To understand Peru’s cuisine, you first need an introduction to its papas (Peruvian for potatoes, and not its papás or dads, mind you).
Peru, along with Machu Picchu, The Andes and a slice of the Amazon forests, gave us papas that Spanish conquistadors discovered while looking for another nugget – gold.
The Latin American country grows 3,800 varieties of papas, in diverse shapes and hues. A gist: papa blanca (white potato), papa amarilla (yellow potato), papa negra (black potato), papa púrpura (purple potato that turns blue when cooked), papa rosada (pink potato with a white inside)… the list, never-ending.
You won’t stumble upon these at the Peruvian Gastronomy Festival, a 10-course degustation menu on traditional staples by The Peru Embassy.
It’s all Indian aloo. The trivia, however, will explain why mounds of papas occupy your table in every imaginable preparation – boiled, baby-sized and mashed. Even as French fries.
Your first papa dish is Yuca with Green Sauce, fat boiled and fried sticks of cassava (from the tuber brood) with avocado and parsley sauce; redolent of French fries with green chutney, nothing fancy.
But Potatoes with Huancaina Cream is the mood-setter. Instead of dunking cold sliced potatoes in the sauce, how it’s traditionally done, we were served boiled baby potatoes (skin intact) with the cream as dip.
The yellow, rich, creamy, almost cheesy textured Huancaina with a subtle hint of chill is the star. But the ultimate potato lovers’ haven is the Causa, a mashed potato mini cake sandwiching shredded chicken and boiled avocado bits. You’ll love how your fork just slides through the soft textures and each morsel, a melt-in-the-mouth. About the name, Causa was a fundraiser for the ‘cause’ of Peru’s independence from Spain in the 19th century.
A food-and-drink pairing is the Ceviche with Pisco Sour. Ceviche is Peru’s national dish with its own national day – June 28.
The soupy hors d’oeuvre involves sea bass (or any other white fish) cubes marinated in lime topped with corn, aji chili, onions, and coriander. The hit juicy, acidic combo might not sit well with the Indian palate, especially because it’s prepared cold and must be eaten fresh to evade food-poisoning.
Wash it down with Pisco Sour or ‘South American brandy’, Peru’s national drink that can only be distilled from any of their eight earmarked Peruvian grape varieties.
A bigger frothier head than beer, the notes of lime and Angostura bitters getting increasingly heady with every sip.
A favourite post-soccer match drink for Peruvians, its flexible taste profile is susceptible to blending with an array of unimaginable ingredients. With ginger ale, it graduates to chilcano, and I’m told it goes well with kokum as well.
From desserts, though heavily saccharine, you’ll love the Suspiro Limeño; creamy caramel pudding (dluche de leche) with meringue sprinkled with cinnamon.
Till: December 1
At: The One, Le Meridian hotel
Cost: Rs 3,080 per head