On many a street corner, there are mini carts or “caritos” selling a massive array of fried carbohydrate snacks. It’s not simply a question of potato chips or peanuts. One day when visiting a typical liquor/corner store on Calle Preciados 130, (near the “Polvos Rosados” mall), I asked the owner, Edgar, to write down the names of some of the snacks.
The best fries in Lima? Many restaurants take pride in their fries, especially in using “native” species, which is odd as they are all native (Peru is the origin of the potato). But, more to the point, restaurants are branching out instead of just using the usual yellow potato. The common Peruvian yellow potato is small and is not well suited to fries. This makes the efforts of Juicy Lucy and Bao more impressive. Another fashionable potato these days is the Huayro. Most places make good fries as fries are an integral part of two of the most popular dishes: lomo saltado and salchipapas.
Here are a few of the places that I recommend:
Osso: Yes, I think they might be the best. They are made from large yellow potatoes. The fries are big, hot, crunchy, hard, floury, yellow like out of crayon box, and screaming for mushroom sauce!
Quisso: The fries are slim like that place with the arches. The fries are fresh cut like in Five Guys. They use the Huayro potato. When the potato is fresh cut and dropped in the fryer, the liquid escapes like firecracker champagne bubbles all along the surface of the fries. Bonus is that these fries are then covered in cheese.
Bao?: small wedges of round Peruvian yellow potatoes fried hard to give them that oven roasted feel.
Cafe A Bistro: I’m told that this places does great fries. Possibly one of the most charming things about this cafe is that it it located next to a gas station.
Merito: They make yuca fries. The yuca/cassava is a root but if soaked ahead of time, it makes a great fry. The ones are Merito are enormous.
A classic potato dish in Lima is “causa” which translates as the “cause” or fight. But, it can also mean “buddy.” I took some photos while a buddy of mine and her mom made “artisanal” causa… as in homemade (which is one of the points that mega-phone of Peruvian cuisine, Gaston Acurio champions, although you can follow his recipe here). It took them more than three hours. Here is the recipe (sort of) as the grandma making the dish doesn’t use measurements (hence the artsy part of this) and it took so long that I went off to take a nap.
4 large chicken breasts
24 large Peruvian Yellow potatoes
a cup of celery
a large carrot
2 white onions
yellow Peruvian chili paste
salt & pepper
pitted black olives
Cook the chicken in water with chopped onion, celery, and carrot, and a pinch of salt (large pieces are fine). Boil until chicken breasts are cooked (40 minutes). Pull out chicken breasts and let cool.
Boil yellow potatoes. When boiled, drain and peel as soon as you can as the peel is easier to remove when the potato is hot.
Remove the strings off the celery and chop very fine.
Chop half a white onion very fine.
Chop/pull the cooked chicken breast.
Mix the chicken meat with mayonnaise, salt, pepper, onions, and celery.
Crush by hand the cooked and peeled potatoes. Crush until they are smooth and have a creamy texture. Add olive oil, salt, pepper, lime juice, and chili paste. Keep tasting it until it tastes right.
In a large lasagna pan (or use a glass, whatever), build your causa. Bottom layer is potato, then the chicken salad, then avocado, then tomato, and then another layer of potato. Use a fork to make a design on the top and decorate with parsley, red pepper slivers, and black olives. Eat straight away or keep in fridge until it “settles” and gets even tastier.
There are other types of causa with crab, shrimp, egg, but chicken salad is typical in Lima. The Lima thing to do is to eat this as an appetizer and then follow with “aji de gallina” which is rice with stewed chicken, another classic dish from Peru.
Food in Lima. I finally created a book with some of the foods I’ve tried on my many visits to Lima these past few years. Buy it here, on Lulu, if you wish. It’s just a little book, 7×9 inches, so it will fit in a bag easily (that way I can carry it around with me).
In reality, since my first visit, when I first had the classic ceviche as seen in the photo, all of my visits to Lima have been “food tours.” Some day, I’ll even get to Mistura, the food festival. I will, I will!