Authentic Peruvian Food in Florida
The last ten or fifteen years have seen an explosion of culinary exploration in Florida and the United States with a particular focus on international cuisines from around the world. Peruvian food has become especially popular not only as part of the gastronomic trend sweeping the nation but also as part of America’s growing interest in health and wellness. Because Peruvian food is simultaneously nutritious yet extremely flavorful, it’s obvious why people have fallen in love with it. Low in calories but big on bright, bold flavors and exciting ingredients, Peruvian food is finally getting its rightful place in the spotlight.
History of Peruvian Food
Just as with any cuisine, in order to understand Peruvian food, people need to have a basic grasp of the country’s general history. Thanks to its fertile soils and tropical climate, Peru has always had rich and varied agricultural and marine resources which no doubt have shaped Peruvian food as it is known today.
The land’s abundance made it possible for indigenous peoples to flourish here for over four thousand years. Incas are the best known of these original inhabitants. Along with its mineral deposits, Peru’s natural resources made it extremely attractive to European invaders, most notably Spain, who arrived in Peru in the fifteenth century and colonized Peru. Along with the Spanish came enslaved Africans who also influenced Peruvian food. Later waves of immigrants from East Asia also have played a significant role in developing the flavor profile of Peruvian food.
Several notable agricultural products are native to Peru which not only remain important to Peruvian food today but have become pantry staples around the world. Indigenous peoples had domesticated many varieties of corn and potatoes before European contact. Potatoes have especially become vital ingredients to global cuisines like Russian, Indian and even American fast food.
Quinoa is another important native crop that has only recently in the last few decades become popular outside Peruvian food. The native, pre-Colombian diet also included many varieties of peppers, a type of local guinea pig, Alpaca meat and a wide variety of tropical fruits. These ingredients were not only important to Peru’s indigenous peoples but are still present throughout the cuisine today.
Peruvian food in its current form is primarily the accumulation and blending of indigenous and European cooking traditions and ingredients. However, other migrant groups from Africa as well as East Asia are also responsible for culinary contributions that shaped Peruvian food history. In this way, Peruvian food is the ultimate culinary fusion, blending together tastes from four continents into a cohesive and exciting flavor palette.
The Spanish ruled over Peru for centuries and brought with them Iberian ingredients like dairy products, olives, grapes, beef, chicken and rice. Several notable Peruvian food recipes such as Aji de Gallina represent this initial contact period where indigenous and Spanish food merged into dishes with both native and introduced ingredients.
Like most white Europeans, the Spanish relied on the labor of enslaved peoples from West and East Africa who were brought to Peru. These new, Afro Peruvians incorporated their own culinary knowledge and inventiveness into making Peruvian food what it is today. Afro Peruvians were especially skilled at using scraps and less desirable cuts of meats into savory treats. One such recipe, Anticuchos, is a popular street food made from heavily spiced organ meats served as a kebob.
Peruvian food has been further influenced and enhanced by later waves of migration from Asia during the 19th century. The Chinese first arrived in Peru during the mid 1800s, bringing with them not only their traditional cooking methods like stir frying, but also ingredients like soy sauce, ginger and garlic. They combined these traditional Chinese culinary components with local ingredients such as bananas and other tropical fruits ultimately creating new dishes which have left a lasting mark on Peruvian food traditions. Lomo Saltado, a type of stir fried beef, is a great example of a dish with Chinese origins that is distinctly Peruvian.
The Japanese arrived in Peru during later waves of migration at the turn of the 20th century, settling primarily in the country’s capital, Lima. As an Island country, Japan has a rich and varied tradition of using fish and seafood. It’s no surprise then that these Japanese migrants had a tremendous influence on the use of fish in Peruvian food. Combining sushi and sashimi techniques with local fish, the Japanese created Ceviche, one of the best known and most loved examples of Peruvian food.
While high end chefs today in the United States and Europe deliberately bring together geographically remote culinary components to create cutting edge fusion restaurants, Peruvian food has long been an organically formed fusion of traditions. The rich diversity of Peru’s natural resources and its population have made Peruvian food exciting and unique.
What makes Peruvian Food unique?
The history of Peruvian food reveals much of what makes this cuisine so unique. The country’s varied flora and fauna as well as foreign influences make the flavor profile of Peruvian food extremely distinctive. However, there are also several other unique aspects of Peruvian food.
One such aspect is the bold flavor profile due in large part to the generous use of peppers. Peppers are native to South America with several varieties originating in Peru. Called “aji” from the Spanish word, these peppers add various degrees of heat to many dishes in Peruvian food. Peppers are most commonly used in sauces. It’s important to remember that the wide variety of aji peppers means they can be used to add smokey, spicy or even sweet notes to Peruvian food.
Furthermore, Peruvian food is never bland is thanks to the abundant inclusion of spices which originate around the world and were brought to South America through Spanish and Asian influences. The Spanish had been trading for spices from South and East Asia through the silk road as far back as the middle ages. In order to preserve food on the long journey to the Americas, the Spanish would have already had spices onboard when they finally arrived in Peru. These spices such as black pepper, turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, paprika and nutmeg were then permanently incorporated into Peruvian food.
The Spanish also brought with them the seeds of fragrant herbs like cilantro, basil and parsley. Along with native plants like huacatay, paico and chincho, these herbs add a fresh, sometimes floral, note to many types of Peruvian food ranging from snacks to desserts. By having so many herbs, spices and peppers at their disposal, lovers of Peruvian food are guaranteed to never get bored!
Another notable flavor present in much of Peruvian food is citrus. Introduced by the Spanish but originating in South Asia, limes in particular add a zesty, sharp kick to much of Peruvian food, but perhaps most notably in Ceviche (also called Cebiche). While Ceviche would appear to consist of raw fish, in reality the lime’s acid chemically “cooks” the fish.
This chemical reaction also contributes to another unique aspect of Peruvian food: the variety of textures. True foodies know that there’s more to a dish than just the actual flavors but also the way food feels in the mouth, known as mouthfeel. Peruvian food takes advantage of soft, crunchy, crumbly and firm textures to create exciting bites of food.
Lastly, Peruvian food is also unique for its focus on how dishes appear. Although the visual component psychological in nature (versus strictly sensory), the gorgeous colors and ways of plating traditional dishes delights those familiar with Peruvian food. Bright green herbs, purple and red potatoes and golden quinoa are but a few of the most visually appealing ingredients typically in Peruvian food.
Types of Peruvian Food
To understand the three main types of Peruvian food, one need only look at a map! There are three main types of Peruvian food which developed along geographical boundaries: Coastal, Andean and Amazonian.
The Coastal region is the largest in Peru and hence represents the majority of Peruvian food. Much of Peru is bound by the Pacific Ocean which contributes to a diet rich in fish and seafood. Ceviche is the best known Coastal Peruvian dish but the region has also contributed a wide variety of seafood-based stews and soups. The Coastal Region was also the most heavily settled by Colonists and later immigrants so this is where the cultural fusion so prevalent in Peruvian food is primarily centered.
Andean food, meanwhile, originates in the highlands of the Andes mountains where indigenous culinary traditions remain an extremely important influence. Peruvian food here is prepared much as the Inca or other native peoples would have known it centuries ago. Culinary staples consist of native tubers like potatoes and olluco as well as corn and quinoa. Native animals which are rarely served outside South America are also important to Andean food such as guinea pigs and alpaca.
The Amazon’s biodiversity is famous the world over. It’s no surprise that the Amazonian variation of Peruvian food relies heavily on rainforest fruits like mammee apple, cherimoya, guanabana, taperiva, copoazu, aguaje and the hungurahui. As with Andean food, Amazonian food also makes use of various fresh water fish found in rivers and lakes. Piranhas are a uniquely Amazonian contribution to Peruvian food but unlikely to be found outside the region.
Ways Peruvian Food is traditionally cooked
Thanks to centuries of multiculturalism, Peruvian food incorporates cooking techniques from around the globe. Many of these techniques are used in Peruvian restaurants in the United States such as roasting, stewing, stir frying, deep frying, baking and grilling. Raw or ostensibly raw dishes like salsas, salads and the aforementioned Ceviche (which is chemically cooked but not introduced to heat) are also an important part of Peruvian food.
However, some of the ways in which Peruvian food is traditionally made are unlikely to be found outside specialized restaurants. A Peruvian chef famous throughout Latin America, Flavio Solorzano describes how potatoes were traditionally made in the Andean region: “smashed flat, then set out in the bitterly cold, dry mountain air until most of the moisture is gone; next, they’re put in a river for several days and emerge looking something like snow. Another round in the cold air with sunlight beating down on them follows — and adds still more flavor.”
While making Peruvian food certainly does not need to be that complicated, many dishes require several stages and combine techniques. For example, the deceptively simple traditional Peruvian chicken involves marinating overnight and roasting the bird itself as well as stewing and blending various sauces. As a result, people who are new to Peruvian food are wise to try restaurants to get acquainted with the cuisine.
Traditional Dishes in Peruvian Food Given the diversity of Peru’s historic populations as well as the land itself, it’s no surprise there are many traditional Peruvian food dishes. Listed below are some of the best known:
Ceviche or Cebiche This is the best known Peruvian food in the world, in part because it is Peru’s official national dish. Eaten as a starter, Ceviche is popular in bars and restaurants along the coast. It is found in both high and low end establishments. Given it’s sweeping popularity, it’s no surprise there are several variations on Ceviche. In its most basic form, ceviche is made of cubed or sliced white fish like corvina marinated overnight in chilli and lime juice. It is often served with raw onions, potatoes and/or corn. Many Peruvians even believe ceviche is an aphrodisiac and hangover cure!
Chupe de camarones (shrimp cioppino) Peruvian food takes advantage of the country’s extensive coastline! Seafood is often turned into soups and stews like Chupe de camarones (shrimp cioppino). These are eaten as main courses and contain shrimp stock as well as cream, potatoes and peppers.
Tamales Tamales are made of boiled corn stuffed with various ingredients like meat, vegetables and/or cheese. They are a popular street food throughout Latin America but in Peruvian food are also commonly eaten for breakfast. Like many similar foods throughout the world (like dumplings), there are as many ways to make tamales as there are ingredients with which to stuff them!
Pollo a la Brasa or Roast Chicken This is perhaps the most commonly found Peruvian food in both Peru and the United States. Many major metropolitan areas in the U.S. serve this dish as a quick and ready meal ideal for busy families. Similarly in Peru, several chains specialize and compete in serving pollo a la brasa. It is usually eaten with fried potatoes or yucca, salad and different types of sauces.
Peruvian Food Favorites The traditional dishes listed above are generally also Peruvian food favorites, both in and outside Peru. A few other dishes are also Peruvian food favorites such as arroz de chaufa, or Chinese style rice. This is a uniquely Peruvian food for the ways in which it fuses Spanish, indigenous and Chinese traditions into something totally distinctive. Made with soy sauce, beef and rice, this dish is sometimes made with quinoa instead.
Lima butter beans are native to the country and have been prepared as a Peruvian food side dish for at least 6,000 years! Another favorite dish among Peruvian food lovers is the empanada. Introduced by the Spanish, empanadas are made of dough with various fillings. These are a popular street food but also often made at home. Roasted and salted corn, nuts, and beans, popcorn, banana chips, and churros are the most popular snacks among those who regularly eat Peruvian food.
Spices used in Peruvian Food As mentioned earlier, part of what makes Peruvian food so unique and popular is its generous use of spices originating around the world. Black pepper is used in nearly all savory dishes! Fennel is mainly used for desserts like turron de Dona Pepa, a type of cookie. Spicy chili peppers are also commonly used to flavor a wide variety of dishes like Chupe de camarones, tamales, ceviche and polla a la brasa.
Authentic Peruvian Food used in traditions
As with all cultures, Peruvian food is used to help mark special celebrations and traditions. Just as the cuisine itself is multicultural, so too are Peruvian holidays which often combine pre-Colombian practices with Catholicism which was introduced by the Spanish and still the country’s primary religion today.
Peruvian food shapes how locals celebrate Christmas for example. Panetone with hot chocolate is a typical holiday treat that combines traditions from two continents. Panetone is a sweet Italian dessert bread made of sugary dough loaded with nuts and dried fruit. It originated in Italy but became a Peruvian food tradition thanks to the influence of Italian culture in the Catholic church. Hot chocolate, meanwhile, had been drank unsweetened by native people for millennia. As with nearly all Peruvian food, hot chocolate fused the native tradition with a European sensibility to result in the sweet drink consumed today.
The country’s independence day celebration also makes historically multicultural Peruvian food dishes a focal point. Desserts which evolved during the Spanish colonial period are especially popular such as sweet rice or corn puddings, fried doughs and apple pastries.
Peruvian Food for Everyone
** A common misconception about Peruvian food is that it’s extremely spicy and therefore too strong for many people. Nothing could be further from the truth! While peppers are widely used in so many dishes, there are over 300 varieties of peppers to choose from! As a result, even a dish made of mostly peppers could be made sweet, smokey or yes, even spicy depending on the chef’s choice or specific local preferences.
Furthermore, because Peruvian food is so diverse in terms of both ingredients and cultural influences, there is truly at least one dish to please everyone. Peruvian food lovers often are introduced to the cuisine through another, more familiar tradition whether Spanish, African, Japanese or Chinese.
Another consideration many Americans today have involves dietary restrictions. Thankfully, because Peruvian food has so many diverse ingredients, it can be customized to suit all dietary restrictions. Those who are gluten free in particular can enjoy filling and delicious carbs based on corn, quinoa and potatoes. How to tell if Peruvian Food is authentic One way to tell if Peruvian food is authentic is to research the cook or dining establishment in question. Does their website or menu descriptions mention ways in which the food is a multicultural fusion? Do they include mention of traditional dishes or ingredients listed above? Beware of establishments that present Peruvian food as a one dimensional experience or emphasize spicy heat above all other flavors.
Another common misconception is that authentic Peruvian food is only made at home or in high end establishments. There are many popular chains in Peru that make excellent Peruvian food for the masses. The most popular chains usually center on pollo a la brasa since this is such a family friendly meal.
What to order at a Peruvian Food to Restaurant
Pollo a la brasa is also an excellent choice for those new to Peruvian food who find themselves curious about a Peruvian restaurant. Chicken and potatoes, which comprise most of this meal, are the most widely eaten foods in the entire world and the United States in particular. Since this dish also often comes with a variety of sauces, this meal is also an excellent way to tailor Peruvian food in a group setting. Every diner should simply choose the sauce best suited to his or her taste!
Florida's greatest Peruvian Food restaurants
Whether new to the cuisine or a longtime gastronic aficionado, La Granja is always an excellent choice for Peruvian food in Florida. The food takes advantage of Peruvian food’s delicious flavors and healthy ingredients but served in a casual atmosphere with fast service. La Granja is ideal for dates, family meals, office outings and even just a workday lunch.
With multiple locations throughout the state, La Granja serves much of the area in Southern Florida. Franchise locations include: Lake Worth, Pembrooke Pines, Wellington, Miami Gardens, Orlando proper, Riviera, Miami, Kissimmi, Oakland Park and West Palm Beach.
La Granja is proud to bring the culinary heritage which developed through the centuries of cultural exchange combined with natural abundance that has shaped Peruvian food. Discover why Peruvian food has earned a global reputation for mouth watering quality at La Granja!
Authentic Pollo a la Brasa at La Granja Restaurants
Pollo a la brasa is available with a variety of sides at La Granja restaurants across Florida. This traditional Peruvian dish is full of flavor and nutrition. Using spices always found in Peruvian food, Pollo a la brasa is a favorite dinner made at home and as a street food. It’s popularity has climbed as more and more traditional dishes are making their way to mainstream cuisine. Pollo a la brasa is a roasted chicken that has been marinated in a mixture of special ingredients. Served with rice and beans, this dish is a Peruvian food classic. Choose from a quarter chicken, a half chicken or a whole chicken a La Granja. Their menu includes options to add other side dishes served in Peruvian cuisine. Restaurant goers can try a wonderful version of bananas to go with their chicken. Providing a texture variety, the bananas are often a favorite as soon as they hit anyone’s taste buds.
Other Peruvian dishes served at La Granja In Florida
La Granja serves many traditional styles of Peruvian food. Their grilled steak and pork platters are filled with delectable spices and a variety of textures. The spice mixture used in their dishes makes La Granja a Florida favorite. Guests enjoy their grilled steak sandwich as well as their pork fajitas. Staying true to their Peruvian roots, they also offer seafood options that delight many of their customers. The flavor profile and authentic cooking techniques used by the team at La Granja makes their restaurant a desirable place to eat.
Serving a variety of options, La Granja offers affordable specials on Peruvian food. Their ¼ chicken platter is a favorite among Florida residents. It comes with flavorful rice and traditionally prepared beans. The roasted chicken is a balanced meal that is healthy and mouthwatering. A far cry from other fast lunch options, Monday- Friday, La Granja offers a special on their bestselling chicken platter. For the same price as a fast food burger meal, Florida residents can enjoy an authentic Peruvian food experience at La Granja. For a complete list of La Granja locations serving authentic Peruvian food, visit them online.