How this South American nation combines history and culture to serve delicious gourmet treats to Indians
Let’s face it, most Indians wouldn’t mentally save Peru. This is different from its South American neighbors, Brazil and Argentina, which thanks to their football heroes Pelé and Maradona – and now Neymar and Messi – have some recognition among Indians. But did you know that Peru is home to some of the best restaurants in the world, and Peruvian cuisine has grown in popularity around the world over the past decade? After all, the South American nation is blessed with abundant produce, thanks to its Pacific coastline, the Andes mountains, and the Amazon rainforest. Believe it not, the humble potato has over 2,000 varieties in Peru!
Add to this the multiple cultural influences that have shaped Peruvian cuisine throughout its history. From ancient Incas to Spanish, Arab, African, Chinese and Japanese influences, Peruvian gastronomy is literally an amalgamation of flavors from all continents. Which immediately means that Peruvian food has a flavor profile that every person on the planet can relate to. Combine that with Pisco – the grape brandy Peru is proud of – and you’ve got a winning combination.
I know Peru is a world apart from India. And the Covid pandemic has only increased that distance. But what if Peru could come to you? To be more precise, Peruvian cuisine could teleport us to the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, serenade us on the beaches of Lima and take us through the Peruvian rainforest. In fact, that’s what’s on offer at the Peruvian Food Festival at Le Meridien Delhi today through December 12. The festival invites foodies to try an exquisite menu prepared by Peruvian chef Julio Castillo which includes the famous Ceviche – marinated lime fish – the delicious Causa – mashed potatoes layered with fish – the cozy Aji de Gallina – stew creamy chicken baked with Peruvian yellow chili – and the decadent desserts Suspiro a la Limena and the crazy Mazamorra Morada – purple corn porridge with fruit.
On a more serious note, Peru’s food boom in recent years is also part of a deeper effort to bring the diverse country together, heal the wounds of the past, and reinvigorate the nation. Because, between 1980 and 2000, Peru was unfortunately affected by a conflict which left around 70,000 dead and fractured the social fabric and race relations in this country. Through gastronomy, Peruvian society repairs these divides that have passed through a process in which each segment can participate, enjoy and be proud. This is precisely why the new Peruvian cuisine is put forward as collaborative, bringing together urban chefs and rural indigenous farmers. This is also the reason why Peruvian gastronomy today is focused on fusion and the pride of excellent results where the sum is truly greater than the parts.
This is a sentiment Indians will recognize given that Indian society is no stranger to food policy. With regional Indian cuisine on the verge of mainstreaming today, Peru’s gastronomic rise is something we might aspire to as well. But this is all for the future. For now, let’s toast some Pisco to Peru’s culinary success and enjoy a sumptuous Ceviche.
The opinions expressed above are those of the author.
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