|By Emily Guilmette, Kuoda Travel|
|Dear Kuoda Friends and Family,
While I know that gourmets have been savoring the world’s most fabulous foods since the dawn of time, I do think that the past few years (at least in the U.S.) have seen a particular renaissance of appreciation of great eats. There is more interest in local food, less processed food, traditional tastes and culinary innovations than ever. Perhaps economic tough times have made cooking and food even more of a comfort – and a relatively affordable adventure. We’re more and more open to foreign tastes and more and more interested in how others eat.
What’s wonderful is that this interest is growing worldwide! In Peru, food has always been a crucial cultural touchstone and the fabulously varied cuisine is increasingly recognized internationally. Four years ago, its greatest proponent – the talented celebrity chef, Gaston Acurio – decided it was time to celebrate Peru’s gastronomic riches. And so Mistura was born!
This gigantic food fest – in the center of Peru’s vibrant capital, Lima – brings together the country’s greatest chefs (both famous and under the radar), best produce, most fabulous breads and traditional regional treats. It attracts hundreds of thousands of people, both Peruvians and visitors.
I love Peruvian food – the variety, the sauces, the incredible creamy soups, the tangy spicy ceviche, the incomparable golden roasted chicken. For me, visiting the supermarket when I travel is terribly fun and grocery shopping in Cusco is a true thrill. So, I have to admit to being a bit disappointed when I wasn’t able to make it to Lima for this year’s Mistura.
Instead, our good friend (and foodie) in Lima, Chris, was able to take in the festivities for us so that we can all salivate and plan our trips for next September. Here’s what he told me about his exciting day:
“This is the first time I’ve been able to make it to Mistura and when I walked through the gates, I didn’t know where to begin – it’s IMMENSE! So I started in the area called the “big market” (Mistura is divided into different sections – the market, fine foods, traditional foods, etc.), which exhibits the best of what our soil, climate and human effort yields. There is so much variety – I saw at least 50 species of fruits, tubers and veggies that were completely new to me! And I got to taste them! For example, fruits from the jungle region – very juicy, exotic, some sweet, others acidic, others bittersweet, some with a touch of spiciness… Best of all were the native potatoes. I got to try varieties that are grown in such remote regions that they are only eaten by the farmers themselves because it’s too hard to bring them to a market.
In the portion of the market devoted to breads (Peru’s breads are INCREDIBLE), masters of flour were making with such ease breads of different tastes and shapes. They are truly artists!
I then moved on to a section of Mistura showcasing Peruvian grilled foods. First up – chicken and pork cylinder-style. This is an ingenious cooking method that allowed workers to cook in shops using materials at hand. Basically, a metal cylinder is stood up vertically and loaded with wood. The meat and potatoes cooked this way were simply spectacular: juicy with a unique smoky aroma!Next, it was time for wood-smoked pork, cooked on gigantic grills. The pork is rotated constantly in order for the meat to be cooked evenly – this is hard work, but the result is very good! I also found Pachamanca, originating from the Peruvian mountains, that consists of cooking meat and tubers buried in the ground. After approximately three hours, they’re ready to eat!
One of the plates in this section of Mistura that was quite interesting for me was the anticucho of Pota. Traditionally anticuchos (a street-food a bit like shish-kebab) is made of cow heart. Pota is like a gigantic calamari, and for those who like seafood, it is exquisite when grilled. People waited in very long lines to get this!
I then moved on to the jungle region, where I found some traditional plates known for their aphrodisiac power. For example, the Juanes and the Tacacho con Cecina! There were also fish native to jungle rivers (like the Paiche) that can measure as much as two meters in length.
Some of my favorite plates of the day included Kankach, which is a dish from Puno that consists of a tender mutton baked in a rustic mud oven and served with potatoes that have been frozen before being cooked, called Chuno. Another of the plates that agreed with me was the Chanfainita (lung) with ceviche and Papa Huancaina – a very Peruvian plate known also as “Seven Colors.” Another great dish was the Huatia, seasoned generously with Hierba Buena and served with potatoes and Oco, which is a kind of sweetish tuber. And, of course, there was cuy – or guinea pig – prepared in a wood-fired oven, which is actually quite delicious as long as your imagination doesn’t run wild!
When I’d eaten all I could, I visited the section devoted to Peruvian piscos and other drinks. I found the famous Pisco Sour, a potato sour (!!), the Machu Picchu (a layered drink with three colors – red, green and blue) and a wonderful tasting menu of diverse piscos.
It was then time to visit the zone of chocolatiers, where we found many types of chocolate, cacao beans, chocolate ice cream, chocolate drinks, hot chocolate, spicy chocolate and even chocolate sculptures! In the area devoted to sweets, I found picarones (a sweet potato fried doughnut accompanied by fig honey, membrillo and confectioners sugar), merengue and dulce de leche Suspira limenos, black corn jelly, arroz con leche and a very delicious sweet that is called frozen cheese, originating from the province of Arequipa.
I finished the feast with a variety of Peru’s excellent coffees!
In terms of logistics – the organizers of this mega-event try to not overlook any detail. The security inside and outside the festival was really good and the efficiency with which they serve you in each stand was fantastic.
My conclusions about the festival – I believe that Mistura is one of the best ideas that the great Peruvian chef, Gaston Acurio has had. It attracts not only the Peruvian public but also a large number of tourists from different countries who want to know a little about Peru. It’s a great place to realize that Peru isn’t just Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca or other fantastic tourist sites as you sample diverse dishes and watch Peruvians reliving their favorite memories as they taste a well-loved plate.”
Check out photos from the event here!
Many, many thanks to Chris and please email me at email@example.com if you have any questions about Mistura or Peruvian cuisine!
Best wishes to all!