by Sean Keeley, culinary specialist, LLCC
The food of Peru is truly fusion cuisine at its best and is certainly the most unique cuisine to hit the culinary landscape in recent years. Most cultures were influenced by migration of new peoples and the introduction of new flavors from the spice trade and eventually morphed into that culture’s style almost seamlessly. The cuisine of Peru, for some reason, held onto those sharp contrasts of flavors and techniques from other lands and incorporated local ingredients into these foreign dishes creating a one-of-a-kind cuisine.
Imagine being asked to create a Latin inspired dish and given a Chinese wok and Japanese soy sauce to cook with – this is what happened in Peru centuries ago. The indigenous people adopted the new tools and ingredients like beef, pork and chicken into their traditional dishes and the immigrants added the foods available in the area, the four main ones being corn, potatoes, quinoa and legumes into their traditional dishes. The colonizers from Spain, Italy, Germany, Asia and West Africa all brought new flavors and styles that blended with the local cuisine of the Inca’s. From Wikipedia: The US food critic Eric Asimov has described it as one of the world’s most important cuisines and as an exemplar of fusion cuisine, due to its long multicultural history.
The star of all Peruvian ingredients is aji amarillo, the hot, yellow pepper that is very fruity in flavor and is incorporated into many traditional dishes of the region. Ceviche is a dish of raw fish cooked (cured) by citric acid from lemons and limes and the capsicum from chili peppers – this dish dates back in the history of Peru nearly 2,000 years. Arroz con Pollo, rice with chicken, is Peruvian comfort food and Jamon del Pais is a sandwich of “Peruvian ham”, sliced onions and aji amarillo in a bread roll. Aji amarillo paste and be found and ordered online.
One of the most traditional dishes of Peru is Lomo Saltado which translates to “jumped lion,” or to make the lion jump. The dish is not made from lion, but rather the ingredients, beef or chicken, represent the spirit of a lion by having bold flavors. Our second year culinary student, Nicholas Carney, presented this dish as his special in Bistro Verde last week, and it was certainly one of the most unique dishes we have seen in the café. A stir-fry of beef and French fries served with brown rice and dressed with a sauce of pureed lettuce and peppers. I know a spicy lettuce smoothie does not sound appealing, but the result is a creamy sauce that really ties the dish together. Enjoy!
1 pound sirloin steak cut in thin slices
Salt and pepper for the meat
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small red onion cut in thick slices
3 plum tomatoes cut in thick slices
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/3 cup beef stock
2 teaspoons cumin
salt and pepper for the cooked meal, before cilantro and fries
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
2 green onions sliced, tip to tail [minus the root] 2 cups French fries, freshly fried
1/2 head iceberg lettuce, washed, torn and dried
1 whole jalapeno, stem cut off [for less spice, de-seed and de-vein] 1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 lemon, juiced
1/2 head of cilantro leaves
1/4 tsp salt
To make French fries, peel and cut russet potatoes. Soak them in water for as long as you can. I soaked mine for a couple of hours. This takes the starch out and allows them to be crispier. Drain, dry and fry.
Season the beef with salt and pepper. Add soy sauce, vinegar, beef stock and cumin in a bowl together. Put a pan over very high heat. Add oil and on very high heat cook half the meat, brown on one side, flip over and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Remove meat and repeat with second half.
Stir in the onion and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for just a minute. The tomatoes should hold their shape. Stir in soy sauce mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn off the heat, toss with French fries. Add chopped cilantro, green onion and serve with brown rice and aji sauce drizzled over the top of the stir-fry.
To make aji sauce, add the iceberg lettuce, jalapeno, mayonnaise, lemon juice, 1/2 head of cilantro and 1/4 teaspoon salt to the food processor and combine until completely smooth. Let sit for a few hours in the fridge if you can. The sauce will begin to separate after a few days, so don’t make too much at once.
Want to know more?
Lincoln Land Community College offers associate degree programs in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management and academic credit certificates in Culinary Arts and Baking/Pastry. For more information call 217-786-4613 or visit www.llcc.edu/hospitality-culinary-arts.