It is after getting to know the real history of Peruvian food that we can understand the origins of the great variety of dishes and ingredients found in it.
It is a story with a lot of shades, where the mixture of cultures and traditions is clearly observed in every culinary presentation.
Peru is a generous and diverse land. It is enough to say that it has 84 of the 104 climatic zones of the world. Its ground provides more than 400 kinds of potatoes, and 2,000 kinds of sweet potato. There are more than 600 original fruits from Peru and the sea offers more than 2,000 varieties of fishes, making Peru the country with the most diverse marine fauna in the globe.
However, the rich flavor and color found in Peruvian food is not only thanks to the previously mentioned, but also thanks to the creativity of its people through history. They were able to mix in a perfect way the different ingredients offered from the Peruvian ground and sea.
The history of the Peruvian food begins with the Inca Empire. They used aromatic herbs with the use of chili and salt as main ingredients. They also took advantage of the marine fauna and seafood and they ate duck, cuy (guinea pig), llama and alpaca meat. They used special cooking techniques, like dehydration, stewing and roasting. It is in this time when the first version of ceviche (an emblematic Peruvian dish) was born and also the tasty pachamanca was created.
Then, after the Spanish arrived to this land, a cultural mix is made where new ingredients and new techniques are introduced, so new dishes were born that would later be well known for its great flavor and originality. This cultural mix brought with it the use of new supplies like: wheat, oranges, apples, peaches, onions, coriander, sugar, dairy and meat like beef and poultry.
With the use of these new ingredients, in addition to the ones already used by the indigenous, there were new dishes born, like the puchero, chicharron, cazuela, sancochado, ocopa, and others.
Peruvian food has also some influence from African origins, because of the African slaves from the Spanish. These slaves were fed from the remaining food from their masters, consisting in animal entrails like the heart, belly, kidney, intestines, among others. These types of supplies originated dishes like anticucho, pancita, cau cau and others.
It is worth mentioning that, after Peru’s independence in 1821, free entrance to foreigners is decreed. With this movement came different changes in the way of cooking, due to the cultural influence from Europe and Asia (Chinese and Japanese). In 1857 there were more than 20,000 foreigners living in Lima alone.
As a part of this culinary fusion, specially with Italian cuisine, pasta and vegetables were introduced, like basil, spinach, cauliflower, and others, giving birth to new dishes like menestron, ravioles, mondonguito, green noodles (tallarines verdes) and more. After that, Chinese techniques were introduced like sautéed and there was an intensive use of rice in the Peruvian daily diet. One of the most recognized dishes created under this Chinese influence was the sautéed loin (lomo saltado), or the chaufa rice and sautéed noodles (tallarin saltado).
Japanese arrival brought a valuable input to the varied gastronomy. Fish was commonly used, and thanks to the cooking techniques, marinated with the acid juices from lemon, the ceviche was born, a Peruvian emblematic dish. Besides, there were other types of dishes coming from this fusion, like the fish tiradito.
Now, after getting to know more about the history of Peruvian food, there are no questions on how this famous gastronomy came to have such a diverse amount of dishes, with exquisite flavor, incomparable smells and great colors in every presentation, that make anyone that tastes this delights drop to their knees for it.
What do you think about Peruvian food? What is your favorite dish? After reading the origins of Peruvian cuisine, what interests you the most? We would love to hear your opinion. Leave a comment and keep enjoying our tasteful gastronomy.