Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Best Place for Fruits, Vegetables and Seafood in Peru!

After feeling refreshed from La Gran Fruta, we visited a small outdoor neighborhood market where the best fruits, vegetables, and seafood are bought. We met Chef Carlos Otero there to be our culinary guide. Chef Otero owned a series of restaurants in Miami Beach, Chile, etc called Salad House specializing in fresh salads of fruits and vegetables. He currently is an instructor at two of the cooking schools in Lima. Both Sandra and Chef Carlos explained that Peru is undergoing a gastronomic renaissance as chefs from Peru such as Gaston Acuria have achieved global recognition and Peruvian food is now one of the hottest trends in the US. The diversity of food that grow there and the culinary fusion from several different cultures makes Peruvian food truly unique and wonderful.

We began tasting different fruits and vegetables at a fruit stand.

This fruit looks like a large pod...

and the fruit flesh has a cotton candy-like texture.

We also enjoyed the tangy flavor with a crunch from the seed in this fruit, maracuya, passion fruit. A juicy membrane surrounds the seed and you simply eat it all. We also tried several different bananas that were sweeter as they were smaller in size and had beautiful pink and deep yellow flesh.

Potatoes and corn are part of the foundation of Peruvian food. There are over 300 varieties of potatoes and we saw several at this market with vibrant skins that were pink or yellow and with bright yellow and orange flesh. The corn in Peru has giant kernels that can be as large as a horse’s tooth.

This is a purple corn with a white interior (endosperm)- so no purple popcorn!

But a popular drink called Chicha Morada is made from the dark purple corn and we saw several kinds of fried kernels for snacks- sort of a Peruvian Corn Nut!

Who could come to Peru without eating many different kinds of chilis? We saw several from the mirasol to the ahi amarillo which translates to mean “yellow chili” even though the skin is orange. We later found that this chili is one of the main chilies in a few traditional sauces that we would later make and eat.

Finally, we had to pay homage to the abundance of fresh seafood in Peru. The waters are rich with plankton and all sorts of fish, octopus, scallops etc. There was so much pride in the foods at the marketplace. Just as the fruit and vegetable sellers eagerly sliced fruits and vegetables for us to taste, the fish sellers proudly displayed the fish, purple crabs and octopus. And there was much to admire.

We left the market in awe of the native foods of Peru, realizing that while we are celebrating local foods in America- foods that grow in our region but may not be originally from our country- Peru is celebrating the rich selection of foods that are truly Peruvian in origin.