I am also at a stage in which I wonder how much I'll be judged by my wife and daughters for all the time I don't spend with them. I'm in a period of questioning. I have my doubts and the only thing that convinces me to carry on is what I told you at the beginning of this interview: I am not willing to be judged as part of a generation of failures.

MLG: Do you feel guilty because you aren't able to spend that much time with your daughters?

GA: A lot. And, I don't consider myself a good father. At this moment, they wish I could be with them at their gymnastics practice and I'm not. I'm here.

MLG: Are they little chefs?

GA: Not at all. The kitchen is the enemy that stole Daddy.

MLG: Have you reconciled with your wife?

GA: Yes, and I'm very happy.

MLG: Not too long ago, you said that without your wife your life would be lost. I found it to be a beautiful statement.

GA: It's absolutely true. Astrid is a chef, like I am, and at the onset we didn't know how to handle that.

MLG: Did you compete?

GA: Yes. We didn't know how to deal with that. I suspect it's not a good idea to get married to someone with whom you share the same profession, and who works in the same place as you do, because then it becomes monotonous, with the possibility of arguments, and then you lose it all.

But above everything else, Astrid is the person who most inspires me. She is the only person whose on-the-mark criticisms I fear, and the only one I trust wholly, besides my parents. It's good to know that you have a person beside you who is unable to hurt you. I trust her. That is invaluable.

MLG: What was it like getting back together? I imagine, somewhat explosive...

GA: No. The first year was the worst. Our separation meant we each accumulated a series of resentments. There was a lot of ají­ and peppers between us until all of sudden, peace appeared, complicity, the inability to judge, and that deep love that is above and beyond anything else.

MLG: Forgiveness appeared?

GA: That's it! Forgiveness appeared. And once you forgive, love and peace arrive. Afterwards, the only way to be is to enjoy the simplest things.

MLG: What has money given you?

GA: I don't know because I don't know what that means. I don't have bank accounts.

MLG: Don't kid us!

GA: No. The money is where it has to be. Right now, I am laying the groundwork to make La Mar an international chain. And you spend money doing that. Attaining the base of Peruvian flavor is very expensive.

MLG: Why haven't you opened any restaurants in the [Peruvian] provinces?

GA: Because of fear, anger, frustration. I'm afraid of opening a restaurant, then discovering that unfortunately, people can't afford it. I become fearful remembering that one of our country's failures is that our economy is centralized in Lima.

MLG: How about that project to open a free cooking school in the Virú Valley [in northern Peru]?

GA: It's progressing, and part of my money goes there. We want to establish an independent foundation, with support of the World Bank. Since our national government acclaims our country's cuisine yet doesn't construct any public culinary academies, we'll have to do it ourselves. I want it to be the best cooking school in the world.

MLG: The sky's the limit for you, isn't it?

GA: We should all think that way.

MLG: I'm curious about something. If tomorrow, you had the opportunity to eat your last Peruvian dish, what would it be?

GA: I would eat a ceviche. You can never get tired of it. A good eviche brings happiness to the soul.

MLG: What dessert would you choose?

GA: There is nothing like a good, well-made, piping-hot picarón. It's indescribable: crunchy outside, soft inside.

MLG: And if you had to pay tribute to your daughters for their patience, for all the time you don't spend with them, what would you cook for them?

GA: We would have an orgy of corn flakes. I would cook them a fantasy world with their favorite cereal. As a chef, and in my life in general, I try to make people happy and provide them what they already enjoy. Thinking about other people's pleasure pleases me.

Website for Astrid & Gaston Restaurant

Read more about Gastón Acurio here at Peru Food by clicking on any of the links below:

Gaston Acurio: Inexhaustible Creativity

Video: Anthony Bourdain in Peru

Another Interview with Gaston Acurio

Gaston Acurio Interviewed by Elena Hernández in Panama's Diario La Prensa

At Madrid Fusion Elena Hernández Chats with Gaston Acurio

Gaston Acurio

Astrid & Gaston Restaurant

Click here for the Peru Food main page.

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

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Peru Food Update

So sorry, dear readers, I have not been posting as much recently, being very busy with my non-cyberspace life. And since that life pays the bills---well, you know how that is.

I do know this blog gets a regular amount of visitors, from many countries in the world, and I thank all of you who visit and enjoy this page. Please feel free to leave a comment if you found any helpful or interesting information. Your comments encourage me to continue in this endeavor.

Gracias a todos los que visitan esta página, y si lo disfrutan o si encuentran alguna información útil, sus comentarios me dan las ganas de seguir adelante en este proyecto medio loco de promover la cocina peruana en el mundo anglófono. La página está en inglés precisamente porque hay muchas páginas en el internet en castellano
pero pocas en inglés sobre la comida del Perú. Este blog nace de mi amor por el Perú y su cocina, y lo hago sin ningún fin lucrativo o comercial. Ojalá sea del agrado de todos ustedes.

Currently, I am working on the following for the blog:

I'm preparing a new translation of an interview with Gastón Acurio, which I hope to post in the near future.

I know that many of you who visit this page are searching for Peruvian recipes. I admit, although I love Peruvian cusine, I am not a chef so I don't have my own personal recipes to share with you, but I do have fairly decent internet research skills so right now I am also working on compiling links to the best Peruvian recipes in English available on the internet. I'll also be posting those links some time in the near future.

Finally, the most exciting news is that I'm planning on making a quick trip to Peru in the next month or so, and with digital camera in tow, I hope to bring you back loads of photos, so keep visiting.

In the meantime, enjoy the blog, and more importantly, enjoy Peruvian food.



Monday, March 06, 2006

Asia de Cuba in San Isidro, Lima

All photos courtesy of Asia de Cuba.

All photos courtesy of Asia de Cuba.

All photos courtesy of Asia de Cuba.

All photos courtesy of Asia de Cuba.

Here is a link for a well-designed website for Asia de Cuba Restaurant Sushi Bar in San Isidro.

You can't go too wrong if you offer sushi, cocktails, good music, and pretty people.

Asia de Cuba Restaurant Sushi Bar
Avenida Conquistadores 780
San Isidro
Monday to Saturday, after 7. p.m.
Website: Asia de Cuba

Thursday, March 02, 2006

La Choza Nautica in Breña, Lima

Every time I am in Lima, I always land at this place at least a few times. The specialties are all seafood-based, the service is friendly, the atmosphere is casual, and although the pisco sours aren't my favorite here, they have a good wine list (Peruvian and Chilean vintages), and loads of ice-cold beer.

All images courtesy of La Choza Nautica.

Located near central Lima in the Breña district, I must say that the nearby Alfonso Ugarte Boulevard and Plaza Bolognesi can be dodgy, especially after dark, so take a taxi unless you know the area well. La Choza Nautica is located on a little side street that is sometimes difficult to find, so I posted the map from the restaurant's website here.

The word choza means a shack, and the name of the restaurant is a play on words, based on a much more elegant restaurant, on a pier overlooking the Pacific, La Rosa Naútica, meaning The Nautical Rose. La Choza Naútica literally means The Nautical Shack.

Yet despite (or, as a result of) its unpretentious environment, as well as its commitment to excellence in the kitchen, La Choza Naútica is visited by locals and foreigners alike, as well as by Peruvian politicians and media personalities. It tends to get crowded at lunch, and even at dinner, there are crowds. There are actually two locales, directly across the street from one another, but the original is the smaller of the two.

Ceviche in a Creamy Rocoto Sauce

La Choza Naútica is also just a couple of blocks away from the Peruvian immigration offices, so those who have business there (such as extending their tourist visas) should stop in for lunch.

Choros a la Chalaca: Mussels Topped with Onions, Tomatoes, and Rocoto

They do have a website (only in Spanish) but it gives you a good sense of the place and the quality of the food they provide.

La Choza Nautica
Avenida Breña 204
Block 1 of Avenida Arica, right off Plaza Bolognesi

Web Page: La Choza Nautica

Click here for the Peru Food main page.

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