Chef Jodi-Ann Palmer explores Peruvian cuisine.

If there is something which unites Peruvians and South Africans it has to be food. Food is solidly at the heart of both cultures and Peruvian food is quickly taking the world by storm. Peruvian flavour profiles are rocking menus worldwide, across all sectors of the culinary market. It’s no surprise, though; the cuisine combines a phenomenal depth of flavour with exciting ingredients and an interesting heritage. Peruvian cuisine offers an exciting array of tantalising combinations on the plate and palate, for both chef and consumer, whether you’re eating street-side ceviche, sipping an ice cold Pisco Sour, or dining on exotic quinoa and pachamanca in a fine dining restaurant.

Peruvian cuisine is laced with an abundance of extremely healthy ingredients which, in today’s health conscious world, is a plus. The ingredients include amaranth (a nutrient-packed grain), maca (a root commonly sold in powdered form as a health supplement), corn and maize, beans, Quinoa (which was once known to the Incas as “The Mother grain”, as it was once valued as much as gold in Peru).

To demonstrate the exceptional flavours of Peru, Chefs Andre Patsias and Emilio Macias were recently in Johannesburg. They showcased their exceptional talent at two incredible dinners held at Life Grand Café in Pretoria and Browns in Rivonia respectively. The 10 course tasting menu took the diners on a journey across the country’s diverse landscape and allowed the palate to enjoy the biodiversity which is truly Peruvian cuisine.

To kick start the evening, gorgeous Pisco Sours, the Peruvian signature cocktail, were served and for diners who are not familiar with this delicious cocktail, you could be tricked into believing you are sipping on a flavorsome alcohol free cool drink. Before you know it, though, you’d be absolutely intoxicated because Pisco Sour is made predominantly with the Pisco spirit, which is 40% proof, and then a splash of lemon juice, egg white, Angostura bitters, and a touch of sugar syrup. In other words, you’re consuming a rather large amount of pure alcohol, but, my goodness, it’s worth every sip.

A delightful selection of canapés followed, presented in an innovative way that showcased the chefs’ backgrounds and the foods’ pure flavour profiles. The selection included Fresh oysters with mustard flowers; Butternut squash with coffee and watercress; Avocado with salmon skin, spring onion and coriander; asparagus with crispy pork skin, crème fraiche and pansy flowers.

Wood fired breads were served with hand-whipped butters, pecans and wild mushrooms. Warm, crusty and absolutely artisanal.

The tasting menu began with springbok tartar; it was a perfect combination of South African ingredients and Peruvian culinary skill. The dish had delicate flavours with a mustard emulsion, subtle hazelnut oil, ramson capers, cornicons and sorrel leaves set out on wooden boards. Other dishes included one of Peru’s most well-known, served with an elegant twist: Herbal ceviche: smoked sea bass served with an iced herbal granite, sweet potato, burnt flowers and micro greens. This intensely flavoured dish was paired with Southern Right Sauvignon Blanc from the Hemel en Aarde Valley in Hermanus.

The dish of the evening followed this which was the most sublime quinoa one could ever image. The most perfect combination of white, red and black quinoa served with “seared mushrooms”, semi-dried scallops and coral broth. The flavor combination was out of this world with each variety of quinoa prepared in a different way – crisp, soft, al denté, creating a texture journey beyond every expectation. It was truly phenomenal and served with the cracking Hamilton Russel Chardonnay. Sublime. Other dishes included beef tongue and peas as well as an utterly gorgeous caramelised goats milk and berry dish that was really something special.

The chefs truly showed the international and local guests what their cuisine had to offer, even though they had limited time and had to work without their own local ingredients. Their flair and passion was clearly on their plates.

It is easy to understand the global attraction to this exciting movement and why the world’s top chefs have been showcasing Peruvian dishes for years. The pure, clean flavours of the dishes speak for themselves and the ingredients are exciting and diverse. Tasting the food makes one want to visit the country and explore the streets and towns. The tastes of Peru are certainly something worth speaking about.

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