Peruvian food is a glorious mix of ancient traditions combined with European indulgence that makes it both interesting and unique.
The roots of Peru’s cuisine is in Inca traditions. The Incas date back thousands of years and were a source of many practical food systems including transporting and distributing food by the Inca Road, storing food in emergency warehouses and freeze drying and preserving food, including jerky.
The Incas were the first to use potatoes in cooking and corn, introduced from Mexico before the Incan Empire, was also highly important in Incan recipes. The transportation system from the coast to the mountains allowed those living in both areas to obtain ingredients not common to their area, which created a wider variety in their diet.
Peru saw the influence of other cultures as the Spanish conquered the lands. This brought European cooking styles and ingredients, like chocolate and sugar, and certain spices to Peru’s cuisine. The Spaniards brought African slaves, who had their own food culture. They adapted their recipes to use local ingredients, but were known to use heavy spices. Part of that was to cover the bad taste of spoiling meat, which is all they could obtain given their social status. The Africans also were known for rich desserts using cane sugar.
The Asians, particularly the Chinese and Japanese, began immigrating to Peru seeking work and, naturally, their brought their food culture to add to Peruvian flavors. This included one of the country’s most treasured dishes, cerviche. The Asian culture took advantage of the plentiful fish and seafood along the coast.
As with the other immigrating cultures, they were forced to use local ingredients since they couldn’t obtain items from their homeland. Eventually, they incorporated the Incan traditions, as well as those of other immigrants.
There is a Peruvian restaurant near San Francisco that incorporates the vast history of Peru’s food. La Costanera Restaurant, overlooking the Pacific Ocean at Montara Beach, has authentic cuisine under the direction of native Peruvian Chef Carlos Altamirano. It is the closest you’ll get to Peruvian culture this side of the equator.