With 28 different microclimates from the Pacific coast, through the dessert, over the Andes mountains, and into the Amazon jungle, it’s no wonder that Peru’s food ecosystem is truly diverse. Some foods, like hot peppers, potatoes, quinoa, and tomatoes, are native to Peru and were first cultivated by the Incas over 500 years ago. But combine ingredients from Europe, Africa, China, and Japan, and you have the elements of Peruvian cuisine. Here are ingredients used often in Peruvian cuisine, and markets in the San Francisco Bay Area where you can find them.
Markets in the San Francisco Bay Area
- Evergreen Market — A mecca for Peruvian ingredients like Aji Amarillo, Aji Panca, and Papa Seca.
- Bi-Rite Market — My favorite place to get sustainable squid from Monterey and fish for ceviche. As a bonus, you can also get Pisco here.
- Whole Foods Market— My go-to place for meats and poultry.
- Rainbow Grocery— I was delighted to find purple potatoes here.
- Ferry Plaza Farmers Market — A great source of seasonal produce.
- Berkeley Bowl — Good selection of limes, hot peppers, and purple potatoes.
- The Spanish Table — Also carries Aji Amarillo and Aji Panca.
Ingredients Native to Peru
- Aji Amarillo — A yellow hot pepper used in paste form that provides a unique flavor and spice in the Lomo Saltado, Seco de Cordero, or Quinua Atamalada.
- Aji Panca — A red hot pepper used in paste form that adds a smoky flavor to dishes like Anticuchos, or Parihuela.
- Aji Limo — Colorful hot peppers used in the Ceviche. Here in California, I often use Red Fresno and Habanero peppers when making Ceviche Nikkei.
- Yellow Potatoes — Also known as Yukon Gold are served mashed in the Causa and served as fries in the Lomo Saltado.
- Purple Potatoes — Provide great color and contrast in the Causa and Ocopa.
- Papa Seca — Are preserved dried potatoes used in the Carapulcra, a traditional stew prepared by the Incas centuries ago.
- Tomatoes — Are a base ingredient in the sofrito for the beans in the Tacu Tacu, and one of the main ingredients in the Lomo Saltado.
Ingredients Brought to Peru from Europe, Africa, China, and Japan
- Limes — Are an integral part of preparing Ceviche Nikkei or Causa, and absolutely critical for mixing a Pisco Sour cocktail.
- Red Onions — Play so well with the limes in the Ceviche Nikkei, or the beef in the Lomo Saltado, and are a base ingredient in the sofrito for Seco de Cordero.
- Ginger — Also known as kion in Peru, is an important ingredient in Chinese-Peruvian dishes like the Arroz Chaufa or Lomo Saltado, but also used in the Parihuela soup, and the Japanese-Peruvian Ceviche Nikkei.
- Scallions — Like ginger, scallions are used prominently in Chinese-Peruvian and Japanese-Peruvian cuisine.
- Cilantro — A flavorful garnish in Ceviche Nikkei or Lomo Saltado, and the main ingredient for the sauce in a Seco de Cordero.
- Garlic — An essential ingredient in all sofritos made with sauteéd onions.
- Rice — Served steamed to accompany almost every savory dish.
Ingredients for Desserts
- Dairy — Milk, condensed milk, evaporated milk, and eggs used for Suspiro Limeño, Crema Volteada with Quinoa, Alfajores, and Frejol Colado.
- Cloves — Used in the Frejol Colado.
- Cinnamon — Used in the Arroz con Leche.
- Anise Seeds — Used in Rosquitas, Panettone Muffins, Frejol Colado, and the simple syrup for the Pisco Sazerac cocktail.
- Sugar — Used for desserts and to make simple syrup for Pisco cocktails.
- Panela — A raw cane sugar used in desserts. It’s also known as piloncillo, chancaca, or raspadura. Available as a cone-shaped solid, it is usually dissolved in water to make a syrup or grated.