Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gastronomy in Peru: "Lomo Saltado"‏

This dish is one of the main and typical dishes of Peruvian food and it was first created around the XIX century around Lima, the capital of Peru. The dish has strong influences from oriental food, and also from Creole food or “Comida criolla” which is the term used in Peru to reflect the mix of the culture that came from Africa from the slaves that the Spanish brought at that time, and Peruvian natives.

The oriental (specifically Chinese) influence is reflected in the technique of cooking in a frying pan ata high heat, not kwon as “saltear” or leaping. The dish consists of strips of sirloin marinated in vinegar, soy, and other species, which are stir fried with red onions, parsley and tomatoes. This is served with rice and fried potatoes, although initially the potatoes were just boiled, now the dish is mostly accompanied with fried potatoes.

This dish is very common in Peru and almost in every Peruvian house is cooked at least once a week or every two weeks because is easy to make and the ingredients are also very common and accessible in Peruvian food (most of the times a less expensive meat is used, for homemade Lomo Saltado). Also in almost every Peruvian restaurant that exists around the world you can find this dish in the menu, and in contrast with the ceviche that has many varieties, the “Lomo Saltado” is prepared the same every time, the only thing that varies is the seasoning and maybe the presentation (sometimes the meat is placed over the rice and the potatoes so that the soak all the sauce).

In Peru is very common to put a bit of “aji Amarillo” or the Peruvian version of chille in the sauce of the sirloin, so the dish a little spicy (every dish in “Comida Criolla” or creole food has a bit of spice) but regularly the restaurants give you the chilli sauce on the side, specially for tourists that are not used to eat such spicy food so you don’t have to worry about this fact!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Nobel Prize in Peru: Mario Vargas-Llosa!

Last week in Stockholm, Sweden the ceremony of the Nobel Prizes took place, and every Peruvian, whether inside Peru, or anywhere in the world was following it because for the first time a Peruvian received a Nobel Prize: The Nobel Prize in Literature.

Mario Vargas Llosa is by far the most successful writer in Peruvian history, but is not the only one that has been praised globally; we have a history of great writers, among them for example Cesar Vallejo, Ricardo Palma and Julio Ramon Ribeyro, just to name a few!!

During the ceremony last week this great writer gave a speech that was so full of emotion and of culture, especially in the part where he talked about his love for Peru, the country where he was born and grew, before traveling the world and finally establishing in Spain with his family. Vargas Llosa was born in Arequipa, the great city in the mountains in the South of Peru which is home of the great Condor, an amazing animal. When the writer was still a boy his family moved to Piura, in the coast of Peru very near to Ecuador, and when he was a teenager he moved to Lima, the capital of the country, where he first started studying journalism and got his first job at a very popular newspaper.

Because he has lived in many parts of Peru, and loves to travel and visit new places, Peru is very present in almost all his books, for example in “Conversation in the Cathedral”, one of my favorite books, he describes in a particular way the society and the lifestyle in Lima 50 years ago, or in “The time of the Hero” he describes the experience of attending a military high school, from a teenager’s point of view. Definitely, reading Vargas Llosa really makes you learn and get close to Peru, its landscapes, its people and its mix of cultures.

There is a lot to write about this great man that know finally has received the major recognition that a man in his profession desire, the Nobel Price, and every Peruvian in the world is proud of having him as a fellow citizen…….especially for those of us that enjoy every book he has ever written and continues to do so…..I just hope for many more years we can enjoy of this genius and its writing.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Visit Trujillo in the coast of Peru!‏

Trujillo is Located in the north of Peru, in the department of La Libertad and was founded in 1534 by Miguel de Estete, and was surrounded with walls to prevent the invasion and attacks by pirates at that time. During Peru’s independence, Trujillo was the capital, but this only lasted a while.

Trujillo is the commercial center of the region, where rice and sugar is cultivated, and also has a very important textile sector. Trujillo is about 6 hours from Lima in a particular car, or about 8 hours by bus, but if you choose to go by air, is less than an hour from Lima airport!!

Trujillo, the same as Lima, is recognized by its great balconies that come from the colony times, and also in Trujillo there are two important churches that are very visited and recognized by its great architecture: “La Compañia” and the cathedral of Trujillo.

Also, to visit in Trujillo, a little outside of the city are the ruins of the pre-incas city of Chanchán, a great citadel to explore, take amazing pictures and learn about the culture that lived there way before the Incas. There are also the Sun and the Moon “huacas”, which are adobe brick temples built by the Moche civilization.

Trujillo also has its own version of the “Marinera” dance, and is in this city where the national Marinera contest takes place every year!

In Trujillo there is also the popular beach “Huanchaco”, home of the “Caballitos the Totora” or “Totora horses”, which are small boats and are used since (at least) the year 1,000 B.C. These boats are made from stems and leaves of reed, a particular kind of plant that grows around the region. This boats were originally used to fish, but nowadays they are still produced mostly for tourism rides and to surf along the Trujillo beaches.

Besides the national marinera contest, in September is held the big “International Spring Festival”, which lasts for about a week and there are parades all over the streets, the houses are decorated and there are contests, dances, and parties every day!

Of course there is a lot more to say about this great city but I will post about each particular attraction soon, meanwhile………..I think I gave you enough reasons for you to be booking your hotel in Trujillo now!!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Peruvian food: eat a delicious "Pollo a la brasa"

The "pollo a la brasa", also known as "Peruvian chicken" in the United States, and "Charcoal Chicken" in Australia, is a common dish of peruvian cuisine, and one of the most consumed in Peru, along with Ceviche and Chifa. The dish originated in the city of Lima, the capital of Peru, aorund the 1950's.

Particularly in Lima, you can find a place to eat Pollo a la Brasa almost every 3 blocks, and the variety of prices and the type of restaurants is huge, because you can find restaurants where a quarter of chicken with fries and salad is about 6 soles (about $2), or you can also fin other places where the same portion is about 20 soles or more!
The chicken is prepared first macerating the chicken with a special sauce that is made with soy, a bit of beer, pepper, garlic and vinegar, and then the chickens are cooked in a big charcoal oven, where the temperature is appromimately 380 ºF.

In restaurants, the chicken is regularly accompanied with fries (made of peruvian yellow potato) and a regular salad with lettuce, tomato and avocado. To drink, 99% of peruvians will tell you that with the "Pollo a la brasa" they always drink a cold Inka Kola, which is the most popular soda in Peru!

The "Pollo a la brasa" is so popular in Peru that a lot of restaurants offer the delivery service, and when you wald down the streets of Lima, for example, you see more motorcycles that are deliverying this chicken than other motorcycles deliveryng other fast food as pizza or burguers.

Also, there are some restaurants that have improved the original recipe of the "Pollo a la brasa", sometimes making it a sandwich of "Pollo a la brasa" or other times mixing the sauce with other traditional peruvian sauces, such as the "Anticucho" sauce (I will post about anticuchos soon!)

So, If you come to Peru, you have no excuse.....you cannot flyback to your country if you have not tried this so-peruvian dish!!! And, if you happen to be in New York or Shangai, there are already some franchises of restaurants that make "Pollo a la brasa" there, such as the "Pardo's Chicken"

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Visit Tumbes and its beaches!‏

In the department of Tumbes, in the north of Peru, you can find different eco-systems such as estuaries and mangroves, the dry equatorial forest (Cerros de Amotape National Park) and the Pacific tropical forest (Reserved Zone of Tumbes). More than 30% of the territory has been declared natural protected areas.

Its closeness to the Equator makes the beaches of Tumbes ideal places for surfing, diving, fishing, or simply for the people searching for fun and sun in summer. Punta Sal is thought to be one of the best beaches in Peru because of its white sand and rich marine life. The Zorritos cove is famous for its tranquil water and wide variety of fish.

If you are young and are looking for fun nightlife, don’t really care much for tranquility or relaxing, just partying a lot when the sun goes down, you should go to Mancora which is a very popular beach among young people, and is really in Piura, but almost in the limit with Tumbes.......there you can find a great variety of hotels and get to know other people from many nations, beside the locals from Tumbes.

The weather in Tumbes is semi tropical, with a average temperature of 24ºC, so you can really come in any time of the year and will find nice weather, besides the water level of the sea is not cold at all! There are flights to Tumbes every day from Lima, and many times a day, or if you’d also like to make a road trip you can take a bus or rent a car and go through the Panamericana highway and also enjoy a few stops in Chiclayo or Trujillo, beautiful cities and with beaches as well!!!


To the north of Tumbes, you come across Puerto Pizarro, well known for its islands and for its American crocodile farms, a species unique to Peru and one in danger of being extinct. This is also a city where you find large amounts of black scallops and crabs, the basis for an exquisite local cuisine.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Inside Lima, Peru: The Cathedral‏

The Cathedral of Lima is located on the main square on the "Historical Center" in the city of Lima, which is the capital of Peru, and is almost next to the government palace, home of the President of Peru and where many important ceremonies take place.

Francisco Pizarro, one of the conquerors of Peru founded the city of Lima, which is called "The city of the kings" and ordered the construction of the Cathedral in 1535, which will be the most important church in the entire South America in the times of the Spanish Viceroyalty in South America. Its inaguration was on March 1540.

The great work in the Cathedral, specially the cover, altars, the vaults and drawers is highly praised and is recognized as the oldest architectural work in Lima. The cathedral has been renew many times, in part because the conquerors wanted to look every time more grand and superb, and in part because of the earthquakes that the city has suffer, so there is really a mix of different architectural elements that visitors can appreciate in the cathedral.

The cathedral has two huge towers of neoclassical style, and its internal vaulta are of evident gothic inspiration. Inside the cathedral there is a museum of religious art, where you can find just beautiful paints from the times of the colony, and also some sculptures.

In keeping with the majority of cathedrals the front facade has three large doorways. The main or central gateway is called the Portada del Perdón or the "door of forgiveness". There are also no less than 14 side doors; one of which opens on to Calle de Judíos (Street of the Jews) and another on to the Patio de los Naranjos (Square of the Oranges, connected to the Cathedral).

Even with all this beauty inside and the great art that you can appreciate in the catheral when you visit it on the day, you should also take some pictures from the outside at night because the lights are just beautiful and it almost looks as a fairy tale palace!!!

Come to Peru and visit Nazca Lines!‏

The Nazca Lines were officially declared "Archaeological World Heritage Site" by UNESCO in 1994, and are located in the arid Peruvian coastal plain, about 400 km south of Lima (in car is approximately 5 hours).  The figures of Nazca and the “pampas” of Jumana cover about 450 square km.

Many skeptical think the Nazca lines were drawn by aliens, but the scientifics say that the lines were scratched on the surface of the ground and because of the peculiarity of the wind in the area, the sand never enters the grooves so the lines can survive, and have indeed survive for centuries, because they were made by the Nazca civilization between 500 B.C and 500 A.D., and remain among archaeology’s greatest enigmas because of their size, nature and continuity.

The figures depict living creatures, stylized plants and imaginary beings, as well as geometric figures several kilometers long, and the best way to appreciate it is by helicopter or a small plane. There are helicopter trips every day but it is strongly recommended to hire a trusted company (just ask in the front desk of your hotel) and in days when the wind is not so heavy!

The historians believe the figures of the Nazca lines have had ritual astronomical functions. The figures of the spider, the monkey, the dog, the small lizard, the hummingbird, the condor, and the astronaut, among others, stand out.

The Nazca Lines were discovered accidentally from an airplane in flight in 1927. By the end of the 1980's new lines were discovered.

Nazca city has comfortable hotels, restaurants, banks, Internet cabins, and an aerodrome, but because is just two hours by car from Ica, many people prefer to stay in a hotel to spend the night in Ica or Paracas and from there take a tour to Nazca, just because these last cities are bigger and you can find more and better hotels there, but if you don’t really care much about these or are relly of the adventurous type you can always stay in Nazca.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Come visit Peru's Amazonas area: Iquitos!

Iquitos is in the Amazonas region of Peru, and is the capital of the vast department of Loreto, which covers most of the northern region of Peru. For tourists, Iquitos iffers a great selection of activities not found wlsewhere in Peru, such as boat rides in the Amazonas river, and great wildlife viewing.

Iquitos is a big city considering all the wildlife sorrounding it, but it is unreachable by road, so the main mean of entrance is by plane but it is also reachable by boat. If you are coming from another country just to visit Iquitos, what the majority of the people do is take a plane to Lima and inmediately take a plane to Iquitos, because there a flights everyday, or you can also spend the night or a couple of days in Lima and then go to Iquitos!!

Iquitos and Amazon river are ideal places for lovers of the eco-tourism, and also for the ones who want to feel an intimate contact woth the virgin nature of the Amazon forests. From the city of Iquitos you will be able to go to jungle lodges, and for the most adventurous and fearless you can arrive to pars and natural reservations, with exuberant flora and fauna!!

Just to give you an idea of the animals that you can see in Iquitos: there is a great variety of beautiful butterflies, anacondas, all kinds of parrots, jaguars, and much more!

Near to Iquitos city exists a zoological park of the Amazonian fauna, spas and resorts in "cochas" (lagoons). Almost in the same city you will be able to visit Belen, the peruvian Venice, where you can see the floating houses in the river, or go for a walk by the pier and observe the mightiest river in the world, the Amazon river.