When thinking of world cuisines people quickly identify French food as the frontrunner of Europe, Mexico as the clear leader in North America and Japanese as the most exquisite of Asia. When it comes to South America, Peru has undeniably established itself as the gastronomic capital. In fact, the coastal-Andean-jungle nation has received various global accolades for its cuisine – perhaps serving France, Mexico and Japan a healthy serving of humble pie.
El Perú, as locals call it, is certainly one of the most fascinating countries in the world. Breathtaking landscapes, a rich history and unique cultures distinguish the country as a shining star, sparkling brightly in the eyes of foreigners – even in comparison to its closest South American neighbours. At first glance, it would seem that over the past decade Peru has been largely hiding under the veil of Machu Picchu’s mystic. Upon closer examination however, you’ll find that Peru’s cuisine and celebrity chefs have taken the world by culinary storm. Today, large crowds of travellers visit Peru not only to marvel at its archaeological ruins and immerse themselves in its living cultures, but also to sample Peruvian cuisine and dine at Lima’s renowned restaurants, three of which are among the World’s 50 Best.
PERU’S CULINARY HERITAGE
Peru’s rich history and exchange between the Spanish, Africans, Chinese, Japanese, Italians and native indigenous groups, are the key ingredients to its renowned culturally-infused cuisine. This, coupled with a diverse geography and a rich variety of foods, make the perfect recipe for the country’s colourful and flavoursome gastronomic blueprint. A unique Peruvian flavour and cooking style wasn’t however, born in a vacuum. After decades of a Eurocentric influence and culinary approach, several Peruvian chefs began to return to their roots by promoting home grown local dishes.
This transition not only impacted the way Peruvians saw their own food but it also gained the attention and recognition of Peruvian cuisine from around the globe. One of these Chefs was Gaston Acurio, who after decades of serving French dishes in the Peruvian capital, began promoting ingredients such as quinoa, which at that time was considered a “poor man’s food.” Today, Acurio not only has one of the world’s best restaurants in Lima, but he’s also the mastermind behind 32 restaurants in other countries. It’s also safe to say that quinoa has become a global ingredient with a ‘super food’ reputation.
For travellers looking for the ultimate adventure and gastronomic experience, Peru delivers in spades. With three distinct regions, the country’s attractions and cuisine is as diverse as its landscape. Traditional cuisine is characterised by local and fresh native ingredients. The western border of Peru is framed by the Pacific Ocean and a desert landscape. It is here you’ll find a bounty of Peruvian dishes made with fresh fish and seafood, such as ceviche. In the eastern throes of the country lies the great sprawl of the Amazon rainforest.
Constituting approximately sixty percent of Peru’s landmass and standing as one of the most diverse and biologically rich zones of the planet, the Amazonas boasts an abundance of ingredients, including the Brazil nut, plantain and freshwater fish. Finally, running lengthways from north to south of Peru are the Andes Mountain Range – Peru’s Highlands and spine of South America. Peruvian ingredients including potatoes, corn and an assortment of tubers are harvested in this region, while cuy (guinea pig) and alpaca are staple meats.
THE GASTRONOMIC CAPITAL OF LATIN AMERICA
Peru’s capital city and main point of entry for travellers, Lima, is a melting pot of cultures from throughout the country. And perhaps due to this ethnic diversity, the city has found its identity in the fusion of cuisines from around the country and across the globe. Renowned as the ‘Gastronomic Capital of Latin America’, Lima’s culinary scene is being spearheaded by the Peru’s top Chefs and culinary entrepreneurs alike.
Last year, the World Travel Awards named Peru as the World’s Leading Culinary Destination for the 5th consecutive year and The World’s 50 Best Restaurant awards, listed three of Lima’s leading restaurants with Central at number 4, Maido at number 13 and Astrid y Gaston at number 30. With the World’s 50 Best set to take place in Melbourne on April 5th, Peru is certain to see its gastronomic status soar to even greater heights.
GET YOUR OWN TASTE
Peru has never been more accessible to Australians! LATAM airlines, Qantas and Air New Zealand make the leap across the Pacific Ocean to Latin American the air hubs of Santiago, Chile and Buenos Aires, Argentina, with various short onward connections to Lima available. The chic Lima neighbours of Miraflores and Barranco are home to a variety of stylish and boutique hotels including the recently opened Hotelito Atemporal in Miraflores. A host of food tours and hands- on workshops, including cocktail and ceviche-making classes are available.
A trip to the Surquillo Market in Lima offers travellers the opportunity to see and taste fresh Peruvian produce and ingredients. For those who care to dabble in fine dining at some of the World’s Best, advance reservations are essential. And for the absolute cherry on top of the Peruvian cake, head to Lima in September for Peru’s Mistura Food Festival. With over 9 years in the running, this food festival attracts thousands of people from across the globe for the ultimate Peruvian gastronomic fusion.