When the Inca Empire ruled the entire mountain range of the Andes from Chile to Colombia, Peru was at the center of an ancient civilization that took pride in advancing its own culture; as such, the Peruvian cuisine that originates from high in the mountains, known as “comida serrana,” is the most traditional and historic.
On an international level, Peruvian food is mostly known for its ceviche seafood cocktail and its Pisco Sour exotic beverage. When you enter a neighborhood Peruvian restaurant outside of the Lima metropolitan area, you will notice that the menu becomes more colorful and substantial. Once you start visiting towns higher up in the mountains, the dishes will become very hearty and irresistible.
The hearty recipes of the Andes tend to be very elaborate and filled with flavor. The Incas were skilled farmers who noticed that the valleys of the Andes were perfect for growing just about anything; for this reason, all species of corn, potatoes, peppers, legumes, and herbs that explorers would find around the mountains were brought to the valley farms. The Incas were also experts at keeping healthy and happy livestock for their recipes.
An iconic dish of the Andes is a “papa a la huancaína,” creamy potatoes that taste incredible thanks to the perfect blend of cereals, dairy products, spices, and herbs that go into the sauce. “Causa” is a variation of this dish that features hot peppers and lime juice. The Peruvian flavors from the Andes are not mild nor bold; they are just perfect and very filling.
The reason Peruvian cuisine from the mountains is very hearty is because life in the Andes used to be physically demanding. Farming and raising livestock at high altitudes are strenuous activities on their own; imagine building stone structures and having to pack llamas with corn flour and produce for a two-day journey to a market located across the mountain. The Incas cooked recipes that would lift the tired spirits of hard workers.
At La Costanera Restaurant in Half Moon Bay, our chef and his kitchen staff have a lot of respect for the traditional Peruvian food of the mountains.