Peru is known around the world for its diverse cuisine. I think the cuisine is not as diverse as people think, but the ingredients are. As a country boasting altitudes up to approximately 6800m as well as many micro climates, Peru is rich with flavorful products.
Anytime I think of Peruvian cuisine I think of color, bold flavor and simple techniques. The theater of taste hosted by Virgilio Martinez not only pleasant but also a great introduction to Peruvian cuisine for newcomers and informative for the onlookers with some background on the subject.
The Peruvian kitchen is one that is hard to translate or export to other countries, mainly because it is based on autochthonous ingredients. When Chef Virigilio Martinez began to use names such as camucamu, maca, canigua and huacatay, a few faces in the crowd were visibly blank and grasping at straws.
The menu of the day included a succulent scallop tiradito rolled in canigua (similar to quinoa but a smaller grain), brazil nuts, flower petals and mint. The presentation was beautiful and so simple that I mentally kicked myself for not having thought of using similar plating techniques sooner.
The second dish of the afternoon was rehydrated, formerly dried potato chunks over a salad of microgreens atop huacatay paint and served with a cacao purple corn “dirt”. The dish was a bit complex, very modern, but very tasty. I personally prefer my Peruvian dishes a little more on the simply side.
Chef Virgilio Martinez had a quiet demeanor, almost shy but you can tell he is proud of his roots and tries very hard to push the limits of Peruvian cuisine. If anything, the class increased my appreciation for the culture and cooking of Peru.