Criolla Food in Peru

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Papa rellana ready for frying, above bags of choclo. 

Peru is also a “melting pot” and the Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Italian immigrations added to this pot. But what did the Peruvians eat before?

The original inhabitants of Peru ate the foods that today are called “criolla” or creole. I think of “queso y choclo” — cheese and corn — when I think of local food. The “queso fresco” or fresh cheese is just that, non-aged cheese so think feta but not salty or sour (which feta should not be, but that’s a whole different discussion.) Some creole dishes are tacu tacu (refried hash), beans, habas (roasted fava bean snack), rice with duck, papa rellena (large stuffed mashed potato croquette), tamales, soups (sopa criolla is a noodle soup with cubed beef and milk), butiffara (a pork sandwich), and anything with an egg on it. Every single restaurant will know how to make a delicious home made soup called “sopa dieta” which is what would be called “Jewish noodle soup” in other places. It’s a soup that can cure all.

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A word about “dare” or “scary” foods. Guinea pig or “cuy” in Peruvian is convenient and easy to raise. A Peruvian told me that traditionally you would only be served a portion — not the whole thing with head frozen in its death scream. Cuy, pronounced “koo-wee” is more common in the mountains. Yes, one can also eat alpaca, llama, vicuna, and other camelids. And, the one that people always seem to “dare” tourists to eat — the suri worm or maggot. Maggots are fatty sources of protein (According to experts, bugs could be the protein of the future). Many cultures eat bugs — crickets, grasshoppers, ants, and so on. But, you don’t have to eat it. Many modern restaurants will serve cuy or llama in a way that you might find more palatable. At Astrid and Gaston’s, the cuy is served as a mini Peking Duck bite. My “word” about scary or dare foods is that you don’t have to eat them. Many Peruvians don’t. There is so much available that is much more delicious.

The weirdest thing I ate in Peru (no, I didn’t eat the maggot) was a vegan “jerky” stick. So odd. I don’t know what was in it, but it wasn’t criolla!

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Viet – Vietnamese Food in Lima?

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Summer rolls with peanut sauce.

Oddly enough, yes, but that’s not the important thing about this restaurant. Viet, located in San Borja, on Avenida Aviacion 2590, is a nice restaurant, whatever the food. It’s got a nice ambiance, it’s easy to find on Aviacion, and the staff are very friendly. The restaurant is open 12:30-11 Tuesday-Saturday and 12:30-4:30 on Sundays.

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Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk.

I’d say to those who have been to Vietnam or know Vietnamese food from the U.S., don’t use those standards (for good and bad). The owners are Chinese Peruvians who decided to open a Vietnamese place. Why not? The place has been in existence for three years and the owners are thinking of opening a new location in Miraflores. I hope that they do.

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Pho rolls.

The pho (here they have a pho roll — as in the photo — so you can eat pho soup as a handroll) is not aromatic but it’s still a nice clean broth which can work wonders if you have a cold. That’s how I convinced a sick friend to join me. She got the chicken pho and added some Sriracha to make a chicken soup with kick!

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Shaking Beef – their version of “lomo saltado” with egg.

I liked the service as the staff cut up food into shareable portions, recommended child-friendly berry ice tea, and made us feel tended to but not bothered. The tables are stocked with hand fans to cool down your soup or your face. There are coolie hats for selfies, and for those who care, I think I counted ten Asian looking people in there. Plus lots of families.

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Vietnamese “crepe” but more like a mango sticky rice/bibimbap.

I’ll be back. I’m still missing a few items on the menu. The crepe, done here as an omelet on rice in a Korean earthenware pot, had coconut rice with mango and shrimp. I think this may have been the hit with my Peruvian guests. I liked the desserts including the sushi style mango sticky rice.

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Garlic wings.
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Beef on noodle.
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Spring rolls, cut up for us to share.
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AHmazing taro (a tuber) chips.
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A view of the interior.
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Mango sticky rice with the coconut sauce on the side.
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Not sure of the name but it was cut up fruit with sweet airy cake.
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Deep fried banana.

The one dish that I would have liked is papaya salad. I will have to try a Thai place for that, I guess.

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Banh mi sandwich with taro chips.
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Beef pho and the condiments (sriracha and hoisin sauce not pictured) and summer rolls in background.

Barrio Chino – Lima’s Chinatown

IMG_1557Folks told me that Lima’s Chinatown was not that exciting. I’m glad that people played it down. When I saw it for myself, I was pleasantly surprised.

IMG_1546.JPGChinatown consists of a small pedestrian street with requisite arch and aura cleaners… and many shops and mini-malls in the surrounding streets. Chinatown is actually very close to Lima’s central square, the Plaza de Armas.

IMG_1543I was pleased to see that the Chinese stores also sold Thai curry paste and other rare items here in Peru.

IMG_1538In almost every shop, there were items that I did not recognize. That’s part of the fun of exploring.

IMG_1572Considering that the Chinese (mostly from Canton) got to Peru a bit after they got to California in the 1800s, in many ways, lots of Peruvian food is Chinese food. For example, the Peruvians love fried rice, “chaufa,” and eating Chinese food from a “chifa” is a normal part of life.

IMG_1574As I was checking out at one store, I noticed that a last minute “temptation” like chewing gum or candy, were snack packs of chicken feet (three, which I thought an odd number).

IMG_1551When I went a restaurant to get some fried rice and wanted to make sure that their recipe did not involve soy sauce, the owners of the restaurant TOLD me that I’d have it with soup (what is a meal without soup?) and they tried to teach me how to order “chaufa” without soy sauce. In Chinese.

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Tokyo Ramen in Bogota

A bowl of ramen, salarymen in the background.
A bowl of ramen, salarymen in the background.

Yup, I found the best place for Tokyo style ramen in Bogota. The restaurant is located at Carrera 11 and Calle 98, overlooking the little park between 11 and 12. (*** update January 5, 2016 **** Telephone number is 609 09 59. They are open Monday-Saturday from noon to 9:30 p.m. and on Sundays/holidays from noon to 6 p.m.)

The place on the left doesn't get many customers...
The place on the left doesn’t get many customers…

They must cater to salarymen because they aren’t open for dinner on Saturdays, nor are they open on Sundays.

Fried cutlet on rice noodles.
Fried cutlet on rice noodles.

I enjoyed the soft tofu appetizer, the kontaksu (fried pork or chicken cutlet, here served on fried noodles as light as air), and the calamari which were soft and tender.

Fresh tofu, ginger and onion, and bonito (dried fish) flakes.
Fresh tofu, ginger and onion, and bonito (dried fish) flakes.

Some people would probably like me to keep this place a secret. Ooops.

Fried calamari.
Fried calamari.

Getting Yelled At In A Restaurant In Mandarin, Again

The spread of Chinese food.
The spread of Chinese food.

One day, I had the brilliant (so I thought) idea of ordering a whole bunch of items at my favorite Chinese restaurant in Bogota. I figured that given the price of ingredients, I might as well buy the food ready-made. Also, ordering many dishes would allow me to nibble from many different dishes… I got an accomplice who rather fancied the idea for herself. So we ordered quite a few dishes including a few repeats (sometimes you just don’t want to share the appetizer, am I right?).  — Pause here… we waiting in anticipation… —

Suddenly, the chef came out of the kitchen. He yelled at us in Mandarin for five minutes. Five minutes of gesticulating and yelling. I kept smiling. Five minutes of the chef yelling at us that we had ordered too much food.

Baby greens.
Baby greens.

Finally, the Colombian waiter stopped him by saying the Chinese word for “to go.” The chef stomped back to the kitchen. Then I laughed. I had leftovers all week long.

The bean dish is called "ants on a log" but it's different than the celery, peanut butter, and raisin dish with similar name.
The bean dish is called “ants on a log” but it’s different than the celery, peanut butter, and raisin dish with similar name.

The following time, I took a larger group and when a Mandarin speaker tried to get chummy with the chef, the chef recognized me and said, “She knows.” And this time I completely understood him.

How to Live the Good Life in Dhaka – Part 2 — China Made in Bangladesh

This is part two of an expat’s guide to how to live the good life in Dhaka. She said that three things make life good here. Cheap porcelain is the second part. The first part was tailoring.

Chinese food on china made in Bangladesh.
Chinese food on china made in Bangladesh.

II.                  PLATE SETS

One way to buy plates and crockery sets here is to buy from a factory outlet. Beximco is one of the biggest manufacturers and they have outlet stores in Gulshan. The brands here are Shinepukur and Monno. I personally would recommend making the trip down to New Market and buying from there, rather than from any of the Gulshan markets. It will be at least 50% if not even cheaper. You must bargain hard and promise to tell all your friends about them and generate more business in order to get an even deeper discount. Quality is the same as at the shops in the Gulshan area.

The prices range around $230 for a 54 piece set (or set for 12 people) if you bargain hard. Many people buy sets to give as wedding presents. You can have your family crest monogrammed on the crockery if you wish. Also, much of the finest bone china in the world (Wedgewood, etc.) is actually made in Bangladesh.