I have only recently been introduced to Peruvian food, but I am already a devotee.
I have had other South American cuisines and have always enjoyed them, but Peruvian cuisine has one thing that sets it apart. In most other South American food you can see two major influences; the Spanish and Portuguese conquistadors bringing their style and flair from Europe, and the long history of African Slaves brought across the ocean, all seasoned by the available native ingredients.
Peruvian food most definitely incorporates these aspects into their food, but they also have Chifa. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries many immigrants from China settled in the capital, Lima, and its environs, seeking work. They brought with them all of the technique and recipes of their homeland, but not their ingredients. Just as they did here in the U.S., they improvised.
Chifa is the term given to the cross of Peruvian and Chinese foods, and is strongly supported by the Peruvian government as a defining aspect of their culture.
If you read most anything I have written before, you have probably discerned that two of my favorite things to dine on are Central/South American (not tex-mex) and Asian. This is the perfect blending of the two. Now I just want to know why no one told me about this sooner.
I have recently tried a few different Peruvian establishments, but my first, and still favorite, was Inca Trail on North May Avenue.
Immigrants themselves, the owners of Inca Trail came here seeking opportunity, and judging by the number of people eating here each time I visit, I believe they may have found it.
It is very difficult for me to decide what to tell you about without this post turning into a play-by-play of the entire menu, but I will do my best.
If I had to choose a place to start, it would probably be with the Palta Rellena. A whole avocado, peeled, pitted, and split in two and then stuffed with a cold chicken salad consisting of shredded chicken, corn, peas, carrots, and mayonnaise. This was surprisingly good.
One of the restaurants specialties is Pollo a la Brasa, a charcoal roasted chicken slathered in South American seasonings, and I have an (unconfirmed) suspicion that some version of this, or at least that seasoning, is used in the chicken salad.
One of my favorite entrees, so far, has been the Lomo Saltado. A very common Peruvian Dish, and a good standard for comparison, this dish is reasonably simple, delightfully flavored, and a good example of Chifa. Strips of sirloin steak, or chicken should you choose, stir fried with tomatoes, onions, and red bell peppers in a garlic soy sauce, and white steamed rice.
Traditionally, Lomo Saltado would come with large potato wedges. Here they use thick cut French fries, but I will forgive them, because when mixed into the rest of the dish they add just the right amount of starch to balance the dish. Sweet, salty, and savory all at once.
Another dish I would suggest is their Tacu Tacu. A mix of rice and refried beans stir fried and formed into a thin patty, accompanying a grilled sirloin steak with spicy criolla sauce, and fried plantains.
Some people I know are not fans, but any restaurant that serves fried plantains has pretty much won my heart before I go in the door.
They also serve a wide variety of seafood dishes, with a special section of the menu set aside for ceviche, another dish native to Peru.
The restaurant itself is decorated in Peruvian and Incan designs, and a full wall mural Machu Picchu and the jungles of the Andes mountains. A calm atmosphere pervades this restaurant, and is only amplified the overwhelming hospitality of the owners themselves.
And if you’re lucky, they will bring out a bowl of their chicken soup before your food arrives.
Good as a quick-lunch spot or as a nice dinner out, I give Inca Trail my full recommendation.
If you have any other recommendations of places or foods for me to try, or know of any more Peruvian places around Oklahoma (I’ve already been to a few), then let me know.