There are many ingredients used in Peruvian cuisine, but in this post we will talk about the most representative and in our opinion, essential to prepare the most outstanding dishes of our menu.
Although the original name "papa" comes from Quechua, when this tuber was taken to Spain, confusion was created by its similarity with the "patata" (sweet potato) (known in Peru as "camote"), which had already been introduced there from the Caribbean islands, for which the word "potato" appeared, as a mixture of the two words: papa + batata = patata.
Although in most of Spain the term potato is used, Some areas of Andalusia and in all Canary Islands where only the original word "papa" is used.
Since the Spanish introduced this tuber in Europe, the term potato was the most widespread in the rest of the countries and consequently in the rest of the world, except for exceptions resulting from regional interpretations (etymological reference).
Clarified this point, let’s continue with the post.
Potato is never missing on the table of Peruvians. The most important dishes that have potato as a basic ingredient of Peruvian cuisine are:
"Papa a la huancaína" (potato huancaina style), Stuffed potato, Potato pie causa, "carapulcra", "cau cau", "chanfainita, potato "ajiaco" and much more.
Even before the arrival of Spaniards to Peru, the potato was part of the diet of the natives. Currently, this tuber is one of the most used ingredients in Peruvian cuisine and many other countries. It is consumed as a main course or as an accompaniment.
As a curious fact, note that in Peru there are about 3000 varieties of potato, although of all of them the following stand out: yellow, huaico, canchán, black, white, peruvian, tomasa and huamantanga.
The difference between them lies in the use they will be given. Either for frying, or for a sancochado or the preparation of dishes in special festivities.
In the qapaq restaurant, due to logistical difficulties, we use potatoes from local crops, so the varieties of potatoes that include our dishes are the most representative of the Canary Islands, depending on the season (papa bonita, autodate, chinegua...)
Peruvian corn named as choclo in Peru which means corn on the cob.
This, like quinoa, was an important part of the diet of the pre-Inca and Incas.
According to archaeological studies, the Peruvian inhabitants cultivated and consumed corn 5000 years ago, being a basic ingredient of their diet.
During the Inca empire such was the importance it had, that it used to make offerings at religious ceremonies. It was also customary to put corn cobs next to valuables in Inca tombs.
Peruvian corn varieties
In Peru exist 35 varieties of corn, but these could be classified, according to some authors, in two main classes:
1) That grown in temperate and cold regions, which is small and medium in size, somewhat flattened and round and of different colors, among which are varieties of white, yellow, purple or black corn, lead, pink, painted, red and coffee.:
2) Grown in the warm region, which is large, flat and long in size and of homogeneous white or cream colour.
Corn is one of the main ingredients of Peruvian food, as it is found in many dishes, prepared in different ways. Here are some ways corn is consumed in Peru:
- Sancochado corn: it is prepared with the tender and boiled cob. It is essential to complement in the popular ceviche.
- Maicillo: It is prepared with the tender corncobs of the chulpi variety.
- Court: it is prepared with roasted grains.
- Mote: made with boiled large grains.
- Harinas (flours): prepared by grinding the grains in quicklime with water
- Humitas and tamales: prepared wrapped in corn and banana leaves respectively
- Chochoca: boiled with quicklime water, ash and dried in the sun
- Pepian of choclo: A typical dish from Lima prepared with liquefied corn.
- Mazamorra morada (purple mazamorra): is a dessert from Lima made with purple corn.
- Champús (Shampoos): Dessert prepared with Mote and some fruits such as pineapple and quince,
Drinks are also prepared from corn. The most popular are:
- The chicha de jora which is prepared with fermented corn.
- The chicha morada which is prepared with purple corn.
In qapaq we use corn imported from Peru in the preparation of our dishes. For example, in our ceviche you will find both cancha corn and white choclo.
In Peruvian cuisine chili peppers are the spicy spices, which are most used to season meals.
There are many types of chili peppers in Peru (about 50 varieties).
The most common ones are:
- Yellow aji: So labeled for its color, it has an elongated shape and with a characteristic flavor, it is used ground in dishes such as Ají de gallina, stuffed cause, potato huancaína style, tiradito and also in strips on Lomo saltado and in chorrillana fish.
- Aji Panca: It is an elongated chili pepper that is used dry, has a red color similar to cherrys and is mild spicy flavor. It is used ground in the preparation of pickle, carapulcra, anticuchos, pork marinade and other dishes.
- Ahi Rocoto: It’s similar in appearance to red pepper, but smaller. It is used whole in the preparation of a typical southern Peruvian dish called Rocoto relleno (stuffed rocoto pepper) and is also used ground in rocoto cream and in ceviche.
- Aji Limo: It is small, elongated and has a variety of colors, for its spicy flavor and its special smell is used in the preparation of ceviche and tiraditos.
Camote o batata (Sweet potato)
The word "camote" is of origin náhuatlel cual es un dialecto de los antiguos habitantes de Centroamérica. Por otro lado la palabra batata is of origin taíno, former pre-Columbian inhabitants in the Caribbean islands of Bahamas and Antilles.
This plant native from the tropics of South and Central America, has been cultivated for thousands of years in what is now Bolivia in addition to Peru, and depictions of sweet potato have been found in numerous pre-Columbian ceramics and remains of tuberous roots in some tombs.
It came to Europe at the end of XV century with Christopher Columbus and its cultivation has spread widely in all regions of the world where the climate allows it.
"Camote" is very popular in Peru, and in many typical dishes it replaces the potato, thus becoming one of the basic ingredients of Peruvian cuisine. It is usually prepared fried and cooked. The sweet potato stands out as an accompaniment to the ceviche, chicharrones and is also included in the pachamanca.
In ceviche is served boiled and peeled, mixed with shellfish or as an accompaniment to, with its flavor sweet, relieve a little the sensation of spiciness. In our dishes we use sweet potatoes grown in Lanzarote.
Quinua or Quinoa is a cereal of Andean origin and is considered a superfood due to its high protein content, vitamins and minerals.
Although the 2 ways in which this vegetable is called are correct, the most appropriate is the form "quinua" which corresponds to the original Quechua word "kinuwa or kinwa", which means golden seed.
In Peru quinoa grows naturally in the valleys and is a popular grain used as a main ingredient for soups.
According information of FAO, this Andean plant originated in the surroundings of Lake Titicaca, which share Peru and Bolivia and that its domestication may have occurred between 3,000 and 5,000 BC.
It also says that quinoa grows naturally in the Andean area from Colombia to northern Argentina and southern Chile. As for the nutritional value, it is known to be a good food for children and athletes, diabetics, celiacs and people with lactose intolerance. It has more minerals than cereals and is rich in fiber. It also acts as an antioxidant.
For all this, Peruvian cuisine always keep an eye on quinoa, although its consumption was associated with homemade stews, prepared in the most humble way, it was with the Novo Andina cuisine movement that it was proposed its revaluation.
Aromatic herbs are widely used in Peruvian food. There are dishes in which they are used ground and as a main ingredient and others in which chopped herbs are used to give a "touch of flavor".
Most commonly used in Peruvian dishes are:
- Culantro (coriander): It is used chopped in ceviche and pickle, or ground in chicken rice, aguadito and green tamalito.
- Huacatay: In ocopa and pachamanca is used ground and in locro de zapallo and quinoa stew is used chopped or in branches. We also use it to flavor our butter.
- Parsil: It is used chopped in the Olluquito with charqui.
- Origan: Marinade and creole soup are the typical dishes that use this herb.