The only things I know about Peru are that it’s situated close to the Andes, between the parched coastal desert and the lush expanse of the Amazon rainforest, and of course it’s the birthplace of the fabulous raw fish and lime juice dish called the Ceviche. Yes, I would have to say that the legendary adventures in the form of Peru’s snow-capped mountains, giant sand dunes, fiery volcanoes, rocky Pacific outcroppings as well as their characteristically spicy and sour local cuisine, have made this place, one of the top cities on my bucket list. Unfortunately I have yet to set foot on Peruvian soil, so the closest I might come to it for the moment, is dining on Peruvian cuisine.
Ah wow.. a bounty of sublime concoctions made from ingredients native and contemporary, make Peruvian food one of the finest cuisines in Latin America, I am told. Recipes such as ceviche (raw fish marinated in lemon juice), pachamanca (meat and vegetables cooked underground), chupe de camarones (shrimp soup), ají de gallina (spicy chicken) and juane (corn mash pastries) are just a few of the mouth-watering dishes served up in Peru. So imagine our delight when we came face to face with the fist ever Peruvian Chef we know in KL. His name is Miguel and he heads the kitchen in Ristretto, Mont Kiara, Kuala Lumpur. This cafe concept restaurant is really rather new, situated right next to the the posh condominiums of 11 Mt Kiara.
Chef Miguel is a brilliant fellow. Such a good sport and so full of life! He was more than happy to share with us, information on his home town. He hails for the North of Peru, and according to him, the food gets more tasty as one moves from south, to north.. Oh, and the women more pretty too (he would say so!). Chef Miguel at one point in time, used to be the Chef for Diego Maradona’s football team! Anyway according to Chef Miguel the cuisine of Peru reflects local cooking practices and ingredients, but is also a hybrid of styles, due to the immigration, influences from Spain, China, Italy, West Africa, and Japan. Due to a lack of ingredients from their home regions in Peru, the immigrants modified their traditional cuisine using ingredients available in Peru. The three traditional staples of Peruvian cuisine are corn, potatoes, and beans. Many traditional foods such as the quinoa, kiwicha, chili peppers, are strongly apparent in Peruvian cooking. Chef Miguel immediately made us two types of chili pepper sauces – both were spicy and sour and really made the food taste so good. The one with corn in it, tasted a little like the Indian rasam, and the one with the red chili peppers was just cathartic!
Arroz con Pollo
Arroz con pollo, literally rice with chicken (chinese kai-fan!) which again like so many other Latin/South American dishes has many variations from one country, region, city or home to another. The ingredients, besides the rice and chicken, will differ from one family’s recipe to another, and there are also different preparation methods for Arroz con pollo such as one can first poach or boil the chicken until tender, then remove the meat, while separately cooking the rice in the broth where the chicken was cooked, and later combining all the parts together. Sometimes the chicken is fried, like here at Ristretto. This was a fantastic dish as the chicken was tender on the inside, yet crispy outside and the rice was so fragrant. I will definitely come back for this version of the “kai-fan”.
This brilliant, classic, Peruvian seafood dish needs no introduction. Ceviche is Peru’s flag-dish and the epitome of fusion – Inca hot peppers, Spanish limes and onions, and a Japanese approach to preparing fish. All I need to add is that the portion was so huge, we struggled to finish it.. and we were four people! We went with the seafood ceviche as opposed to just fish, and it was a great choice. Fresh seafood and a sharp lime flavour are the hallmarks of this dish. Very, very good indeed.
tiradito aji amarillo (snapper, dory & salmon)
Tiradito, the younger brother of ceviche, has only become well-known in the last 20 years or so. This dish of raw fish, is similar to sashimi and carpaccio, in a spicy sauce. It reflects the influence of Japanese immigrants and differs from ceviche in the way in which the fish is cut and in the lack of onions. Common garnishing includes sweet potato and boiled corn (yellow sauce you see on top of the fish).
Parihuela, typical of the coastal region, is a rich and complex seafood soup. This was not on the menu, and Chef Miguel was good enough to delight us with this add on dish which is the Peruvian version of French bouillabaisse. It is one of the many Peruvian dishes that has an European influence, just like the Asian influenced chaufa (chifa) and African influenced stews. It is made with clams, mussels, shrimp, squid, crab, and all of this seafood is served in a home made stock. It is so good! Don’t forget to ask the Chef to whip this up for you.
Lomo Saltado put simply is a meat, potato, vegetable and rice concoction. It is one of the most popular recipes in Peru and is what I remember as, and would call a home-cooked, heart warming and hearty meal. Something my ahmah would cook for us when we were little children and rightly so, as this has Asian influences (chifa) consisting of strips of sirloin marinated in vinegar, soy sauce and spices, then stir fried with red onions, parsley and tomatoes. It is traditionally served over white rice with homemade french fries that look more like potato wedges.
An extremely satisfying meal, finished off with an extremely satisfying dessert. We highly recommend the apple pie as Chef Miguel does a fantastic version of it. The skin is kept on the apple and it makes it so much better. Loved the chewy texture as the crumbly base gave way to crunchy apple. Topped off with an ice-cream, this apple pie is hard to beat (OK, maybe it just needs a tad bit more cinnamon, but otherwise, texture wise, perfect). A great thing this place has going for it, is that the food and wine is rather inexpensive. We had a bottle of red wine and dinner for 4 that came up to approximately RM350. Very affordable indeed!
Add: Ristretto Cafe, the Fare @ 10 Mont Kiara, Jalan Kiara 1, 50480 Kuala Lumpur. Tel: +603-6211-1183 Directions: Drive towards Plaza Mt Kiara. Just past the Plaza, and before you hit Wendy’s turn right into Jalan Kiara 1. Drive till the end and you will see a new building/condos. Ristretto will be located in the building on your left, on the Ground floor.