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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

A Taste of Peru, a plateful of alpaca

I can't wait to try the alpaca!

It's this carnivorous curiosity that has me most excited about A Taste of Peru, a degustation dinner recently staged by Illapu Peru at The Sheraton on the Park for the Sydney International Food Festival.

I've yet to visit Peru - all I can think of is Paddington Bear who came from "darkest Peru"! There are no marmalade sandwiches here, but Peruvian chef Alejandro Saravia is keen to showcase a variety of Peruvian flavours to a room full of Sydneysiders, including several other
food bloggers.

Don Santiago pisco punch

The Times on the Park function room has been set-up to resemble a restaurant. We're directed to the bar for our choice of cocktails mixed with pisco, the Peruvian spirit made from brandy. The Santiago pisco punch is as sweet and fruity as it sounds. I find myself preferring the Santiago Queirolo pisco sour which mixes lime juice, sugar syrup, bitters and egg whites.

Santiago Queirolo pisco sour

Cassava and Spanish cheese croquettes with Huancayo sauce

Our canapes are served to our table one dish at a time. The cassava and Spanish cheese croquettes have a pleasing starchiness, and their golden-fried skins provide a contrasting crunch.

Beef heart skewers with ají sauce

Beef heart skewers aren't as tough as you'd expect, especially with the accompanying jalapeno-based aji sauce. I'm not easily won over by the potato mortar terrine which is a little too cold against the teeth, its portion size overwhelming the comparatively small dab of tender trout.

Potato mortar terrine with organic trout from Lake Titicaca

Kingfish tiradito in two oils
Fine slices of kingfish cured in Pisco (Peruvian spirit) for 12 hours,
dressed with rocoto (Peruvian red pepper) and basil oil

Pisco-cured kingfish is a rainbow of colours on the plate. The cheerful dots of Peruvian red pepper puree make me smile, and the fish is fresh and toothsome, nuanced by notes of basil-infused oil.

Passion at the Pacific
Pink snapper, sea urchin and crystal bay prawn ceviche in a passionfruit and aji (Peruvian yellow chilli) sauce

The riot of colours in the kingfish course contrasts markedly with the washed out paleness of the mixed seafood ceviche. Generous chunks of pink snapper and crystal bay prawn become a little too much to digest by the time we're halfway finished. I can't detect any passionfruit in my aji sauce, although I noticed that everyone else's dish has a stronger orange tint than mine. I save the curl of sea urchin until last, savouring its buttery richness.

Palate cleanser: Pisco and citron sorbet

Pisco and citron sorbet is more of a lemon juice syrup by the time it hits our table, although judging by photos at other tables, we think this melted appearance was perhaps deliberate.

Stuffed Peruvian red pepper (rocoto) and a solterito salad
Roasted Peruvian red pepper stuffed with oxtail and aromatic herbs

served with an assortment of Andean vegetables and feta cheese salad,
dressed with an infused huacatay (black mint) oil

Roasted Peruvian red peppers are sweet and silky, cascading their way down a mountain of oxtail morsels cooked until soft and unctious. The richness of the dish is cut through by a salad of feta cheese, olives, cherry tomatoes and glistening broad beans. Gigantic white corn kernels add a mild sweetness and starchy texture.

Remember the flavors of the Andeans
Olluco (Andean tuber) pearls with cured Alpaca meat and
Andean grains - a special blend of quinoas (golden, red and black) taboule

The alpaca is the last of the savoury dishes to arrive. Our table is one of the last to receive this dish and my slices of meat seem more on the side of well-done than medium-rare. The meat isn't as gamey as we'd thought it would be, more like beef in texture although milder in flavour. It's quite a lean meat too, and Billy reports that his, cooked more to a medium rare, is soft and tender.

Purple corn sorbet with Pisco-infused pineapple and strawberries

The purple corn sorbet is much more like an ice cream, incredibly smooth and velvety on the tongue. There's a cool silkiness that I find infinitely appealing. It's my favourite dish of the evening.

The Taste of Peru dinner was held at The Sheraton on the Park on October 20, 21, 27 and 28, 2009 for the Sydney International Food Festival.

Grab Your Fork attended A Taste of Peru as a guest of Illapu Peru.

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
SIFF 2009 - Sugar Hit at Azuma Kushiyaki
SIFF 2009 - Sugar Hits at Grace Hotel, Glass Brasserie and Azuma Kushiyaki
SIFF 2009 - Luke Nguyen's Cabramatta Food Tour
SIFF 2009 - Nose-to-tail barbecue with Fergus Henderson
SIFF 2009 - World Chef Showcase
7 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 11/04/2009 01:45:00 am


  • At 11/04/2009 4:29 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This all looks wonderful

  • At 11/04/2009 7:38 am, Anonymous Fiona said…

    The punch would have been perfect in yeterday's heat

  • At 11/04/2009 1:28 pm, Blogger thehealthyfoodie said…

    ive always wanted to try peruvian, i need to go out and do it! the food looks amazing!

  • At 11/04/2009 2:05 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Looks wonderful and surfs above any Peruvian food I have tried thus far!

  • At 11/04/2009 5:34 pm, Anonymous Julian Davis said…

    wow it's so beautiful!You got fabulous shots! I love reading your blog .

  • At 11/05/2009 12:43 pm, Anonymous clekitty said…

    I must try this cuisine! I love trying out different kinds of meat. I'm such a carnivore!

  • At 11/05/2009 11:50 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Pina Colada Kisses - I think degustations always have an element of showmanship and surprise. Glad you enjoyed the post!

    Hi Fiona - I think anything with ice would've been good in the 38C heat! I hid in the office all day. Air-con is my savior!

    Hi TheHealthyFoodie - It's always exciting trying new cuisines isn't it? Makes you think about cultural references as well as geography and climate.

    Hi MissDissent - I'd love to try Peruvian food in Peru of course too :)

    Hi Julian Davis - Thanks. Glad you enjoyed the post.

    Hi clekitty - Ha, you're not the only carnivore around here! I was actually surprised by how much seafood was featured.


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