What country comes to mind when thinking about the best food in the world? France for classic sauces, Italy for homemade pasta delights or India for spice? If you didn’t think of Peru, maybe you should.
For eight years in a row, not only has Peru been named the best culinary destination in the world by the World Travel Awards, but Peru has also had two restaurants in the top 10 of the famous and highly sought-after World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
In honour of Peruvian Independence Day on 28 July, which will see the country and its expatriates celebrate 199 years as an independent nation, Region Media sat down with His Excellency Miguel Palomino de la Gala, Ambassador of Peru, and his wife Teresita Daroca, to discuss life in Canberra, the upcoming plans for a COVID-safe digital celebration open to all to mark their National Day and, of course, Peruvian food.
How long have you been in Canberra?
I have lived in Canberra since December 1, 2015. This date remains very present in my mind because our dog Charles, the best friend, and company of my wife Teresita Daroca and myself, was born in Sydney that day. I am supposed to leave in 2021 to another destination and, of course, Charles will come with us.
How would you describe Peruvian food?
Peruvian gastronomy is based on a variety of ecosystems, different cultures and traditions – the great biodiversity and rich pantry of ingredients that exist in my country that makes us proud of our cuisine.
Peru has an incredible variety of dishes. The North, the Centre, the South, the Coast, the Sierra and the Jungle, each region has a variety of dishes that, perhaps, cannot all be tried in just 365 days. Our gastronomy is not only exquisite, it is exuberant and varied as the result of the fusion of Inka, Spanish, Arab and African food, as well as Chinese and Japanese.
Each region has its iconic dishes. Within my region, ceviche (raw fish marinated in lime juice) and chupe de camarones (shrimp broth with corn, pumpkin, carrot, tomato, garlic, and potatoes, flavoured with huacatay herbs and chile panca) are very typical as starters and, of course, lomo saltado (thinly sliced beef steak, onions, tomatoes, potatoes with rice) as the main course.
For dessert, no doubt, queso helado de Arequipa (ice cinnamon and vanilla cream from Arequipa) is a must-have, although in winter I could not refuse a champú de membrillo (quince champú).
It is not a surprise that our restaurants are recognised as ‘The World 50’s Best Restaurants’ or, to be more exact, in the 10 best in the world.
When you have a craving for a taste of home, where in Canberra do you eat and shop?
Once a week the Chef at the Residence of the Embassy of Peru, Sharon Ruiz, goes to the Fyshwick Fresh Food Markets to buy all the fresh, green produce (including fruits, vegetables, and herbs), organic beef at our favourite butcher shop, delicious bread, black rice, Fijian cassava, and Peruvians chillies at the specialist Asian store, and olive oil and Mediterranean products for the Catalan food that my wife prepares on weekends.
As there is no Peruvian restaurant in Canberra, Chef prepares all my favourites in-house including yuquita frita (fried cassava), ceviche (raw fish cured in fresh citrus), quinoa tabouli and pisco sour (the national drink of Peru) made with Pisco De La Gala, produced by my cousin Octavio, in Vitor, Arequipa.
Another place where I usually go looking for the taste of home is Mr Papa, Peruvian Street Food, in Dickson. Carlos Ramirez knows that I highly recommend the stuffed potato and the pork sandwich with Creole sauce.
What are your plans for Independence Day?
I will invite the staff of the Embassy and Attaché Offices to have lunch. We will sing the National Anthem of Peru and Advance Australia Fair. We will make a toast with pisco sour and for starter, causitas (whipped potatoes) stuffed with avocado and tuna, empanadas, followed by ceviche and lomo saltado, then suspiro a la limeña as our dessert, known in English as ‘Sigh of the Lady from Lima’.
Due to COVID-19, all formal celebrations for the 199th anniversary of Peru’s independence have been cancelled, and a virtual program is instead available for all to enjoy for free online.
Streaming live from 12:00 pm to 12:45 pm on Tuesday, 28 July via the Twitter account of the Embassy of Peru or the Facebook page of the Embassy of Peru, you can listen to a message from the Ambassador of Peru in Australia, Mr Palomino de la Gala, followed by and address from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Mario López Chávarri, and the Minister of Culture, Alejandro Neyra.
Then a program of dancing starting from The Great National Theater of Peru featuring ‘Retablo Sinfónico’ by the National Folkloric Ballet and the Bicentennial National Youth Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Fabricio Varela and Pablo Sabat, plus Limeño Dance (Waltz, One-step and Polka), Amazonian Dance (Io Patati, Tulumayos Festival, and Lamas Carnival), Afro-Peruvian Dance (Toromata, Zamacueca and Oita Nomá) and Arequipeño Dance (Arequipa Carnival).
Original Article published by Sophia Brady on The RiotACT.