going to Peru, part 3

panorama of miraflores coast

so close I can almost taste it!

Are you going to Peru with me in October? It’s coming up soon! I have my plane tickets and the itinerary is confirmed… so close I can almost taste the ceviche, the pisco, and the hundreds of other flavors I’ve never experienced before!

If you’re still on the fence about joining me, the time to decide is coming up soon – August 26th, to be exact. That’s the deadline for booking with full payment. There are still a few spots left, so click through and claim yours while you can!

Keep reading for more good reasons to join me… or just reasons to put Peru on your bucket list for future travels.

reason 1: learn to cook like a Peruvian

One of the things that make this trip special is that in the weeks before you even pack your bags we’ll have some fun times cooking together (virtually). We’re going to learn more about Peruvian food and how to cook like a Peruvian. 

cover Latin American Cookbook

Once everyone is confirmed for the trip, I’ll send out a copy of Virgilio Martinez’s book, The Latin American Cookbook, along with some recipe assignments. Then we’ll have our own little cookbook club in preparation for our visit to his award-winning restaurant, Central. 

Even if you’re not joining me live in Peru, you can join me in the Autumn 2022 cookbook group through 92NY for The Diverse Flavors of Latin America. Or follow along here – I’ll be sharing the highlights of both the trip and the cookbooks on Wander Eat and Tell.

The best part will be while we’re in Peru! Our itinerary has three more culinary learning experiences – for those, I’ll be a student right alongside you. I can’t wait! This will be my first trip to Peru as well, and I’m thrilled to be able to share my learning adventure with you (in person, or on this blog). We’ll be visiting farms and growers, markets, street carts, and the #2 of the San Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants in the World for 2022.

reason 2: ceviche!

Here’s a dish with history that dates back millennia. In fact, although the word might have Spanish origins (the jury is still out on that), the concept of ceviche is ancient. Historians believe it was first made in or near Huanchaco, a town on the northern Pacific coast of Peru where eating raw fish cured with chile peppers and seaweed is believed to date back to pre-Inca times. This was before the acidity from fresh citrus found its way into the recipe. Onions, bitter orange, limes, and other citrus were introduced by the Spanish in the late 15-century and were quickly adopted into traditional ceviche recipes. 

Today the acidity is commonly from fresh lime juice. The combination of tart lime, fiery hot chiles, onion, and the trimming from the fish is called leche de tigre (tiger’s milk). This spicy zinger of a concoction is used to create ceviche, but it is also consumed on its own as a refreshing shot to cure hangovers.

myth busting

It’s a popular misunderstanding that the acidity “cooks” the fish. Actually, the acidity denatures the proteins, changing their consistency to resemble cooked. Another common misconception is that all ceviche is raw. It’s not. Some are made from seafood that is cooked before being seasoned with the leche de tigre

“In Peru, [ceviche is] served with everything from sweet potato to toasted corn, and even rice in some pockets of the north; in Ecuador it features tomato and occasionally peanuts. Mexicans, meanwhile, eat it on tacos or as a seafood cocktail, often with avocado, and on the coasts of Honduras, it’s often made with coconut milk.”

Rebecca Seal (NatGeo)

As part of my preparation for this adventure, I decided to practice a little Peruvian cooking at home, working from a recipe from The Latin American Cookbook. I made Street Cart Ceviche with cancha serrana (toasted Andean corn kernels) and boiled sweet potato. I even made a video for you…

reason 3: Peru is an internationally-renowned culinary destination 

We’ve already learned a bit about the incomparable biodiversity of the foods in Peru and the region’s contribution to world culinary heritage. And there’s more… for multiple years in a row, Peru has been awarded the distinction of “Best Culinary Destination in Latin America”. 

This is, at least in part, attributed to the work of a few chefs, all of whom have restaurants that have been recognized in the 50 Best in the World, and one, Central, was awarded “ Restaurant of the Decade in Latin America.” 

world famous chefs

It all started with Gastón Acurio. He’s credited with putting Peruvian cuisine “on the map”. He started out looking for a simple life with a restaurant making the foods of his heritage. He went on to become the founder of about 34 restaurants world-wide (including 9 in Peru), and the godfather of many of the culinary influencers who followed.

Virgilio Martinez was a protégé of Acurio. He’s gone on to become one of the greatest influences on the world’s perception of Peruvian cuisine. 

Pía León, executive chef and co-owner of Central with husband Virgilio Martinez, was named World’s Best Woman Chef in 2021. She recently opened her own restaurant, Kjolle (pronounced KOY-ay) – named after a regional flowering tree that only blooms at high altitudes. 

visit Central (with me!)

Mitsuharu (Micha) Tsumura, chef and owner of Maido in Lima, is another world-renowned chef is Peruvian of Japanese descent, or Nikkei. More on this important facet of the Peruvian culinary landscape below.

Nikkei cuisine

At the end of the 19th century, over 7000 Japanese workers arrived in Peru to work on sugar plantations. Today they make up one of South America’s largest ethnic Japanese populations, called nikkei, the Japanese word for emigrant.

Nikkei cuisine is a distinctly Peruvian construct and is a wonderful story of how an immigrant group had a deep, enduring impact on the cuisine of their new home. For starters, despite a beautiful coastline on the Pacific Ocean, the Peruvians didn’t eat much seafood outside traditional fishing communities in the north. The Japanese changed that and elevated ceviche to a national dish. 

You’ve probably heard of the world’s most famous Nikkei chef without even knowing the connection… if you’ve ever eaten at Nobu, you’ve had Nikkei cuisine. Chef Nobu Matsuhisa moved to Lima and opened his first restaurant in 1973, later he brought Nikkei to the US the 1980s.

One of the best restaurants for Nikkei cuisine is Maido in Lima, which in 2021 was ranked number one in Latin America and 10th in the world, according to the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. That’s where you’ll find above mentioned chef Micha Tsumura. It’s on my must-do list while I’m in Lima!

Are you ready to join me in Peru in October 2022?

In case you missed it in my last post…

Pisco Punch Recipe

The classic Pisco Punch is made with gum Arabic. Not impossible to find, but not something most of us have in our home bar kits. If you do, there’s a great version of the 1890s original HERE).

Instead of gum Arabic, I’m taking a lead from Serious Eats and making pineapple syrup.

Pineapple Syrup

4 cups granulated sugar

2 cup water

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 pineapple, peeled, and cut into 1-inch cubes

1. Combine the sugar, water, and salt in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil and hold for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

2. Prepare the pineapple. Put the chunks in a large container with a lid. Cover with the sugar syrup. Refrigerate overnight.

3. Strain. Can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 5-7 days.

Pisco Punch (1 serving)

2 ounces Peruvian pisco

1 ounce unsweetened pineapple juice

1/2 ounce pineapple syrup (more, to taste)

1/2 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice

1. Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake for a minute. Taste.

2. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass with or without fresh ice. (I like ice, you may prefer “up”)


cover photo credit: Photo by Willian Justen de Vasconcellos on Unsplash

Maricel Presilla, Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America.



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