I had a brief flirtation with South America back in the 1990s (you can do the math) but haven’t visited again since. It’s always been on my list but time, location and cost have always intervened.
I can now confirm it’s well and truly back on my list for 2015.
Recently in Doha, our dining scene has seen South American food have a bit of a moment with no less than five restaurants opening across the city. The newest, Camanito at the newly opened Zubarah Hotel serves up some tasty fare in sleek and glam surroundings.
Last week I was invited by the Peruvian Ambassador and the hotel to sample the menu for their upcoming Peruvian Food Festival. So committed was the Ambassador Julio Florian to the festival he brought in his own Peruvian chilli for the event.
Peruvian chili packs less heat than its spicier cousins. Aji Amarillo is the most frequently used chili in Peru and probably the most important ingredient in Peruvian cooking. The fruits start off green maturing to a deep yellowish orange. Aji Amarillo has a fruity distinguished taste and a medium to hot heat. It’s mostly sold fresh as a whole chili pepper or grounded and find its use in numerous typical Peruvian dishes.
This includes ceviche – which is basically raw fish or seafood “cooked” in lime juice. We sampled a hammour served this style.
The main attractions included tenderloin (marinated for 24 hours) grilled and served again with this Peruvian chili sauce as well as steak served “Chinese Style” with the very South American twist of french fries. There was also a Chinese style fried rice.
The Chinese have a very deep influence on Peruvian cuisine. Chifa is a term used to refer to a style of cooking in which Peruvian and Chinese ingredients are fused to cantonese culinary tradition. Chinese immigrants came to Peru mainly from the southern province of Guangdong in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They settled for the most part in the coast of Peru and the capital city of Lima.The term “Chifa” is also used to define a restaurant where this type of food is served.
The meat was tender and I have to admit I was expecting a heavier load of chili. While I love heat, this was a welcome change to be able to taste the flavors rather than be overwhelmed by fire. The Chinese influence was also a surprise – I had no idea their cuisine was now an intrinsic part of the country’s culinary identity.
The dinner was proof that I shouldn’t think I know everything about a country’s cuisine just because of its geography. Peruvian cuisine is surprisingly diverse and the flavors unique and subtle.
The Peruvian Food Festival is running 29 to 31 October at Zubarah Boutique Hotel. +974 4447 0000
You can also follow the Peruvian Embassy in Doha on their Facebook page.
The menus for each day are:
*Life on the Wedge was a guest of Zubarah Hotels and the Embassy of Peru in Doha