When a country’s sole passion is food, there can be nothing better – especially for a chef. I got a taste of this almost 15 years ago when I was aboard one of the world’s largest ocean liners as a crew member. At the time, Peruvian cuisine was relatively unknown to most of the world. Today, Peru is one of the most exciting culinary destinations with 3 of the world’s 50 best restaurants being in Lima!
My trip to Peru was all kinds of wonderful. Invited for the 9th edition of the Mistura Food Festival, I found myself enchanted once again – the ‘kid-in-candy land’ kind of situation was back! The Mistura (mixture) Festival is Lima’s annual food festival that pays tribute to the country’s gastronomical heritage. And what a heady mixture it is!
In the span of two days, I discovered the country’s culinary delights from different regions – right from the Andes to the Amazon Basin.
The set up was enchanting – a sprawling market showcased the country’s indigenous produce while brewers of pisco and wine, ‘carretilleros’ (street carts) and a hearty dose of cultural events and dances brought Latin America’s largest food festival to life.
Coming to the food, it was was colourful, unique and endless. From classics like the ceviche (preferred for lunch by the locals) to the nutritious quinoa (a pseudo grain widely used in Peru) and the unique ‘cuy,’ (known to us as guinea pig…really!), one could find every possible Peruvian delight. Every aspect of the food lends an insight into their rich history and culture. Mistura is the place where it all comes together. More than 200 restaurants featured seafood, sandwiches, rustic country food and sweets along with 300 farmers who sold and showcased their best produce with a focus on the ‘legume’ this year.
The Festival displayed fire- roasting on all kinds of grills. Crowds lined up for dishes like the ‘chancho al palo’ or fire-roasted pork, ‘antichuchos’ – pieces of meat (mainly beef heart) marinated in vinegar and spices grilled on skewers and the sweet ‘picaron,’ a kind of doughnut made with squash and sweet potato.
2016’s Mistura Food Festival shared its culinary table with other countries including India, Mexico and Morocco. This special addition was made to elevate the festival to include international cuisines that share similar culinary traditions including the use of spices like star anise and cinnamon to create flavourful dishes with powerful aromas. Ah! The smell of culinary culture! I feel like I’m never going to get enough. Lucky for me, this seems like it’s just the beginning. And lucky for you, there are still a lot of Peru stories to be told! Stay tuned.