Foreign and out-of-the-ordinary cuisines intrigues me, no doubt due to its unfamiliarity. Each bite and each waft of aroma leaves so much room for interpretation; what could have possibly contributed to its taste, what makes it this colour, why was it of such textures?
My adventurous palate has lead me to the only known Peruvian restaurant in town – Ristretto at Mt Kiara. The experience didn’t do Peruvian cuisine justice. To be fair, Ristretto could have improved by now but I won’t know as I haven’t been back.
My next South American food experience was at the Venezuelan Gastronomic Fest 2012 Kuala Lumpur earlier in April.
The sweet Venezuelan Author and Chef Carmen Rawstron spent hours educating me about Venezuelan food and explained each dish she prepared that evening. I walk away with a wreath of priceless knowledge that I captured onto my blog and into memory.
A session with Peruvian Chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino of Restaurant & Bar Malabar, Lime Peru during the Singapore World Gourmet Summit 2012 shed further light to this exotic cuisine. Chef Pedro whipped up a ceviche on the spot and explained to us about leche de tigre.
This evening was no different. Chef Rafael Lopez-Aliaga of the JW Marriott in Lima was all smiles and all too happy to share about the dishes he prepared for us.
Starting with the appetisers, I strolled past platters of deceptively simple looking dishes but oh- so- delicious in the mouth!
Potatoes are a staple of Peru and many of the dishes feature potatoes in one way or another.
Above is the Mash Potato, Yellow Chilli stuffed with Chicken Salad. also known as “Causa” and it’s usually served cold.
The picture below is Ocopa sauce (Yellow Chilli, Huacatay (a Peruvian herb) & Peanuts). This dish is made up of boiled and sliced yellow potatoes covered with a sauce of made from aji amarillo (Peruvian yellow chili peppers).
However this chilli is not spicy if compared to our Malaysian/Asian chillies. I find their potatoes creamier, sweet and soft in comparison to our local ones. Our potatoes are starchier and rougher in texture when cooked. Needless to say I prefer Peruvian potatoes!
Potatoes with Huancaina Sauce (yellow chilli sauce). Huancayo is an area in Peru and this dish is similar to Papas a la Huancaína (Huancayo-style potatoes) which consisted of sliced boiled potatoes, served with a leaf of lettuce with Mexican cheese sauce with olives.
And from the mains, simple roasted potatoes that ensures comforting carbohydrates.
Other appetisers includes Octopus with Black Olive Alioli; pleasantly chewy and redolent with olives.
And Pickled Chicken Escabeche; an exotic sounding dish due to its un-pronounceable name but is essentially chicken cooked with sun dried chili which are more sweet than spicy. I initially thought it was cooked with tomatoes with a sprinkling of chilli instead.
This simple chicken salad was lovely in its simplicity with just the right dose of dressing together with onions, beans and smooth, creamy potatoes.
Being a Peruvian buffet, there’s no escaping the traditional ceviche; a popular seafood dish prepared with raw seafood and citrus juices.
Happily for us, there was a ceviche live station where generous, thick cubes of fresh fish, scallops and squids were regularly replenished throughout the evening.
One of the Peruvian chefs was kept busy the whole night tossing fresh ceviches for the guests.
Corn is another staple of the Peruvian diet. You see it in rice, stews, ceviches, salads and just about every other dish.
Below: These were 2 ready-made ceviches. My favourite is the yellow-hued one below as it wasn’t too sour and it’s got loads of scallops and corns in it!
This wasn’t too bad either and it was redolent with onions instead.
2 huge platters of fresh tuna and salmon reminded me of Japanese cuisine. These salmon and tuna were however covered in a sauce made from rocoto peppers, imparting a slight spiciness to the fish. I loved it!
Haven’t I just mentioned that they put corn in everything? These are Peruvian style mussels steamed with salsa.
Moving on to the mains, I sampled the steaming hot seafood soup (Seafood and Sun Dried Chilli Soup) which was akin lobster bisque but a watery and sweeter version. But I can assure you it’s definitely not lacking in flavour.
In fact, I preferred this to the usual American style chowders which are thick and consisted of more cream than anything else. Chef Rafael said he made it from natural stock of shrimps and added sun dried chillies. This soup really packed in all the amazing flavors of the sea!
Here’s their typical rice dish, cooked in stock with a lot of garlic. In Peru a different type of rice grain are used but for this Peruvian Week Chef Rafael used our local rice.
The beef for the night was braised in malt beer (which contributed to its dark colour) and coriander leaves. The result was a heady and flavourful beef almost like a thick hearty stew.
Peruvian Duck Northen Paella. This was one dish I forgot to ask Chef Rafeal about! Peruvian cuisine has many Spanish influences and no doubt this is one of them. I’m still in dark as to why this is a paella without the rice.
Chicken with Creamy Yellow Chilli Sauce - a dish as simple as its name but so so delicious! Chicken were shredded and cooked in milk, peanuts and pecans. For a local comparison, think of this as a thick, creamy non-spicy yellow curry.
My favourite main dish of the night has to be this thick stew with potatoes, beans and chicken. Its complexity of flavours intrigued me. At first taste peanut butter sprang to mind. It has that creamy toasty flavour but as I swallow, it left a bit of heat down my throat which then made me reminisce of curry.
When queried, Chef Rafael acceded that there were indeed peanut butter used (yes! *fist pump in the air!*), chocolate as well and port wine.
Wow! No wonder there were so much depth of flavours for this dish.
Seafood and Potato Stew, again very flavourful and perfect for seafood lovers.
Seriously I loved everything I had that night. And when I came to desserts, I thought they were ordinary until I tasted each and every single one of them. Most of them were really sweet, but sinfully delectable nonetheless. Besides, a touch of liquor is standard in Peruvian desserts which makes me love them even more!
This is Lucuma Crunch, named thus due to the use of Lucuma fruit (a fruit native to Peru) in the mousse and the nutty bottom.
Next was the milky rice pudding; a very common dessert that’s simple but very creamy and comforting. The customary dash of cinnamon was the only garnish. Thumbs up for this one as well it was fabulously milky yet not too sweet.
More milk goes into this one!
Made from a mixture of 3 kinds of milk – condensed, regular and heavy milk/cream, this looks like a butter cake but softer and wetter texture-wise. A touch of liquor was added as well, Chef Rafael said.
You will notice here on that pecans are featured often in the desserts. Well, that’s because Peru is one of the major countries for pecan production and harvesting.
BELOW: Pecans, Dried Fruits Served with Crispy Bread and Cheese.
This was one of the sweeter desserts due to the addition of caramel/dulce de leche. I detected some sourness that cuts through the richness within this glass which Chef Rafael said was shredded lemon zest. Hmm.. nice!
The above is Suspiro Limeno. Yes, I told you I learnt a lot that evening didn’t I? So I’m sharing with you here.
Each individual glass consist of a base made up of milk, sugar and egg yolks, topped with meringue. It was luscious and perfumed with cinnamon and port wine.
Moving on, here’s another Peruvian dessert very simply labeled Chirimoya, Orange and Meringue. That’s rather self-explanatory isn’t it? Chirimoya is a fruit from the Andes. On slices of Chirimoya fruits thick and sweet chocolate and dulce de leche sauce are poured over it.
Pisco Chocolate cake.
Pisco is Peru’s national liquor made from distilled grapes alike brandy. This was chocolate cake was dense and rich but not cloying so it was perfect!
Apricot & Coconut cake.
A very sweet and very compact cake with toasty, fragrant coconut flakes. This was really sweet with a layer of dulce le che within. The main body of the cake consist of pecans and coconut soaked in Pisco.
This buffet priced at RM180++ includes 2 servings of Pisco Sour cocktails (grape brandy- Pisco, lime, syrup, egg white & Angostura bitters) – the one in tall glasses. Mocktails lovers can opt for the “Chicha Morada,” a complex beverage of purple corn, pineapple, cinnamon & cloves. I had one of each and loved both!
This Peruvian Gastronomy Week Promotion is from October 9-16, 2012, every night at 7:30 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.
Price: RM180++ per person.
The taste and the experience of eating true Peruvian food – PRICELESS.
Still not convinced? I checked on KLM airlines and the return air tickets to Lima, Peru is RM7,500 return.
So go! Try the Peruvian cuisine here and say hi to Chef Rafael too!
For reservations please call: (603) 2142 8000 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.