In this five part series, Chef Nico Vera presents the rich culinary history of Peru through the lens of a five course meal. Follow along as he breaks down Peruvian flavors, transporting us to the land of Incas and beyond. Read Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four.
Even during the time of the Incas, the Inca King in Cuzco ate fresh seafood that was carried by Chasqui runners from the coast to the Andes mountains — a distance of over 200 miles on the Inca Trail. And while the Incas may have cooked fresh ﬁsh or sivichi in fruit juice, the Moorish dish seivech, of ﬁsh marinated in lemon juice, likely also contributed to the creation of ceviche.
But whatever its origin, ceviche would change dramatically after Japanese immigrants arrived in Peru 100 years ago. What they brought with them was not as tangible as an ingredient such as kion, but rather a profound appreciation for seafood and a beautifully simple aesthetic and approach to cooking. Their focus on fresh ﬂavors and ingredients was a wonderful match with the bounty of ﬁsh that existed off the coast of Lima. Start with a ﬁsh that was caught today, if possible, clean it, cut it into small pieces, add salt, ginger, hot peppers, celery, red onions, lime juice, and cilantro, toss while the acid from the limes cooks the ﬁsh, and serve immediately. You will taste the ocean, clean, sharp, refreshing, and a little spicy. Check out the recipe here.
Five Courses, Five Cultures, and 500 Years of Fusion
The Pisco cocktail, potato salad, seafood ceviche, beef stir-fry, and black bean purée presented here are only a brief introduction to Peruvian cuisine. And though unique in ingredients and ﬂavors, these dishes share a common culinary history. So now that you know a little bit about this history, you need to cook these dishes at home. Invite your friends over for dinner, toast with Pisco Sour, and announce that you are taking everyone on a gastronomical tour of Peruvian cuisine. A tour consisting of ﬁve courses that represent Inca, Spanish, African, Chinese, and Japanese cultures. Five courses that only took 500 years to make it to your table.
Nico Vera is a Peruvian chef and Pisco mixologist based in San Francisco, California, where he promotes Peruvian food and culture through pop-up dinners and cocktail classes. You can find his recipes and calendar of events on his blog, Pisco Trail.