If you tell a Peruvian cook that you don’t eat meat, they’ll probably say something like, “No problem, I’ll prepare a seafood ceviche!” — but here in California, I have come to understand that not eating meat means no beef, no fish, no poultry, and for those who are vegan, no dairy. So when I recently had the opportunity to cook a Peruvian tasting menu for some vegan friends, I knew it would be challenging but the experience really opened my eyes, and taste buds, to the possibilities of Peruvian cuisine.
When planning a tasting menu, I like to choose dishes that flow well together in terms of flavor, texture, and spices — this tasting was no different, except that I did not have any vegan recipes in my repertoire or library. Which meant that I had to do something new — improvise, experiment, and come up with new recipes. This allowed me to focus a on technique and the essence of a dish. And through this process I was able to explore what gives a dish its unique Peruvian touch.
Presenting, a 5 course vegan Peruvian tasting menu that pays homage to the Inca, Spanish, and Afro-Peruvian roots of Peruvian cuisine:
- Essence of Seco Amuse Bouche — purple potatoes, carrots, and peas in a spicy cilantro sauce reduction inspired by the Peruvian lamb stew Seco de Cordero.
- Quinoa Atamalada — quinoa stew with aji amarillo sofrito in a vegetable broth garnished with toasted pine nuts and parsley.
- Root Vegetables a la Huancaina — beets and yam on a bed of lettuce covered in a Huancaina sauce made with aji amarillo, almond milk, and tofu.
- Pimientos Rellenos — red peppers stuffed with saffron rice, currants, almonds, and apples, steamed in a sofrito sauce and served over navy beans.
- Sweet Rice and Beans — Arroz con Leche over the Peruvian black bean pudding Frejol Colado, both made with almond milk and home made condensed almond milk.
My friends were delighted with surprise at the dishes I came up and I was truly happy that they were enjoying this small gastronomical tour of Peruvian cuisine. At the end of the evening they expressed their gratitude and described the tasting as
“an artful bouquet of colors and flavors, made with love of roots and story.”
I’ll be posting some of these vegan recipes over the next few weeks, so that next time I meet someone who doesn’t eat meat, I can offer them a special vegan tasting menu that is uniquely Peruvian in heart and soul.