Peruvian Aji: Regional eateries turn Peru’s hot peppers into succulent dishes

Regional Picanterias (restaurants specializing in spicy dishes) are the sanctuaries where different varieties of ajies (Peruvian chili peppers) are revered and masterfully used to prepare seasonings that join or result in succulent dishes.

Popular since the early colonial period, the Picanterias have always been the meeting place where Peruvians get together to discuss political and social issues while sharing typical dishes, which are wisely prepared by cooks who master the use of ajies in seasonings, sauces, creams, and other culinary creations.

The atmosphere of former Picanterias remains unchanged in cities like Arequipa, Chiclayo, Cusco, and Piura.

However, since the middle of the 20th century, some places have turned into tourist spots, while others were located in areas around small markets, or moved to working-class neighborhoods and the countryside.

These traditional eateries target diners seeking to taste, identify, and experience the flavor of different regions in their mouth.

The most popular Picanterias in southern Peru are the ones situated in Yanahuara, Sachaca, Tiabaya and Cerro Colorado (Arequipa), such as “La Lucila,” “La Palomino,” and “Sol de Mayo,” while in Cusco the most famed are “La Chomba” and “La Chola.”

In the north, foodies can enjoy “La Chayo” and “La Casa del Teniente Gobernador” in Catacaos (Piura region), as well as Chicherias like “Punto Cuatro” and the legendary “Rosita Inga” in Ferreñafe province (Lambayeque region).

Although Picanterias and Chicherias look very alike, culinary experts claim they are not the same.

In a Picanteria, the traditional dish is the most important part of the meal and the chicha (a fermented beverage derived from fruits, cereals, or vegetable sources) is the complement.

In the case of a Chicheria, people go there to drink, and the food plays a secondary role: It accompanies the drink.

In any case, the blend of Peru’s regional cuisines —which are seasoned with Peruvian ajies— and our famed traditional drinks such as chicha —in its different varieties— represent the richness of Peruvian gastronomy and give it a privileged position in the culinary scene.

Fuente: Andina

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