Peru’s potatoes come in a most regal shade.
Author Layla Schlack
REGAL MAY NOT BE THE FIRST WORD that comes to mind when you think of potatoes, but in Peru, the tubers are colored a bright shade of purple inside and out—a look that earned them a place on the plates of the Incan kings for whom they were specially cultivated.
These beautiful little fingerlings have a creamy texture, but they’re firm enough to stand up to baking or roasting. And for the health-conscious, purple potatoes are colored by the same enzyme that gives blueberries their tint, which means they’re chock-full of the same antioxidants. These “Gems of the Andes” are typically harvested January through April, so brush off a couple for papa a la huancaina (potatoes with spicy cheese sauce), and eat like a king.
Foodies are falling for nikkei—japanese-peruvian fusion cuisine—hook, line and sinker. // by Layla Schlack
IN 1899, A SHIP carrying 800 Japanese laborers docked in Peru. Like so many immigrants, these newcomers struggled to adapt to their new culture (and the Peruvians, it should be said, didn’t exactly welcome them with open arms), but in time the transplants and their adopted countrymen found common ground in one key area: food. Along with rice and squash, the Japanese and Peruvian diets feature fish—and lots of it. From that
commonality, a new cuisine evolved. Now there are about 90,000 people of Japanese descent living in Peru, and nikkei food—the fusion of Japanese and Peruvian—is everywhere.
Emily Shaw is an English and Canadian expat who runs a company called Eat With Me that takes visitors on food tours in and around Lima. “I always introduce some comida nikkei to my groups, because it’s such an amazing part of the culinary scene here,” she says. One of the best restaurants is Maido, a high-end place that opened about a year ago. Maido’s chef, Mitsuharu Tsumaru, is best known for fusions like miso with Peruvian potatoes, pork belly with pumpkin and a sake sauce, and of course, the original nikkei dish, tiradito: a hybrid of ceviche and sashimi in which the fish is sliced thin and served in citrus sauce.
Aside from the requisite trip to Maido, Shaw likes to stay off the beaten path at local cevicherias, like Ah! Gusto, a cevicheria in Callao, the coastal district west of the city proper. There, the nikkei influence comes through in the stuffed peppers with soy- infused sauce. Another favorite is El Encuentro de Otani, for nikkei-infused ceviches like snails in soy sauce and chili, and tacu tacu (rice and bean patties) with shrimp. “I love taking people to the little huariques so they can really taste how nikkei is everywhere,” Shaw says. “Mitsuharu told me a great story about how the Japanese influenced Peruvian technique. With ceviche, Peruvians thought it needed to sit for at least an hour so that the citrus could cure the fish all the way through. When the Japanese started working in the restaurants, they said ‘But the fish is so much more delicious raw!’ And now ceviche is made to order.”
Indeed, ceviche’s made to order all over the world these days, with tiradito hot on its heels. And with nikkei joints popping up in Miami, Madrid and New York, don’t be surprised if you find ají pepper in your maki or yuzu in your ceviche next time you hit up a trendy eatery. It’s been a long time coming.
A look at pisco—beyond the sour.
Classic cocktails have been enjoying a comeback in the U.S., but in Peru the only thing classic is the name of the spirit: pisco. A new generation of fine pisco makers is marrying 400 years of tradition with modern technology to turn out liquor smooth enough to drink straight up, like Qollqe, a boutique pisco created by mad obsessive Cecila Ledesma. The top-shelf spirit is also eminently mixable. At Mayta, a swank spot in Barranco, chef Jaime Pesaque Roose makes macerados (infused piscos) of rainforest botanicals and uses them to stunning effect in chilcanos—pisco highballs that hip Limeños are choosing over the dated pisco sour.
At Cala, a restaurant with glass walls overlooking Lima’s famous surf breaks, Enrique Vidarte Morales may be the world’s most inspired new-school pisco mixologist. Try his Key Lime Pisco, a mound of soft green lime sherbet in a lake of pisco mosto verde. It is cool and sharp, perfectly balanced and beautiful, which is how you’ll feel sipping it.—GREGORY DICUM