L ima Peru is a metropolis of some ten million people and it is known locally as La Ciudad de Cien Razas- The City of a Hundred Races.
The capital of Peru is now at the highest echelon of global cuisine, seeing three restaurants in the world’s top fifty restaurants in 2017. These restaurants of Central, Maido and Astrid y Gaston, and others, are enticing visitors to savor the flavors of something new on their vacations to Peru. At Totally Latin America we strive to create special and unique experiences for our luxury Peru tours and so we have offered a superb food tour in Lima, with a twist. Not only do you get to experience the flavors of Peru but you make them happen with your very own hands.
Ignacio Barrios is a spirited Peruvian chef who has worked extensively in both London and Madrid. He has ventured back to his native Peru to begin a business of what is termed “participative cooking” in Lima Peru. The business is called Urban Kitchen; it’s not a restaurant and it’s not a cookery class, it’s a great space in between. They offer tours of the local markets to source fresh produce and explain the path of how Peru has become a global cynosure of culinary excellence. The produce is then taken to their kitchens where tourists are taught how to create local dishes with their very own hands; all being done in a fun environment. This tour is not just for visitors as it is equally popular with native Limeños as an authentic fun day out with friends and colleagues.
Let’s See What It’s All About
We met at the Produce Market in San Isidro district of Lima, this small market contains a scintillating display of fresh produce, from both the nearby Pacific Ocean, and also from the diverse lands of Peru. First meeting and we feel at ease as Ignacio is truly passionateabout his country and all of what it offers the gastronomic traveller. We are promptly told the success of Peruvian cuisine is a combination of the following:
- Product Diversity
- Cultural Fusion
- People influence
Peru has three main geographically diverse regions of desert coast, Andes Mountains and the Amazon Jungle. However, Ignacio is keen to point out that Peru also has a recognised eighty-four microclimates and so an astounding mix of produce is available, much greater than three divisions. He explains how the natural micro-climates are complemented by handcrafted mountain terracing since Inca times, allowing different crops to be sown at different altitudes, often in rugged topographies.
In the fusion of cultures Ignacio raises the development of the national dish of Peru, the renowned ceviche. It is typically a sea bass, or similar fish, marinated in lime juice. It has seen cultural influences by the introduction of citrus fruits which came via the Spanish conquistadors to Peru, firstly oranges and latterly limes. Previously the dish used salt and chili as a preservative. This enabled the fish to survive journeys of up to two days being carried by the Inca runners called chasquis that delivered fresh produce, on foot, across the empire. Today that evolution continues, and Ignacio cites how even in his own grandmother’s time ceviche was prepared differently. It being previously left to sit for an hour or two before consumption whereas now, with increasing Japanese influence, the dish is now consumed almost immediately.
The recent propulsion to a world stage and audience is also due to the work of both chefs and the Peruvian Government. The foods are not new, they have been there for centuries but are being rediscovered by a new global audience. We learn of the exemplary Peruvian chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino and his restaurant Malabar. Pedro Miguel, with much foresight, visited the Amazon jungle on weekly excursions to source rare and exotic foods to bring to Lima. He worked his artistic and culinary wizardry, and customers then began to seek out these foods for their own cooking. Before long, Peruvian cuisine rose to the pinnacle of gastronomic mastery. Even governments began to notice and today the promotion of Peruvian food is a centerpiece of the national agency Prom Peru.
Today at the fish stalls we learn that the Peruvian Pacific Humboldt waters carry one of the richest fishing harvests on our planet. Cesar today offers a fresh range which includes squid, scallops and shrimp all native to Peruvian shores.
The fruit and vegetable section of the market are a blaze of color and you can’t help but be drawn to the eye-catching arrays on display. The range of produce in this market alone is immense with exotics like lucuma, chirimoya, guayaba and camu camu nestled amongst a host of others. Ignacio is open to questions, and there is a wonderful history to how many fruits and vegetables are being reborn to a new audience. Both locals and tourists are actively seeking out advice to learn how to source and cook local foods, and this is the perfect place to do so. Ignacio recalls seeing tree tomatoes in a London market that had come from Colombia and it rejuvenated his childhood memories of how Peru has always had these, but they just were not popularly known.
On leaving the market we take a short journey to the Urban Kitchen facility in the neighboring district of Magdalena de la Mar. Inside, the kitchen is a modern and cool looking place which can accommodate not only individual tours but also can host groups of up to fifty people, as required. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable and its feels like a home from home environment as we are all here to have some fun.
Today we learn the secrets of creating a ceviche dish which includes sea bass fillet, lime juice corn, onion, herbs and a leche de tigre marinade. Ignacio is always at hand to offer guidance on preparation, timing and attention to detail to create the difference between just a good dish and an exceptional dish. Little things like using coarse Maras salt for decoration and taking time in separating the kernels of giant corn, not with a knife, but one by one with your fingers. The mistakes made by all are part of the fun and bit by bit to starts to unfold and finally, there it is in all its glory, ceviche perfection, well almost!
The evolution of Peru as a unique destination for food lovers can be attributed to centuries of the fusion of cultures from East and West across our globe. The visit to Urban Kitchen adds immensely to this journey as a unique and entertaining experience in food, culture and cooking. This day food tour in Lima is a perfect addition to any visit to Peru.
Come and contact the luxury Peru travel experts and join The City of a Hundred Races by adding your own unique flavors too!