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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Where to Slurp Ramen in Lima

Ramen is more than just instant. It’s gourmet too. In the previous year, I went hunting for gourmet ramen in Lima… A Nikkei food festival is happening this weekend in Lima so you could go hunting as well. Below is what I found on my search:

Tokio Ramen: Probably the best in Lima. It’s all by itself over in Jesus Maria. **** update October 19, 2019**** Tokio Ramen has opened a new location in Miraflores: Calle Coronel Inclán 235.

Noruto: Was a reliable go-to place for my Nikkei friend (Nikkei refers to the Japanese restaurants as well as the Japanese-Peruvians).

Kaikan: the ramen was actually better than at Norutu, even though the restaurant is part of the same chain.

Takuenn. Tried sushi. Soup not a thing.

Maido: this is often the best restaurant in South America (according to 50 Best Restaurants) but it is Japanese fusion so they also have ramen. It is served with a large rustic ladle, but I didn’t think much of the soup.

Tzuru: I can’t recall so I think it says it all.

Cosme: When I saw the ramen on the menu, I had to order it. It was not good. I ate the pork belly but that was it. When I didn’t eat it the rest, the staff took the dish off my bill even though I didn’t ask them to.

Korean restaurants: The Korean restaurants have ramen as well. I’m guessing that it is also made from instant noodles. The Koreans make a popular version of instant spicy ramen.

Happy slurping!

Best Sushi in Santo Domingo

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ATMpoBjWiFtROkEZn6sdydy_OFjQ8LbB2t283ejU-2_nSr8uK69psYXqZ-NunEjPtqWmUFHk3reBesEGmo4i9M5fftRkdWCi1Kb-yEBUPWTuIeInpw6xWcCj-JjL9iEwqhmehyHKU3vRSl8j1PwDeU5xdhPX5POBnN34zrpJCc5rroEhmJGNwIaTjUFirst, yes, they have a Japanese chef… for those who use this as a marker for a good Japanese restaurant. I don’t think he works every day so I imagine that sometimes the Japanese food is made by non-Japanese hands…

-7nSXy9n4-1OaRa9WOfxHigPGcNOmTFlQucYJFWjiHX9APK8NkT3aqDrPOR4jfcoRI888paTHCZroTmhtXxSP1Vj2AaAVfIC37xLbMo9Dfh8S9RZXZMKkdlMXP_44uCl6yB63hS1C_bPaLTw3tamykrZN6k1j2X4OclN-i7XDp2m37GdT-UTApOV_LThe sushi place has excellent sashimi (raw fish like the salmon in the first photo — a double portion), tiridito dishes (Peruvian “carpaccio” of fish — thin slices with sauce. See the photo of the fish in the yellow sauce, above.), and ceviches (classic Peruvian style in photo above, with deep fried sweet potato deep and Peruvian corn). Many of the other dishes are good as well, as are their cocktails. I liked their “tuna tartare” which was like a large portion of Hawaiian “poke” (raw fish salad mixed with soy sauce, green onions, sesame seed oil, and chili or mayonnaise… you get the idea) with extra ingredients.

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NXmEAj5nlX-RBFJZvg2FsgKcQmhQtZB_n1nvL0Y8ItoAUK6vzB6TdhbkMgKNT7a04quiDFEvsZZHLzPZn8qD8AGwWoLUp5NJg7kKTERoq-81LQ2HzP76DD7HMyxfkHc6MBKEAf7t8rJoI1yvD2f9GIcCvANbSvMhlRMJhFQUtXTIyNiDVl0PTAFBtmAnother surprise at this place is their coconut cake dessert. Not at all Japanese, but is a nice nod to the Caribbean. Try it! I wasn’t convinced as I recall the straw texture of desiccated coconut… this cake tasted like warm apple pie.

As for this place being the best sushi place in the DR, I didn’t eat at too many sushi places but this place was so good that I looked forward to eating there. Who needs to go anywhere else? It’s not this local fish place…

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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.

Instant Noodle on the Street

This stir fried noodle stand was in Kuala Lumpur
This stir fried noodle stand was in Kuala Lumpur

One of the foods found almost everywhere is the instant ramen noodle. Except in India and Bangladesh. But that may be changing. I recently saw a commercial for Maggi brand noodles with the patriarch of Bollywood eating instant noodles. Ramen is a soup in Japan and Korea. To sell these in India, the instant noodle dish in the commercial was less soupy. Using the noodles for a stir fry is how the noodles are used in Malaysia (that magician at the night market made the best I’ve had) or Cambodia, and so on. Since the culture in South Asia is to eat with the hand, I would have thought that advertisers would push something handheld, but maybe that’s the next part of the ad campaign (this is not an advertisement for any brand). In the U.S., instant noodle is sold in cups making it easily handheld and easily eaten with a fork. Many other ways to eat the ramen noodle and 27 of those ways are here. One way not mentioned here is wrapped around prawns and deep fried like at Goong.

Why are instant noodles so good even if they are not good for us? It’s “umami” which is the Japanese word for that something special that makes food so delicious.

Umami making in Cambodia.
Umami making in Cambodia.