Celebrating Peru’s Rich Culinary Heritage
by Anneli Rufus
Peruvian cuisine is gaining ground in North America, and not a moment too soon. We saw this coming — with pisco cocktails in hand — and aquí está. It is truly vivid fare — and one of its prime purveyors is La Mar Cebichería Peruana. The San Francisco restaurant has expanded its brunch menu this month, debuting a range of new entrées that merge cutting-edge creativity with a rich, diverse culinary heritage.
Peruvian food has ancient roots, augmented by indigenous traditions, European cuisine — French-style bakeries are ubiquitous in Lima — and local produce such as plantains, Lima beans, huge-kerneled corn and local peppers including the earthy yellow aji amarillo, assertive red rocoto and fruity orange aji panca. Sauces made from these peppers and from the leafy green huacatay herb are more popular in Peru than ketchup and mustard.
Another strong if surprising influence is Chinese cuisine. Chinese immigrants first began arriving in Lima over 200 years ago, and today Lima has a huge Chinatown. Dim sum, soy sauce and rice are prominent features of mainstream Peruvian fare.
Along with its signature range of empanadas (baked meat and vegetable pies, as depicted above), anticuchos (skewered seafood and meat), and causas (whipped-potato pedestals, depicted below), La Mar Cebichería Peruana has just debuted new brunch creations including traditional Peruvian pan con chicharrón, comprising long-cooked pork-belly sous vide, sweet potato and yuca fries served with huancaina, criolla and tartar sauces and Acme rolls; grilled salmon filet over chard, fried corn and marbled potatoes, crowned with a poached egg in aji amarillo Hollandaise and Hawaiian smoked salt; and roasted Brussels sprouts and cauliflower topped with peppery bacon candy.
Other new brunch items include a meatless mushroom cebiche (which is more commonly spelled ceviche), transformed by lime-juice-forward “leche de tigre” marinade, and Chaufa Power, which honors the Chinese influence: beef Milanesa atop wok-fried rice with Chinese sausage, egg noodles, scallions, bell peppers and chifa seasonings, with a side of fried banana, sunny-side-up egg, pickled salad and aji panca sauce.
La Mar’s executive chef Diego Oka will host a pisco-paired dinner on Monday, April 29. Each of its four courses will be paired with a different pisco drink.
Remember the days, not so long ago, before “pad thai” and “fajitas” were household words all over North America? Anyone willing to bet that “aji amarillo” and “cebiche” will join them soon?
You can click on each photo to enlarge. All photos by Kristan Lawson. Used with permission.