My first experience with Peruvian cuisine
I got introduced to the Peruvian cuisine by my friend, the only native Peruvian I know. He convinced us to go to a Peruvian restaurant in Antwerp. Not expecting much I was surprised to discover that it turned out to be one of the best culinary experiences I've ever had! After first bite Peruvian cuisine may seem not much different from the European one, but the plate will soon uncover a delectable palette of tastes and smells where the originality and variety of combinations will make you try it again!
A bit of history
During the 15th and 16th century vast area of modern Peru was a part of the Inca Empire. Its native inhabitants were planting and eating mostly grains characteristic for the climate of the land such as: quinoa (a grain-like crop grown with edible seeds), kañiwa (similar to quinoa) and kiwicha (amaranth seed) which thanks to their high nutritional quality are becoming a point of interest for researchers also nowadays. During the colonial period, after the conquest by Spaniards in 16th century, Peru's food model changed, accepting influences from Mediterranean Europe, mostly from Spain, but also from Italian immigrants who came to Peru from Liguria and Tuscany and inhabited in Lima around the same time as the Spanish conquistadors.
After the conquest the native Incan cuisine based on traditional food plants was ignored and forgotten. However, the Spanish brought back to Europe a lot of ingredients without which a standard European cannot imagine a decent meal. As a matter of fact it would be difficult to picture the taste of Italian pizza without tomatoes or traditional English breakfast without beans. In exchange Spanish introduced Peruvians to the foods which are now widely used in the country's classic dishes like: rice, onions, pork etc. Peruvian dishes combine not only European influences. Thanks to the Japanese, Chinese (who have strong presence especially in Lima) and African immigrants Peru's food has become an interesting gastronomic experience and tasteful fusion cuisine boasting some of the best culinary traditions of the world.
My favourite Peruvian dish
Peruvian cuisine differs from region to region reflecting climatic variety of 28 individual climates (out of 32 found on Earth!) and I will not even dare to try to list here the dishes typical for each of them. But would like to present my favorite Peruvian dish to you - Lomo Saltado.