Peruvian food is not a commonly found culinary option on our side of the planet. Personally, I have only ever eaten Peruvian food once before in my life a couple of years back when an American friend was here on a short visit, and insisted on feasting on some Peruvian dishes during his trip. I took him to the now sadly permanently closed Tono, and recalled that I enjoyed trying out Peruvian cuisine, which is very colourful and pleasing to the eyes. Peruvian cuisine is no doubt yummy, and tends to lean towards the appetizingly sour side of our palate spectrum.
The opportunity to savour the diversity of Peruvian food came once more when At-Sunrice Global Chef Academy invited me to an exclusive one-day only Christmas event as part of their regular Sunday Luxe series. I simply could not resist and even started to salivate when I glanced upon the special festive menu offerings that have been well curated by Chefs Daniel and Tamara Chavez who are the delightfully cheery South American couple that run and spearhead the cozy and lush Peruvian restaurant Canchita located over at Dempsey Hill.
The day’s event kick started off with a one hour Peruvian food cooking masterclass whereby both Chef Daniel and Chef Tamara demonstrated how quick and simple it is to create two beloved iconic Peruvian starters which are also featured on the special festive menu that they have created for the event. Right after the masterclass, the participants sampled and bought various Peruvian specialities and delicacies over at the produce market before attending a Pisco tasting workshop led by Junior the Pocket Bar whereby we got to learn about and sample five different types of Pisco pairings. During the Peruvian coffee-making workshop, the passionate and enthusiastic owner of Parchmen & Co. educated the participants on both the hot and cold techniques of brewing and savouring Peruvian coffee, which tends to produce lighter and fruitier flavours than the more robust brews from neighbouring Colombia and Brazil.
With the strong supporting and capable hands of the faculty staff and students of At-Sunrice Global Chef Academy, the two Canchita chefs supervised the entire professional culinary team to serve up generous portions of delicious Peruvian food fare to tables of hungry and appreciative diners for both the 5-course high tea and 7-course dinner. The team was further backed by the talented bartenders of Junior the Pocket Bar that crafted speciality Peruvian style cocktails for each dish, as well as Cellarmaster that provided a South American wine selection for the evening. Judging by the attendance, the feasting was clearly the most popular segment of the entire event.
The Peruvian Christmas dinner started off with two appetizer dishes that were identical to what we were taught to make during the earlier masterclass cooking demo session. The brightly coloured Ceviche Nikkei with Hokkaido scallops and sweet potatoes, as well as the slightly spicy Christmas Eve Causa with red quinoa, avocado puree and aji amarillo were not only beautiful to look at, but were enjoyable to dig into as well. My dinner companion felt that the two appetizers might be considered too sour for the average person’s palate, but since she personally favours sour flavours, she relished it all with no complaints.
The Maiz & Huacatay comprising of grilled baby corn on top of a bed of huacatay and uchucuta sauce, cheese cubes, toasted almonds and fava beans was an interesting and tasty combination of textures and flavours. However, the crowd pleaser on the evening’s menu would have to be the Turkey Aguadito, which is a Peruvian traditional New Years green coloured rice porridge soup consisting of fried turkey bits, blended coriander, and a hint of dark beer. The hearty soup was simply delectable and was reminiscent of a lighter and more flavourful version of Hakka thunder tea rice.
The main course served was a Chicharron crispy pork belly with apple pecan salad and Andean mint mayo which I personally found to be a little on the heavy side due to the rich mayonnaise and deep fried pork slices. For sweet endings, we were spoilt with two types of desserts. The Fresas Alegres was a fruity medley of soursop, strawberries, and orange. While the Tres Leches consists of rich coconut milk soaked sponge cakes topped with finely chopped pineapple compote.
The dynamic duo from Junior the Pocket Bar were busy whipping up pretty cocktail beverages to accompany each of the seven dishes. Featured Peruvian themed cocktails with the likes of Pisco sour, Amarillo sour, Leche de Tigre, El Capitan, Inca Kola, etc were being artisanally crafted and then served together with each dish as a compliment drink. My personal favourite cocktail was the sweet tasting “Chica Morada” which comprised of bourbon whisky with a hint of clove, lime, green apple and topped with a slice of pineapple.
Text & Photos: Luke Elijah