Days before departing I had emailed my mom a list of things that I needed her to buy before I arrived. This list included breakfast items: a bag of quinoa, three kinds of bananas (plátano de seda, plátano de la isla and plátano manzano), granadillas and papaya. To clarify, plátanos de seda (silken bananas) are the ones you can find anywhere in the world. Plátanos de la isla (bananas from the island) are a bit fatter and shorter, with a firmer orangish pulp that can be eaten raw or fried. Their flavour is a bit more tangy than regular bananas. A very cheap and popular dish in Peru is arroz a la cubana (Cuban-style rice), which is white rice (always cooked with a bit of oil, garlic and salt), a fried egg and plátano de la isla cut lenghtwise and fried. Other popular dish is bistec a lo pobre (poor-style steak), a fried beef steak served with white rice, fried egg, fried plátano de la isla and potato chips (French fries). By extension, any dish that has a lo pobre in its name is served with the same (not so healthy) sides. Plátanos manzano are small bananas similar in shape, colour and texture to regular bananas, with a slightly different taste. You can picture them as regular bananas shrunk to half their size and a bit sweeter. I’ll talk about granadillas in a later post.
Back to my first breafast in Lima, it was cooked quinoa with a splash of milk, and two bananas (de seda and manzano), very healthy and yummy.
I had lunch with my friend Julio in El 550 Kriollo Gurmet, the new restaurant of my former teacher Israel Laura. The name of the restaurant has a reason: 550 is the street number of the chef’s other restaurant, kriollo is bad-spelled criollo (creole), and gurmet of course is bad-spelled gourmet. The bad spelling is on purpose, to give the place an informal vibe. We were served complimentary mini ciabatta bread rolls with butter and causitas de pato (duck mini causas) in Asian spoons.
Causa is one of our national dishes, it’s typically made with mashed yellow potatoes mixed with salt, lime juice and pureed yellow chili. The dish consists in two layers of this mash with a filling of cooked chicken breast or canned tuna, mayonnaise, avocado, chopped onions and boiled eggs. Yellow potatoes are usually the best choice for mashing (in general, not only for causa) because of their grainy texture and delicious flavour. I haven’t found anything similar in Sydney yet. From this basic recipe lots of variations can be made, substituting other kind of potatoes suitable for mashing or even sweet potatoes, or substituting the ingredients in the filling. The most popular are prawns, crab meat and pulpo al olivo, sashimi-style octopus with lime juice and a black olive and mayonnaise sauce. There’s a really cool restaurant called Mi Causa, with the most amazing range of causa variations.
Back to lunch, the bread was good (warm and crunchy), the causitas were alright but I prefer them with seafood. As main dish I ordered pulpito pachamanquero con majado de papa amarilla, baby octopus in pachamanca sauce with yellow potato majado. Pachamanca is a typical dish in which meat (usually one or more of the following: beef, chicken, lamb, pork), tubers (potatoes, sweet potatoes), legumes (broad beans) and herbs (chincho, muña, paico) are cooked under hot stones in a big hole in the ground. The octopus I ate had been marinated with those herbs, plus olive oil and oregano. Majado is a dish from the North of Peru where yuca (cassava) is cooked and mashed with a fork, and then mixed with pork that has been cooked with onion, garlic and chili. The side of my dish, hence, was a rustic well seasoned yellow potato mash (without the pork). The dish was good, but I must say I’ve been to pricier restaurants where Israel was the chef too, and I found a bit better flavours there.
Julio ate a lasaña limeña (Lima-style lasagna), filled with ají de gallina (can be translated as hen chili but it’s not what it seems), which is a typical dish from my city made with cooked chicken breast (hen breast in the old days), torn in threads and cooked again with onion, garlic, yellow chili, evaporated milk, parmesan cheese and chopped pecans. One of my favourite dishes, and the good thing is that with the powdered chili I bring from home I can make it here and tastes almost the same. I didn’t try Julio’s dish but it looked amazing.
We didn’t have room for dessert but we decided to walk a few minutes and have a coffee. We stopped at Cafe Z, a popular coffee shop a few blocks away from the beach. It was quite warm so we both ordered ice cappuccinos. It had cinnamon instead of powdered chocolate, which was totally wrong but still yummy.
After training I had a papaya juice while my mum cooked one of my favourite childhood dishes that almost everybody else hates: hígado encebollado, fried beef liver with onions and tomatoes cooked with vinegar. It wouldn’t have been complete without some white rice topped with ketchup. For me, this is comfort food.