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Peru, the best food in Latin America
Below: Chef Rodriguez’ ceviche

Peru, the best food in Latin America

By Martin Mendiola….

Below: Chef Rodriguez’ ceviche

A heated but friendly discussion took place among friends who were trying to establish which Latin American country has the best food.  Two of the participants immediately agreed, “without doubt, everyone knows Cuban food is the best in the world”.  Then without rhyme or reason, they quickly retracted “the world” and replaced it with “the Universe” emphasizing, “There is nothing to argue about, everyone knows that”.

The discussion on Argentina was short, everyone agreed Argentina has great beef, but beef alone does not the best make.  The group quickly decided that Argentinean fares are one-dimensional.

Our Mexican advocate explained that Mexico is a large country with a tremendous variety of indigenous products and different cooking methods giving it the advantage over everyone else.  He commented, “Many products used throughout Latin America, such as corn, are originally from Mexico which again, shows where the essence for a lot of the area’s cuisines come from.  Therefore, Mexican food is best” and so he argued.

We disagreed and went on to say that because of its diversity and exquisite taste, Peruvian cuisine is one of the best in the world and not just the best in Latin America.  With its vast ocean, maze of rivers and Lake Titicaca, fish and seafood have been a staple part of the Peruvian diet since early times.  Its indigenous products not only play a major part in Peruvian cuisine, but many have become an integral part of what people eat around the world.

Tomatoes and chilies are original from Peru, but migrated to Mexico where Europeans first found them and therefore the misconception as to their place of origin.  Between 3700 and 3000 B.C., the Incas were already cultivating more than 300 varieties of potatoes, and as we all know, potatoes have become a major part of the staple diet for many.  Even further, back in 8000 B.C. pre-Incas first domesticated certain beans.  When Francisco Pizarro, the Spanish conquistador of Peru founded the city of Lima in 1535, these beans acquired the name by which we now know them, Lima Beans.

Many cooking methods originating in Peru have evolved and are still in use today.  The Incas established the concept of charque or jerky, as we know it.  With the need to preserve and store food indefinitely, they also materialized the concept of freeze-drying.  The ancient Inca capital of Cuzco, sits in the Altiplano, a desert at high elevations where the weather is hot, dry during the day, and freezing at night.  By squeezing the moisture out of the potatoes with their feet during the day, much like crushing grapes for wine, and leaving them out to dry, the potatoes froze at night and could be stored indefinitely.

The influences of different cultures throughout time have helped shape Peruvian cuisine, especially during the 19th century when immigrants from Spain, Africa, France, Italy, Japan and China added their flavors and cooking methods.  This eclectic approach to traditional dishes is what Peruvian cuisine is about today.

If there is a Peruvian national dish, it must be ceviche.  Sort of like sashimi, only better.  During pre-Hispanic times, coastal inhabitants ate their fish macerated in chicha, a fermented drink made from maize.  As enhanced by the Spaniards, today’s ceviche is bite size pieces of very fresh white fish (firm so that it will not disintegrate in the limejuice) like snapper or corvina tossed with thinly sliced red onions and limejuice.  Many variations have evolved, such as tiraditos, where the fish filet is thinly sliced, flattened and does not include onions.  Other recipes use shrimp or other seafood instead of fish, as well as the use of cilantro, celery, red or yellow peppers.

In the United States, Chef Douglas Rodriguez has done more to raise ceviche awareness than anyone else has.  Known as the Godfather of Nuevo Latino Cuisine, he should also be known as Ceviche’s Ambassador At-Large, for no other person in this country has made more people aware of this wonderful dish.  With his The Great Ceviche Book, the many restaurants he has been involved with througout the country where ceviches are an integral part of the menus and the many more he has created, no one else comes close.

Not long ago I tried what Chef Rodriguez called the Laughing Bird Shrimp Ceviche.  This is an incredible dish, one of the most flavorful we have ever tried.  His use of chiplote adobo adds a smokey dimension that makes it unique.  This is just one of his many exciting creations.  A visit to de Rodriguez Cuba on Ocean restaurant at the Hilton Bentley Hotel, 101 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach will give you the opportunity to try many of his interpretations of this traditional dish.  It will also show his unique understanding of the diversity he has found in ceviches and is willing to share with us.

Much to the dismay of our friends, it became obvious that Peru has the best food in Latin America.

25 comments

  1. There was no peru when the pre Incan civilizations lived there and started the cultivation of potatoes and quinoa, then the incas came and used alot of the techniques already there. The there are more countries in the andean region than peru and their cuisines are as vast take Bolivia with its dishes. People should not be closed minded and think peru is the only country to cook potato and quinoa dishes and charque. There is more countries than mexican or peruvian food representing latin american food. Open your mind people and research before you speak of best latin cuisines.

    • is not the only country but it is where they started to cook it at and it originated at, google quinoa and it will certainly tell u its an ingredient from the Andes, there are MANY MANY ingredients which exists in Mexico and Peru that you cant find anywhere else. There are many kinds of potatoes that exists in Peru that u cant even find in the states,.. trust me i KNOW., there are more countries that represent latin american food but none really come to mind which is why they arent even in the conversation!. It also depends what criteria you are using, in terms of VARIETY and diversity Mexico and Peru win by farrrrr, byyyyyy farrrrr, dishes and cuisines differ from region to region of these countries, there is no cook-book in existence that could list every single dish from these 2 countries, you can have 1 dish at a Peruvian house for every 365 days of the year and u will not repeat 1 dish!,.In recent years there has been this yearly food festival called "Mistura" in Lima, Peru, it is currently the largest food festival in Latin America, and many people from all over the world come to eat, its not even to go sightseeing , JUST EAT!, the world renowned "Le Cordon Bleu" culinary school exists only in Mexico D.F and in Lima, Peru , the ONLY ones in Latin America, this is not coincidence!, there's a reason for it!. Yes, you all are right, its about personal taste, BUT everything i just threw at you all are FACTS!, not opinions.

  2. ^ smell like hate around here hahaha… I love peruvian food.. to me and to many .. one of the best!

    • NAHH is not hate , i think they just dont know because Peruvian food is not that popular.., at least at the moment

  3. I disagree, Tomatoes and chilies are not only originally from Peru. The aborigines of Mesoamerica were already cultivating this types of fruit before contact with Incas or European settlers. Even the terminology is in Nahuatl, Tomatl (Tomato) and Chilli (Chili). In addition, there is a wide variety of tomatoes and chilies in Mexico and Central America that are not found in Peru, like Pasilla, Jalapeño, Guajillo, Serrano, Chiltepin, Arbol, Ancho, Tomatillo, Amarillo, and etc.

    As far as which is best, I think it depends on the person's taste. Mexican food does stand out from the rest of Latin America because it is popular and world-renowned for its exotic presentation, rich color, variety, and exquisite taste. You can find a Mexican restaurant at any corner of a city in the world like a McDonalds.

    • Andrew Lazzari

      Please, Peruvian food is better than Mexico(I am from France), by the way ignorant, potatoes are from Peru, did you know that in Peru are more than 3000 potatoes?(Mexico doesn't have potatoes, Peru gave them to Mexico, which means Peru grew the potatoes)

      • @Andrew Lazzari, Wow! I think you are taking it too personal. Did you read my comment? I never said that potatoes are from Mexico. You should carefully read my comment again, than you'll get the whole picture. And, Like I said before as far as which is best, it depends on the persons taste. You might like Peruvian food more than Mexican but others might like Mexican food more than Peruvian.

        • European, American and Latin American chefs have gotten together to vote Peruvian Cuisine to be on the top, maybe you should do research before you try to educate others about "Mexican food".

          Read up.
          http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/28/lima-per
          http://www.the-top-tens.com/items/peru-6621.asp

          • @ Charles, I'm sorry if you let your Peruvian pride get in the way but in no way I insulted Peruvian food or it's people.

            If you read the article, Martin Mendiola, the journalist, clearly states; "Tomatoes and chilies are original from Peru, but migrated to Mexico where Europeans first found them and therefore the misconception as to their place of origin." He makes a false general statement saying that origins of tomatoes and chilies are from Peru, which is a big lie because there is different types of tomatoes and chilies that are not found in Peru but in Mesoamerica— Mexico and Central America— where they are originally from like I mentioned above. He also states; "Peru, the best food in Latin America." In my modest opinion, he sounds very egotistically biased when there is other countries in Latin America that also have very good food. Martin Mendiola could have said, "Peru, One of the best food in Latin America."

            Using online comments from unknown to known chef's is no way of proving whether some country's food is better than another. No one has the right to tell you what to like in such a bold statement when there is 7 billion people in the world with their own personal taste. It maybe one of Latin America's best but in no way to prove that it is top or better from another. Like I told Andrew Lazzari, As far as which is best, it depends on the persons taste. You might like Peruvian food more than Mexican but others might like Mexican food more than Peruvian.

          • LOLA, You are confusing the statements, you are making a totally different argument here. your saying that the origin of the tomato is false BECAUSE there are more different tomatos and chilis found in Mexico. SO WHAT???, those are 2 different things!!!, there is MORE variety in Mexico yes, but that doesnt mean it originated from them!!, THE origin is Peru!, you can deny it all u want, but its the truth !! lol. The spaniards took it up north of Peru to Mexico and the Aztecs cultivated them there, therefore Mexico now has more variety!, but it is NOT its origin. you get it now??? lol

          • and plus that guy writing this article is a journalist, they are paid to give their opinion!, You sound as though he didnt take into account other countries, iF u read the article , the writer breaks down pretty much all the other relevant and more known cuisines of Latin America, talked about Argentina, Cuba and Mexico.., you want him to go thru all 20' something countries in Latin America??, i mean the reason why he didnt mention Costa Rica, or Guatemala .. or what have you is because obviously they are considered an after-thought.

    • You are dead wrong sir, the aborigines are the ones that migrated to Peru wayy before tim ehttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tomatoes << check that out. and YES MEXICO HAS MORE VARIETY of chilis and such, thats not the discussion, the discussion is the ORIGIN, which is Peru, NOT THE VARIETY!, and yes I WOULD say Mexican and Peruvian are right up there, but again, popularity has nothing to do with it, the reason why in the states became popular because obviously the amount of migration of Mexicans to the U.S , HOWEVER, what is sold as "Mexican food" in the states most of the time is not really authentic and instead is Mex-Tex.
      .

  4. PLEASE MEXICAN FOOOD IS THE BEST!!! OVER ANY LATIN FOOD IN THE WORLD… I'VE TRIED IT ALL AND MEXICAN IS THE BEST!!!

    • And that's YOUR opinion. Leave the rating to the professional chefs in Europe, America and Latin America to vote Peruvian Cuisine to be at the top. Do research before you post something you clearly don't know anything about.

    • Mexican cusine is by far the best!!!!

  5. This Journalist DOES NOT know what the heck he is talking about!! MexiCAN food is popular for a reason- Because IT IS the best in Latin America and IT does STAND OUT as Latin America's Best world renowned cuisine! Obviously this journalist is KNOW NOTHING to make a bold statement against Mexico's world class cuisine. What a joke!

    • That's because ur so close to America…

    • You need to educate yourselves, on what famous chefs worldwide have been rating Peruvian Cuisine. It's been rated as over the top cuisine. Who asked about Mexican food? The statement about it being the best world renowned cuisine is false and the food is said to be why Mexican people are the most obese people aside from America. Mexican food is the last i go to. Peruvian food is delicious and healthy. And I'm American, you should see how much the Peruvian restaurants get full, and its not only hispanics, its also a lot of white people. Everywhere i go, when i ask people what they like to eat, they immediately say Lomo Saltado (The king of Peruvian of Cuisine). It's not freaking tacos. When people want tacos they go to Taco Bell.

      • Chris you might be part American but don't let your Peruvian pride get in your way because it makes you sound foolishly egoistic especially when you attack the country that has given you shelter. The least to do is attack a country's people, every one is different, not the same.

        • Sorry Lola,but Chris is right Peruvian Cuisine is way better them mexico Cuisine,is amazing how huge is the variety of different type of plates,you can eat different type of recipes the entire year,plus potatoes i never seem so many ,they have more them 2000 species ….i saw that with my own eyes during my vacation in machu picchu ,cuzco peru, i'm from germany i like mexican food ,but Peruvian so far is the best i tasted.

  6. Do a little research before giving your ignorant opinion, yeah "OPINION". Theres millions of other people who have voted Peruvian food at the top of the WorldWide cuisine, recognized all over Asia and Europe as well as America and Latin America.

    Read a little, maybe you'll educate yourselves.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/28/lima-per
    http://www.the-top-tens.com/items/peru-6621.asp

  7. Nice article. After traveling throughout Mexico and Peru, I can attest they are both great! The diversity seems greater in Peru due to its incredible geography. And they have Latin America's largest food festival. The travel company Explorations has a tour to Peru this September that includes a day at Mistura 2012. http://www.adventuresofdiscovery.com/peru-mistura.html

  8. LISA AND EVERYBODY ELSE THAT LIVES IN THE STATES, !!! , UNLESS YOU BEEN TO MEXICO, AND IM NOT TALKING ABOUT ACAPULCO ON SPRING BREAK EITHER!!, IM TALKING ABOUT MEXICO CITY D.F!, OR UNLESS YOU WENT TO A HIGH CLASS END RESTAURANT WHERE THEY SERVED AUTHENTIC MEXICAN FOOD, THEN YOU HAVE NOT TRIED WHAT REAL MEXICAN FOOD IS ALL ABOUT!. WHATS SOLD HERE AS MEXICAN FOOD, IS REALLY MEX-TEX, DISHES MADE BY SOUTHERN AMERICANS USING SOME MEXICAN ENGREDIENTS, FOR EXAMPLE, THE BURRITO DOESN'T EXIST IN MEXICO, NEITHER DOES THE NACHOS, OR THAT ORANGY HEAVY ASS CHEESE SAUCE!, A TACO IN AMERICA WITH A HARD SHELL IS NOT A REAL AUTHENTIC MEXICAN TACO, FAJITAS ARE AMERICANIZED, NOT MEXICAN!. SO IF YOUR TALKING OF THAT KIND OF MEXICAN FOOD??, THEN YOU CANT EVEN MAKE AN ARGUMENT. :) THANK U

  9. oe selfish Mexican shut up!! everyone in southamerica know Peru got the best food in the world , im from argentina and we think Mexican food is cheap and too spicy , full of cheap chilly that make u stomach hurt like hell!!, peru food is amazing but people around world know more the crappy Mexican food cause mexico is next to usa and that why is popular but if u travelled around the world and u went to Peru , you know why I say , and peru got better places that sad mexico just show some crappy pyramides and some manmade beaches , peru got full culture , machupichu , snow mountains to sky , real beaches , amazong jungle wow too many things that I can ever write

  10. Peruvian food is soo far much better! No comparison! Best I ever tasted! #1 in the world!