HOW PERUVIAN CUISINE HAS TAKEN THE UAE BY STORM

Ten years ago, had an intre­pid eater embarked on a search for tiger’s milk, antic­u­cho or tira­di­to, in even the most cos­mopoli­tan, for­ward-think­ing food­ie cap­i­tals, their quest would more than like­ly have proven fruit­less (or almost cer­tain­ly ceviche-­less). A decade on, though, and Peru has staged its very own culi­nary inva­sion, infil­trat­ing cities all over the world, estab­lish­ing the coun­try and its cui­sine as not just a fleet­ing trend­set­ter, but as one of the lead­ers on the glob­al cook­ing stage.

The UAE got its first real taste of Peru­vian cook­ing at the tail end of 2014, with the launch of Coya Dubai, an off­shoot of the Lon­don flag­ship. Oth­ers quick­ly fol­lowed, and almost 6 years lat­er, the coun­try boasts an ever-grow­ing array of ­choic­es for Peru­vian-­in­spired eat­ing. In Dubai, there’s Ceviche (anoth­er Lon­don orig­i­nal) in Emi­rates Finan­cial Tow­ers and Gar­den at the JW Mar­riott Mar­quis, as well as Inka, May­ta, Pol­lo Pol­lo, Ají and Waka. Those liv­ing in the cap­i­tal are now well catered for thanks to both Limo Restau­rant at the Bab Al Qasr Hotel and Coya Abu Dhabi.

This enthu­si­asm shows no sign of wan­ing, here or inter­na­tion­al­ly. With Vir­gilio Martínez as chef pro­pri­etor, Lima Lon­don was the first ­Peru­vian restau­rant to be award­ed a Miche­lin star and Cen­tral, his restau­rant in the Peru­vian cap­i­tal, was ranked at No 5 in The World’s 50 Best Restau­rants. He even­tu­al­ly opened up Lima Dubai.

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So what is it about Peru­vian food that has proved so allur­ing? At a time when we are all increas­ing­ly aware of what we eat and how this affects our well-being, it cer­tain­ly doesn’t hurt that, by its very nature, ­Peru­vian food is gen­er­al­ly healthy. There’s an inte­gral light­ness to the cui­sine, along with an appre­ci­a­tion for ancient grains and a ded­i­ca­tion to fresh ingre­di­ents that all tie in seam­less­ly with mod­ern, health-­con­scious approach­es to eat­ing. And while it might sound super­fi­cial, with social media – par­tic­u­lar­ly Insta­gram – awash with beau­ti­ful food images, it helps that this style of cook­ing is very easy on the eye. As well as taste, tex­ture and flavour, the colour and visu­al appeal of food has long been impor­tant to Peru­vian cooks.

The diver­si­ty of the cui­sine and the sense of authen­tic­i­ty that sur­rounds it is anoth­er major draw. While it’s not unusu­al to be able to trace the polit­i­cal, social and eco­nom­ic his­to­ry of a coun­try through its food, Peru­vian cook­ing is the edi­ble embod­i­ment of this idea. From the con­tin­ued use of indige­nous pro­duce (pota­toes, corn, maize, chill­ies) as well as Inca tech­niques and tra­di­tions, to the way the cui­sine has assim­i­lat­ed pro­duce and ideas from migrant coun­tries, notably Spain, Africa, Chi­na and Japan, this is fusion cook­ing of the high­est order.

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