Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Typical Peruvian Meal

In Peru, it is apparent that the native diet is comprised of meat and potatoes, much like an American barbecue, but with slight differences. They use different spices, cook different meats, and wash it all down with different beers. What follows is a taste of one of our favorite local meals. It is their version of the simple, easy dinner, and most definitely the perfect meal for sitting around a table laughing, drinking, and eating with your hands. Enjoy!

3 aji or jalapeno chiles
3 tbs dried crushed red chiles
1 tbs achiote (red seeds)
1½ tsp cumin seeds
2 tbs olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
¾ cups red wine vinegar
½ tsp salt
Fresh ground black pepper
4 lbs cow heart (or beef pieces), cut into 1"

Simmer the Annatto and cumin seeds in the oil for 5 minutes. Strain the oil to use and discard the seeds. Place all the ingredients for the marinade in a blender and puree until smooth. Marinate the meat overnight in the refrigerator. Thread meat onto skewers. Grill or broil the skewers until medium-rare. Baste the meat frequently until done.

Accompany this delicious Peruvian meal with a local Peruvian beer...

Pilsen Callao: This beer, seemingly the most famous beer here in Lima, is actually brewed in the neighboring municipality of Callao. It's a light flavored beer that may resemble a typical light beer found in the States, but with a very distinct bitter taste. Also, Pilsen offers a stout called "Polar". This, too, is very different in richness to that of Guiness or Murphy's. It is much more bitter and bit more sweet (and only a bit when compared to Peru's other prominent beer, Cusquena, that offers a dark beer that is so sweet it may lead to tooth decay). When eating anticucho's, however, make sure you choose a bottle of the Pilsen Callao (the light version that can be found in some places in the US) to wash down that cow heart.

Every plate of anticuchos (thus far) has been finished off with the best Peruvian dessert to date, Picarones. A dessert which was adapted out of necessity from the more expensive buñuelos, a fried dough ball, in the colonial period (1800s). The sweet potato now used for Picarones was and is a much cheaper ingredient than the anise that was used in the buñuelos. This donut-shaped delight is a cross between a sweet potato pie and funnel cake, smothered in a brown sugar syrup. Mmm...just imagine.

If you really want to try making them, here's a nice, easy to read, but long recipe: southamericanfood.about.com/od/snacksstreetfood/r/picarones.htm.


  1. What's the sauce on the picarones? Is that the sweet potato pie part?

  2. The sweet potato is in the dough. And the sauce can be either a thinned out molasses or brown sugar syrup. I've seen both versions in my research! :) Thanks for asking!