post14 // for all those southern-bread: crispy country fried pork



Side note: Despite a month-long hiatus from blogging, my food obsession and adventures have only multiplied in the last few weeks that I have been traveling to Machu Picchu, the Amazon, and now, Santiago, Chile. I write to you as I sit perched in a zebra rug clad hostel where the music blasting ranges from Rihanna to Beatles songs—a refreshing but peculiar air of English fills the room. I am finally relieved to be based somewhere for at least five days where I have all the access I could ever want to wi-fi. Given my lack of internet over the past month, in my next few posts I will retrace the momentous meals I’ve devoured.

Now to get started on the big slab of meat you’ve been staring at for at least a couple of minutes by now! It’s called Chicharrón, the Spanish word for what is essentially fried pork rinds. While Chicharrón can also come in chicken or beef, in Perú it’s a lunchtime staple as well as a common appetizer as the traditional pork product. The platter is typically served alongside fried yuca, potatoes, and a spicy onion and pepper dressing to add just a little kick. Peruvians will always ask for a side of ají cream (in essence, ají hot pepper and mayonnaise) for dipping the fried meat and surrounding potato variations.

I consumed this very platter at the Arequipeñan food festival FestiSabores, where my Arequipeñan family and I ate one of our last large Sunday lunches together. In a limited menu caused by the masses of people exiting the Plaza with stomachs out to the sky, I gave into mob mentality and picked what everyone else in my family was having for lunch. I’d heard of Chicharrón before and was secure in the fact that anything fried was bound to be pretty good. I wasn’t disappointed.

In retrospect, the fried meat resembled a country fried steak that I remembered eating at a fraternity lunch in Davidson (thanks to Jen’s cooking in the SAE house). In general, Chicharrón is strikingly similar to a country fried meat; the chicken variety that I’ve since tried bears more than resemblance but also the same taste to the American South’s country fried chicken. Was I happy with my meal? Of course I was happy with the thick portion of pork, covered in buttery, oily, and breaded fried dough with crispy and crunchy ends of surplus fried batter. Wouldn’t that make you happy? Yet again, the way I felt after eating all of that fried food—the first REALLY fried food I can remember eating in Arequipa—that was another story. However sometimes there must be a little sacrifice for food. If a few smelly gases coming out of you and laying off the ice cream for a couple of days are all the significant changes, a good Chicharrón can really do no harm.

Let’s be honest though. We all know I was eating an ice cream by the next day.


post9 // sirloin stir fry: lomo to make you go loco


Lomo Saltado

Today, I ask the same question that Shakespeare posed through his legendary character Juliet, “What’s in a name?” Unlike Juliet who argues against the importance of names, when we’re talking about my Loco Lomo, the name says it all. By the great hand of coincidence, loco—the spanish term for crazy—and lomo—the spanish term for a cut of meat—are end-rhymes. Together they represent the best Lomo Saltado I have tasted here in Peru and to be honest, I don’t think I’m going to get anything better than the Loco Lomo. Tender and bursting with flavor, this Lomo Saltado is a keeper.

Now that I’ve explained the significance of the Loco Lomo name, let me get to what this meal is all about. Lomo Saltado is a trademark Peruvian dish with its roots in the Chifa tradition, a peru twist on typical chinese platters. The lomo can be seasoned with a lot of different ingredients but it is always cooked with onions, peppers, and tomatoes and served alongside portions of rice and french fries. In terms of my abroad group in Arequipa, Lomo Saltado defintely wins for the most ordered dish at a restaurant. For example, one boy orders Lomo Saltado at every restaurant we go to (Kieran, cough, Kieran). Yet, he has a point because Lomo Saltado is truly one of those go-to’s that you can always rely on as a good meal anywhere.

Although it’s basically good everywhere, there has to be one that’s the best, right? Of course there is. The Loco Lomo is a recipe we made in my cooking class a couple of weeks ago and it blew the whole class off our feet. Soy-sauce stood out as the key ingredient to making this lomo perfect. The meat itself is seasoned plainly beforehand with just a bit of salt and pepper, yet it’s what happens in the frying pan that turns the lomo, well, loco. It’s cooked over a high flame in a mix of vinegar, oil, and soy-sauce for just under ten minutes. The brevity of the cooking time really surprised me but also showed me how quick of a meal Lomo Saltado is to cook. Needless to say, plates were cleaned and tummies were happy. My family back home has a good one coming for them this Christmas season, that’s for sure!


post8 // rice to riches puddin’


Arroz con Leche

Before coming to Peru, rice never really did it for me. I labeled it as an unnecessary carbohydrate, bland in taste and aggravating when using chopsticks. How can anyone ever pick up those tiny grains with two sticks? Still beats me.

Yet, after a couple weeks south of the border, something taste-bud changing dawned on me: rice is wonderful…when accompanied by good ingredients. Here, a variety of sauces are poured over already-seasoned rice plates, lending to one savory bite after another. It’s not unusual to find a lunch where half the plate is made up of rice. The grain not only serves as a base for the platter’s flavoring, but also as a main source of energy for the diner. When you’re walking up to two hours every day, it’s a must!

Although I enjoy my rice at lunchtime, I fell in love with the creamy dessert that is rice pudding. Again, I was never much of a fan of this hallmark treat in the States but after making my own following a Peruvian recipe, I’ve converted into a rice pudding lover!

The Peruvians are doing something right with their desserts down here and I think I’ve caught on to the secret ingredient. Other than a whole lot of pure sugar (no high fructose corn syrup here!), condensed milk is a key ingredient in many of the cakes and baked goods. Even better than a can of sweetened condensed milk is making it yourself, which means adding as many spoonfuls of sugar as your sweet teeth desire. During my first cooking class here in Arequipa, I cooked and assembled a rice pudding with three other friends. This recipe calls for coconut, cinnamon, cloves, raisins and a sprinkle of pisco if you’re ready and willing. It was super easy to make and even easier to eat. I’ve attempted to translate the recipe below so give it a go! Served while it’s still hot, this pudding will inevitably sweeten up your day.

1 1/2 cups of Rice

1 can Evaporated Milk

1 can Condensed Milk

1 Lemon (must peel skin)

1 handful of Raisins

2 teaspoons Coconut

5 teaspoons Sugar

2 Cloves (complete)

2 teaspoons Cinnamon

In a sauce-pot, bring rice to a boil by adding 4 1/2 cups of water. While heating up, add one clove, the cinnamon and some of the lemon’s skin. In a bowl, mix the cans of evaporated and condensed milk along with the sugar. Once mixed, combine the milk and sugar with the contents of your pot and let simmer a bit longer on the stove. Transfer the mixture into a bowl to serve, add in the raisins, and decorate with ground cinnamon. If you want to, now’s the the time for that little sprinkle of pisco. ¡Provecho!

post7 // served warm: french-style croissants filled with dulce de leche


Croissants de Manjar

These are sure to melt in your MOUTH! Served warm and filled with a generous helping of dulce de leche, these delectable treats give a latin-american twist to the traditional staple of French bakeries. The croissant itself is extremely buttery, to such a degree that the bread is already sweet to begin with. Dulce de leche is woven through it’s flaky insides, assuring each bite a taste of both the croissant and it’s rich filling. But how could I forget? A hefty sprinkling of powdered sugar is in order to finish off this delectable serving.

On the days I make it to my favorite bakery here in Arequipa, La Canasta (fun fact: canasta means basket in english!), I struggle to resist this croissant. For any fan of dulce de leche, this delight of a snack is an unmatchable taste; yes, I’m talking to you Jake, my brother and dulce de leche aficionado. For this reason, I’ve had to wean the amount of times I walk through the homemade bread-smelling doors of La Canasta, at least for my waistline’s sake.

Anyone unfamiliar with dulce de leche, let me get you familiar. You can find it all over the states, either pure or in ice cream, cakes, pastries, etc. It’s made by heating sweetened milk that turns into a caramelized final product. Only once have I made it on my own, yet after much inspiration down here in Peru, I look forward to making it a whole lot more upon my return to the states. This recipe was the one I followed to make mine and it’s definitely a keeper! For the chefs or wannabe chefs out there, give it a try. And while you’re at it, buy a croissant, top it with powdered sugar and dip, dip away.

1000 ml whole milk
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 vanilla bean, split (optional)
1. In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the milk, sugar and baking soda. Stir well to dissolve the sugar.
2. Bring to a boil over medium heat without stirring. Remove from the heat and skim off any scum on top.
3. Add the vanilla bean (if using) and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to very low and simmer gently for 1 hour, stirring frequently.
4. Remove the vanilla bean (if using) and discard it. Continue to simmer gently for another 1/2 – 1 hour over very low heat, stirring frequently, until thickened and caramelised. Remove from heat and let it cool.
5. Dulce de Leche can be stored in a refrigerator in a clean glass jar for 1-2 weeks.

post5 // yes to all: cheese-smothered potato pie and meat stuffed pepper


Rocoto Relleno y Pastel de Papas

After a long morning tour of Arequipa by bus, I was ravenous. Not in a good way. My friends here in our Davidson group of eighteen, with the help of my approval, have named my hungriest of emotional and physical states: the hangry. I’m sorry if there’s anyone else out there that suffers from the hangry, I understand your plight. For those that are lucky enough to escape this condition, I have a bit of explaining to do. It starts coming on if you haven’t eaten for a couple of hours. Next thing you know, the only acceptable topic of conversation is your hunger, and your anger concerning your hunger. Those girls laughing on the other side of the room? Yeah, no. They need to stop, because the hangry is a bit overwhelming right now.

Luckily though, there’s a simple remedy to the hangry: that large part of our lives called food. Upon smelling my meal as I watched it delivered to my seat, I was cured.

If the picture doesn’t get your mouth watering I don’t know what could. Yet again, I could see those picky eaters out there wondering what is on top of the cheesy potato pie and pepper duo…

It’s an egg-based topping that naturally for this dish, also contains cheese. The egg’s function is to break up the spiciness of the hot pepper. Although I love spicy foods, with the amount of cheese and meat packed into this very pepper, the dish itself was far from fiery. The potato pie was rich and flavorful, a layered lasagna-like structure enjambed with egg and more cheese. The top and bottom are crisped to a light golden brown, just like any pie you would make. Together, the pepper and pie embody not just a signature Peruvian dish, but a quintessential Ariquipenan entrée. This award-worthy tasting of two traditional foods will be hard to beat. I’m looking into a recipe for this particular rendition, stay tuned!

post4 // a new kind of olive bread


Pan de Aceituna

The world is split between two different types of people: those who enjoy the salty bite of an olive and those who detest the sight. I stand with the former, but only as of recent. Three years ago, I had never tasted an olive. I didn’t like them because of the way they looked and smelled.

Well, I was wrong.

I am happy that I grew to love olives prior to my time in Peru. Today, I eat them for breakfast with ham and cheese on a piece of flat bread.  Sometimes I eat them with lunch and other times, I eat them AGAIN for dinner. Olives are everywhere here, enough said.

When I ordered a portion of olive bread at one of my favorite spots here in Arequipa, La Canasta, I was expecting to receive a piece of bread with a hint of olive flavoring inside. To my still unconvinced surprised, a small basket was placed in front of me, bearing a large piece of french bread covered in olive bits. I was perplexed. I sat in my seat staring at the bread that seemed very foreign to me. Yet, I didn’t sit for long given the fact that I am always a craving diner. I grasped the olive bread and quickly, my puzzling expression shifted to one of pure delight. Although I shouldn’t have marveled at the warmth between my two hands, I am still getting used to the way bakeries here heat up everything for you. It is so wonderful! Why don’t bakeries do that in the States? Anyways, I took my first bite out of the olive bread and instantly received verification for my order. The inside was buttery and the bread’s dough was filled with large olive fragments that cut the richness with a salty kick.

Since first ordering the bread two weeks ago (originally a recommendation from my friend Kate), I have enjoyed it’s company as my mid-morning snack over and over again.

This won’t be the last time you’ll be hearing about my visits to La Canasta. My frequent trips have uncovered their delectable croissants and more!

post3 // pachamanca and the earth oven


As my family back home was eating our annual clam-bake, I was enjoying Peru’s version: Pachamanca. The traditional Andean dish is cooked in the ground “la tierra” over stones that have been heated by a fire. After surrounding the chicken, guinea pig (yes…I repeat, guinea pig), potatos and corn with bamboo leaves that kept the food clean, a tarp followed by soil created a sealed earth oven.

Our group was lucky enough to see every step of the process at Topara Organico, the first certified organic farm in Peru. The farm’s founder, Klaus Bederski, gave us a tour around the grounds and after two and a half hours or so, our Pachamanca had finished cooking. It was my first time trying guinea pig, known as “cuy (ku-wi)” in Peru. Despite a lot of bones, the meat was tasty and different from other meats I’ve tried. I don’t know if I would order it everyday but it was definitely something to experience here. The chicken was delicious, both succulent and meaty; it really does make a difference in the taste when something is being slow-cooked! Still, my favorite had to be the sweet potatoes, a common peruvian food that I have enjoyed day in and day out of my time here.  The rest of the plate seen in the photo came fresh from the topara farm: avocados “paltas”, lettuce, tomatoes, etc. It was a deliciously filling lunch and as an entire meal, Pachamanca proves to be one of my best yet.

post0 // lucuma ice cream

Helado de Lucuma

It didn’t take long for me to find ice cream in Peru. Anyone who knows of my frequent trips to the District’s Thomas Sweet or Davidson’s Caroline Cones is aware of what just might be an…obsession of sorts. I figure it’s a good one to have.

This very ice cream is made from lucuma fruit combined with both chocolate and pecan bits. Lucuma is distinctly Peruvian, originating from the Andean valleys and dating back to indigenous burial sites within these regions. The fruit itself (which I have since tried) is quite dry in taste, unlike anything I’d ever had before. In contrast to the anticlimatic lucuma fruit tasting, my lucuma ice cream was the perfect amount of sweet. A bad fruit to eat plain, but delicious when enhanced with copious amounts of cream and sugar. Funny how that works isn’t it?