Palta Rellena

It seems like a hundred years since I lived in Lima, Peru. And although some of the memories of my years there have faded, my memories of the food have not. One of my favorites was (and is) palta rellena. Avocados stuffed with anything from cebiche to ham to tuna salad. I found this great variation on the classic over on Peru Delights, a wonderful site dedicate to all foods Peruvian. The avocado is smashed into a creamy guacamole, then topped with a mixture of shrimp, onion, tomato, and olives mixed with fresh lime juice. Drizzled with a fantastic sauce of aji amarillo, mayo and ketchup.
Palta RellenaAji amarillo has a fantastic fruity, spicy flavor. Not too hot, but not totally tame either. If you can’t find it just add a few squirts of Sriracha hot sauce instead.

Palta Rellena

Prep Time10 mins
Total Time10 mins
Course: Salad
Cuisine: American
Servings: 2 servings

Ingredients

For the guacamole

  • 1 avocado
  • Kosher salt freshly ground black pepper and lemon juice, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic

For the salad

  • 1 cup cooked salad shrimp
  • 2 tablespoons chopped tomato
  • 2 tablespoons minced red onion
  • 1 tablespoon sliced black olives
  • Kosher salt freshly ground black pepper and lemon juice, to taste

For the drizzle

  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons aji amarillo
  • 1 teaspoon ketchup

For the garnish

  • Chopped fresh parsley

Instructions

For the guacamole

  • Mash together the avocado and salt, pepper and lemon juice.
  • Spoon mixture onto plates, or into a small metal ring (I used a large round cookie cutter) and mash down to the bottom. Make a slight indentation into the middle for the salad.

For the salad

  • Combine the shrimp, tomato, onion and olives.
  • Season and add lemon juice to taste.
  • Spoon onto avocado mixture.

For the drizzle

  • Whisk together all ingredients and drizzle over the salads.
  • Serve garnished with fresh chopped parsley.

Andean Popcorn

I love Andean popcorn. It’s somewhat similar to the popcorn we enjoy here in the states in that it has a fantastic flavor, even a hint of a butter. The kernels, though, are different. They do not explode and puff up like popcorn has been grown to do here. Instead, they kinda… just go… pop. No big explosion. No fluffy white insides. The kernel is thin, and very crunchy. You just pop (no pun intended) the entire thing into your mouth and enjoy.
Andean PopcornI recall street vendors up in the mountains of Peru, in the city of Huancayo, selling bags of popcorn along the street on market day. I think a bag was 10 soles which then was less than a US nickel. Well worth the price! They were fried in screaming hot oil then salted. That’s it. You did (and do) have to be careful of the kernels when they first come out of the fryer, though. They are very, very hot. So let them cool a bit before diving in!

I popped the cancha in the same popper I use for ‘regular’ popcorn. It takes a bit longer as the heat needs to get really good and hot, but it’s well worth the wait. If you can’t find cancha in a South American market near you you can order it using the Amazon link at the bottom of this post. It’s great stuff!

Another favorite Peruvian-inspired appetizer of mine is aji amarillo chicken wings.

Andean Popcorn

Cook Time10 mins
Total Time10 mins
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Peruvian
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Mike

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried cancha corn
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Sea salt

Instructions

  • Add the corn and oil to your popcorn popper and let pop until completely done.
  • Remove and immediately add salt. Do not be shy with the salt.
  • Let cool slightly before serving. The kernels will be very hot directly out of the popper.

Papa a la Huancaína

Huancayo is a fairly large city about 5 1/2 hours outside of Lima, Peru. It was the first city that I went to outside of Lima when I lived there many years ago. The drive is through some very beautiful areas in the Andes.

This potato dish from Huancayo is served as an appetizer, which might seem odd to many (it seemed odd to me at the time, but I was a kid). Golden potatoes are topped with a creamy sauce that is almost Holandaise-like, but it has a nice spicy kick thanks to aji amarillo, a Peruvian pepper that is a bit fruity in flavor. Topped with boiled eggs and olives, and sometimes corn, papa a la Huancaina is a great summer dish (served cold or at room temperature).
Papa a la HuancaínaIf you can’t find aji amarillo paste, use pureed habaneros.

Also try some of my other Peruvian favorites, lomo saltado, palta rellena and Solterito Arequipeño (Arequipa Avocado Salad).

Papa a la Huancaína

Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Peru
Servings: 4
Author: Mike

Ingredients

  • 6 yellow potatoes
  • 1/2 cup aji amarillo paste
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 soda crackers
  • 8 ounces queso fresco crumbled
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • Pinch of Kosher salt
  • Iceberg lettuce leaves
  • Black olives sliced
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs peeled, sliced
  • Parsley sprigs for garnish

Instructions

  • Peel the potatoes.
  • Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.
  • Add potatoes and cook until just soft. Do not over cook. Remove, drain, and run under cold water. Drain again. Slice thick.
  • Place aji, oil, crackers, cheese, milk and salt into a blender and process until creamy smooth.
  • To assemble, lay down a few leaves of lettuce.
  • Top with the potatoes and drizzle heavily with the sauce.
  • Add the olives and eggs.
  • Garnish with parsley and serve.

Lomo Saltado

I cannot say enough about just how great this lomo saltado tasted. It was absolutely fantastic, and surprisingly took only minutes to prepare. The incredible flavors reminded me so much of my years living in Peru. And although there are a lot of variations on this dish, it comes down to great beef stir-fried with onions and tomatoes, served with fries or potato wedges and occasionally rice. It’s a wonderful example of the Asian influences on Peruvian cuisine.

Lomo SaltadoOne of these keys to a great lomo saltado is the Peruvian aji amarillo pepper. It has a distinct flavor that is almost fruity, with just a bit of heat. If you cannot find aji amarillo peppers you can use aji amarillo paste, which is easier to find in specialty stores. And in a pinch, use a habanero pepper instead.

I cooked this wonderful lomo saltado on the Weber Performer grill using the wok insert. It is an amazing way to do stir-fry. Easy clean up, and super high heat.

Lomo Saltado

Note: Cook time does not include the time to heat the fries or make the rice.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Main
Cuisine: Peru
Servings: 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb tender steak sirloin or better
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 red onion sliced thick
  • 2 to matoes sliced thick
  • 1 tablespoon aji­ amarillo paste see note, or 1 aji amarillo pepper, seeded and minced
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro chopped
  • 2 cups cooked steak French fries
  • 1 cup white rice cooked

Instructions

Note: Aji amarillo paste is a paste of the Peruvian aji pepper. It can be found jarred in most South American specialty stores. If you cannot find it substitute a large, seeded and minced habanero pepper.

  • Slice the steak very thin. I find it easier to do this if you first put the steak into the freezer for 30 minutes to an hour before slicing.
  • Heat a wok over high heat.
  • Toss steak slices with 1 tablespoon of oil and season with salt and pepper.
  • Add to the wok and stir fry for 10 minutes, getting the meat almost done completely through and nicely golden in color.
  • Add garlic, onion and tomato slices, and aji pepper. Stir fry for 3-4 minutes.
  • Drizzle the soy sauce and vinegar along the size of the wok and stir all ingredients well, stir frying.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve hot along with fries and rice.

Choclo al Cumino

I am a big fan of choclo. It’s a corn from the Andes of Peru. It’s not like the sweet corn you normally find here in the US. In fact, it’s not sweet at all. The kernels are instead very large and very starchy, almost like hominy. This choclo al cumino really accentuates the unique flavor of the corn, with a hint of lime and cumin. It’s a fantastically fresh and light side dish.

Choclo al CuminoYou can find the choclo to make choclo al cumino in some South American specialty food stores. Usually it’s frozen and off the cob, but you can also find it on the cob. In Peru, it isn’t uncommon to find street vendors selling boiled choclo-on-the-cob, specially when you are in the Andes.

Another favorite choclo dish of mine (though not authentic Peruvian cuisine) is my choclo maque choux.

Choclo al Cumino

Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time15 mins
Course: Side
Cuisine: Peruvian
Servings: 2 -3 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 ears of choclo corn or substitute 1 1/2 cups frozen choclo kernels, thawed
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin divided
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lime

Instructions

  • Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add just enough water to cover the cobs or the lose kernels.
  • Add the corn and sugar and boil 3-5 minutes or until the kernels are tender. Drain. If using choclo-on-the-cob cut kernels from the cobs.
  • Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add the corn, half of the cumin, and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Stir and heat through.
  • Squeeze the lime over the corn.
  • Serve sprinkled with the remaining cumin.