Time for Peruvian food, yay! I just spent almost four weeks on the road eating all kinds of food, from very tasty to the worst meal I’ve ever had, but sadly anything Peruvian. Back home I took traditional food for granted and didn’t eat it too often, but here I find myself craving the tastes and textures of my country.
What I found myself craving lately is anticuchos. They’re basically marinated meat skewers, usually sold in street stalls (I remember eating them frequently as a kid in stalls that opened every night close to my parents’ house), but also in restaurants of all “levels”. Tourists love them when they try them until they ask what kind of meat is it. Usually it’s beef heart.
Now, before you stop reading, let me tell you that you can use any kind of meat you want. Anticuchos were created, as many other dishes, when Peru was a colony of Spain. We had the tradition of marinating meat with chilli and spices, and cooking it over the flames, they brought the garlic and the novelty of inserting the meat chunks in skewers. Of course the conquerors ate only fine cuts of beef, and the offal was reserved for the slaves. In the end, the slave version won and became the most widespread.
In Peru you can buy beef heart in markets and supermarkets, here it’s not so easy. My sister told me that a friend of hers buys it in the pet food section of his local supermarket. I haven’t found it yet, but one day when we were eating kangaroo, my sister mentioned that flavour and texture-wise it would be a good substitute. I tried it and it was perfect. What if you don’t like kangaroo either? You can use any tender beef cut (sirloin, for example), chicken, fish, or whatever your imagination tells you.
About the chilli, I (of course) used Peruvian chilli, which I brought from home. It’s sold here, too, in shops like Tierras Latinas and Fiji Market. If you don’t want to bother, that’s fine. You could use any dried red chilli in place of ají panca and any yellow chilli in place of ají amarillo. If using fresh, just blend it with a bit of oil or water.
Powdered ají amarillo
Ají panca, the top ones are powdered and not hot, the left bottom one is powdered and hot, the right bottom one is a hot paste
I served the anticuchos with boiled potatoes, corn, and a huacatay chunky sauce (I mixed jarred huacatay, which I bought in Tierras Latinas with crumbled feta). If you don’t want to bother you can serve it with a simple chilli sauce (just saute chillis with onions and garlic and blend them adding more oil if necessary, add some chopped green onions if you like) or any other sauce you prefer (tomato sauce to make it more Aussie, perhaps?).
Yield: Serves 4 to 6
800 gr kangaroo steaks (see ingredient substitutions above)
8 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons ají panca paste or 2 teaspoons powdered ají panca (see ingredient substitutions above)
1 teaspoon powdered ají amarillo
1 tablespoon dried oregano
salt and pepper
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
Soak the bamboo skewers.
Cut the steaks in chunks about 4 cm x 4 cm. Try to keep them thin and cut against the muscle fibres to ensure tenderness.
Blend the garlic, cumin, ají, salt, pepper, oregano and vinegar. Pour the marinade over the meat, cover and refrigerate 8 to 12 hours.
Insert the meat chunks into the bamboo skewers (3 or 4 per skewer). Reserve the marinade.
Grill the skewers, brushing the meat with the leftover marinade while they cook, 3 to 5 minutes per side.
Serve with boiled potatoes, corn, and the sauce of your choice.