Peruvian cuisine – an oxymoron?

Most countries have a cuisine to speak of, or at least a dish that is unique and instantly associated with it. A plateau de fruits de mer in Paris, a pastrami sandwich in New York, a Tajine in Marrakech or even a kebab on the Earl’s Court Road on a wet Saturday night. sadly, there is one nation that has been left out – Peru.

Peru is a poor. But so is Laos and they have a rich, varied and wonderful cuisine. So poverty isn’t an excuse but geography is. Peru is mostly mountainous and the only things they seem to grow is llama, alpaca, guinea pig, corn, coca, potato and Morning Glory. Now try as you may you may there is no way you can combine these ingredients and come up with anything edible. Believe me I’ve tried.

Peru made the potato famous and so I was expecting exotic varieties cooked in strange and usual ways. From Lima to Cuzco we were given bowls of black and knobbly tubers that would have be rejected by even the most hardpressed supermarket in Eastern Europe. Vile is the kindest word I can use.

Then there was Llama and Alpaca. Not unpleasant but cooked with such a lack of imagination that you wanted to scream.

The corn is even worse. In the west we are used to golden ears boiled or grilled bursting with sweetness. In Peru they have a hundreds of varieties from blue to red to multicoloured but try as they may; they are all unversally tough and tasteless. As a treat why not saw off a chair leg, boil it for 5 minutes and then get stuck in, it will be fresher and tastier.

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