Category Archives: Peruvian

Peru Gourmet

I noticed the Peru Gourmet food truck en route to a sushi outing, its purple and red exterior making itself known from behind its concrete and asphalt digs behind a gas station just south of Rice Village. I would have switched our destination on the spot but others had their hearts set on sushi.

Atmosphere
Atmosphere at a food truck parked along side a gas station? Actually, yes. Not so much environs but the patrons. They were almost exclusively Spanish speakers; the only person speaking English was me, however I did switch to Spanish to chat with the Argentinian, Columbian, Peruvian and Mexican standing in line for orders.

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Food
Chicharron Sammie : I’ve seen Chicharron at other South American venues. My Filipino neighbour talks about the Filipino version. I decided to go that route and was happy. Highly seasoned pork, roasted, sliced and piled atop sweet potato sliced and marinated red onion. A little sweet, a little spicy and a little vinegary. This sandwich could give the Vietnamese pork Bahn Mi serious competition.

Papas a la Huancaína : Since I tried these elsewhere and made my own version, curiosity about their version prompted me to give it a try. It was the traditional version, which was good but I still prefer my version with roasted potatoes over the boiled potatoes.

Chica :  A drink made from purple corn? Sure, I’ll try it! The flavour was good, mostly I picked up a tropical fruit flavour like pineapple combined with cinnamon.Good but it was waay too sweet for me. Even when I cut it with half sparkling water, it was still waay too sweet for me.

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Service
The guys who run the truck are extremely personable and chatty in both Spanish and English, which is good since you’re going to wait. From order to delivery was 30 minutes, which was a little too long, so next time I’ll probably phone ahead. Also you should note that some of the items are prepared in advance and once they are gone, they do not make more. Most notable is the Aji Pollo. If you want this, its better to phone ahead. Alas, planning to go to a food truck seems counter intuitive for what is usually a spontaneous destination.

Price
Like most food trucks the items were reasonably priced. Chicharron, papas, chicha – $14

Lunch: October 2014

Peru Gourmet | NE corner of Holcombe & Kirby | HTX 77030

Papas a la Huancaína

I gave fair warning to my research assistants that the recipe was not an authentic recreation of the spicy Peruvian potato dish. But you know how people like to bitch, particularly when it comes to some small nugget of information they know. I let the Peruvian vent and verbally edit my recipe back to his version of ‘authentic’. Then I reminded him that authenticity was not the intent. I was never big on recreating dishes out of homage to authenticity or tradition anyway.

That said, here is the version we tried.

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Potatoes

  • 2 lbs of small potatoes (red, yukon, purple, whatever)
  • 3 T Olive Oil
  • 1 t each of chopped garlic, salt, pepper, smoked paprika

Sauce

  • 1/2 C Whole Milk
  • 1/2 C Queso Fresco, crumbled
  • 1/2 C Feta, crumbled
  • 2 T Panko Breadcrumbs
  • 1 T Half & Half
  • 1 T  Shallots, chopped
  • 1 T Olive Oil
  • 1 T Aji Amarillo (Peruvian Yellow Pepper Sauce)
  • 1 t Ground Black Pepper
  • 1/2 t Garlic, chopped

Prepare

Put all the potato ingredients in a Ziploc, close, shake to blend all the spices and coat the potatoes,  then remove potatoes to baking pan. Bake at 425 for 20 minutes. Remove and let the lot come to room temperature.

While the potatoes are doing their thing, mix the breadcrumbs with the milk and half & half. Let sit for 5-10 minutes. Place the breadcrumb-milk mixture along with all the other sauce ingredients into a food processor and pulse until smooth. Depending on what sauce consistency you want, you could add more cheese to thicken or add more milk to thin; keep in mind this will thicken up a bit in the fridge, which is where is will go next for about 30 minutes.

Deliver

Spoon about 1/4 C sauce on a plate, arrange a few potatoes, some key lime wedges and halved IMG_2369kalamata olives. Apparently the limes and olives are a traditional garnish, which is kind of ironic since the recipe isn’t.

Tasting Postmortem

Out of the 4 assistants we had 3 thumbs up and one middle of the road response, which was me. We all agreed we liked the small roasted potatoes better than the more traditional boiled, sliced potatoes. I was the lone critic of the seasonings. To me it was too salty, an artifact of using feta in the sauce and salt in the potato coating. Also the chopped garlic in the potato coating got a little burnt. On the presentation side the paprika sort of obfuscated the colour of the tri-coloured potatoes. Also the sauce was not as yellow as I wanted. Next time I would use all queso fresco in the sauce and make a garlic infused olive oil to roast the potatoes, omitting the chopped garlic and the paprika. A pinch of turmeric should pop the yellow colour of the sauce.

If only all problems were so trivial to fix!

 

Andes Cafe

I continue to be impressed with Houston’s EaDo neighborhood’s quirky nightlife offerings and counter-culture sentiment. When surveying the choices for Restaurant Weeks I was curious about Andes Cafe not only for their EaDo location but for the fact that they bill themselves as pan South American.

Atmosphere
Located on the ground floor of a building that looks like an adult rehab center, the atmosphere inside is surprisingly lively and colourful. I wasn’t convinced I needed a reservation for this place but did so since our group was large. Glad about that since there were no free tables in the small space from 8-11p. It is loud, densely-packed and given the open kitchen, the smells of grilled meat and corn are in constant pursuit of your attention. I liked it, it reminded me of NYC. Looking for quiet conversation and romance? Keep looking.

Food
The menu annotates the dishes with their country of origin – the majority from Columbia, Peru, Chile and Argentina. I went Restaurant Weeks menu for dinner but back to the regular menu for an additional Peruvian appetizer since it was recommended from a friend who is from Peru. For me, all of the items were a win, however several people were not happy with their grilled meats – too tough and dry. Maybe an artifact of too many patrons, not enough chefs.

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Antichucos: Grilled beef heart kebabs. I think the last time I had organ meat the X Files was still on the air. They were extremely flavourful, mostly picking up garlic, salt and the inherent gaminess of the meat. Served with choclo (big corn kernels) and huacatay sauce (black peppermint).

Causita de Camerones: Potato mash, molded then served with an interesting combination of amarillo aji, olives, shrimp, avocado, queso fresco and a side of mild salsa. The flavours were unexpected but delicious; the experience is up to you and how you decide to mix the potato cake with the other ingredients. The glue here is definitely the amarillo aji sauce; a creamy yellow pepper sauce with a little bit of heat.

Sudado de Pescado: I wasn’t clear what type of fish fillet was used in this stew but its was light and flaky. The stock for the stew was tomato based but with an inherent sweetness, from a good dose of caramelized onion and acidity, from a good dose of fresh lime. I liked. While I didn’t use any of the steamed white rice on the side, it was a nice touch for those wanting a more starchy consistency.

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Drink
Andes does not yet have a liquor license but you can BYOB for the standard corking fee. You could churn butter about EaDo looking for a last minute liquor store to purchase wine – good luck with that – or you could just bring what you have.

Service
There were two guys waiting on 10 tables and about 35 people. That said, service was good. We were not in any hurry anyway. When one from our table complained about the toughness of the meat, that meal was deleted from the bill without further conversation.

Price
Reasonable from what I’ve seen in other comparable South American venues. Small plates, $5-10. Large plates, $10-15.

Dinner: August 2014

Andes Cafe | 2311 Canal | HTX 77003

Spicy Peruvian Chicken

Aside from sweating and dodging irresponsible drivers, the other thing I do while walking home is look for interesting dinner options to prepare when I get home. This one caught my eye for its on-paper flavours. It’s excellent; the hot-pepper, lime and cumin combination is a win. I was leery of the mint but it worked by adding a little contrast to the otherwise savory-dominant flavours. It paired well with some salt-n-peeper roasted purple potatoes.

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Chicken and Accessories

  • 1 lb Chicken Thighs
  • 1 lb Chicken Drumsticks
  • 1 C Chicken Stock
  • 2 T Sugar
  • 2 T Cumin Seeds
  • Mint Leaves
  • Cilantro Leaves
  • 2 T Olive Oil

Marinade

  • 2 Jalapeno Peppers, chopped
  • 2 Fresno Pepper, chopped
  • 2 T Fresh Oregano, chopped
  • 1 t Fresh Mint, chopped
  • 1 t Fresh Cilantro, chopped
  • 12 Cloves Garlic, chopped
  • 6 Bay Leaves
  • 2 T Smoked Paprika
  • 1/3 C Olive Oil
  • Zest of 3 Limes
  • Juice of 3 Limes
  • 1 t Salt
  • 1 t Ground Black Pepper

Put marinade ingredients in a food processing and pulse until blended. Place marinade and chicken in a ziploc and shake to coat. Refrigerate overnight.

Heat 2T of olive oil over medium heat in a large high-sided pan. Add cumin seeds and stir for 1 minute. Wipe excess marinade from chicken then add to the pan. Sprinkle chicken with sugar and let cook on one side for 5 minutes, flip, 5 minutes on the other side. Add stock, raise heat to high until boiling, stir, reduce heat to medium-low and cook covered for another 10 minutes.

Done!