Archives for category: Peruvian Food

What do you get when you cross an ancient civilization with a conquistador and a French aristocrat’s chef?

Aji de Gallina

A mouth-watering, cheesy, peppery chicken stew also known as Aji de Gallina!

While not a sexy ceviche or a sinful paella, aji de gallina—a stew made of finely shredded chicken smothered in a creamy, nutty, cheesy sauce and served with a generous portion of rice and boiled potatoes—is a perfect winter comfort food.

Aji de gallina is a classic in Peruvian cuisine. It’s available at nearly every Peruvian restaurant in the States (believe me, I’ve been to several) and nearly every traditional restaurant in Lima. It’s one of those staple dishes that if  you talk to a Peruvian, they’ll tell you they are searching for aji de gallina as good as their grandmothers. Last April Chicago Tribune  Reporter, Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz approached about our aji de gallina. We were flattered to hear that our aji de gallina ended her hunt for aji de gallina comparable to that which she ate as a child:

On the hunt for a pot-licking-worthy aji de gallina comparable to that which I ate growing up — an admittedly subjective search based on my childhood memories —I finally found at 4 Suyos, a new eatery in Logan Square. The finely shredded chicken practically disappeared into the decadent sauce of Parmesan cheese, aji amarillo, walnuts and pecans, served in the traditional manner over white rice and boiled potatoes with black olives and a boiled egg. -Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz

Her memories of and search for the dish is a testament to its power.

So, where did this dish get its power? There are several theories out there, but one I hear a lot—and is pretty interesting—is the story of three cultures coming together to create culinary magic. The story begins with an Incan dish made with a game bird called the “hualpa” that was spiced with Peruvian hot pepper. Skip to 1528 when the Spaniards brought controversy, conquest, and cheese to Peru. Fast forward again to 1799 when the French Revolution dealt a huge blow to the country’s aristocracy. Their chefs quickly fled to countries like Peru to find work where they shredded up the spicy chicken, mixed in the cheese and nuts, and made history!

There’s no doubt that the wonderfully delicious and historic Aji de gallina will comfort you through the cold, dark Chicago winter…until it’s time again to lounge on the 4 Suyos patio spooning ceviche and sipping maracuya!

Pionono Peruano

With a name like Pionono, this spongy, creamy Peruvian dessert takes the cake for me! A delectable sponge cake roll deliciously glued together with manjar blanco. I fell in love with the dessert when a Peruvian woman in Chicago made it for me, and sealed the deal on it being one of my favorites when I went to Peru.

I’ve been practicing and tweaking a recipe that I will post as soon as I feel I have it perfected. The version here is much to thin and has way too much manjar blanco (if that’s ever possible. :)

Pionono will be available at 4 Suyos soon, so stay tuned!

One of our biggest and most interesting challenges at 4 Suyos is to create food that EVERYONE can eat. We want all of our customers to be able to enjoy the incredibly dynamic tastes of Peru, whether they are vegetarian, vegan, or have a gluten-free diet. Aside from our current menu that has some vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options, we will do our best to modify or transform a dish to our customer’s liking–often replacing regular wheat beer with our chef’s homemade chicha de jora (more on that later). However, one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made over the last few months is telling our customers that our mazamorra morada (purple corn pudding) is not gluten free. Well, I was wrong. I sat with the chef yesterday and watched him prepare our mazamorra, and to my surprise, he was using sweet potato flour! So, for all those gluten-free folks I steered away from the mazamorra, I’m so sorry. Come back and try it!

Now, if you’ve not been to 4 Suyos or any other Peruvian restaurant, you may be thinking, what IS mazamorra? Mazamorra is a traditional Peruvian dessert made with the extract of purple corn. It is made by first making chicha morada. Then the chicha is mixed with pineapples and plums and then thickened into a pudding.

It is delicious served as el clasico. El classic is the combination mazamorra morada and arroz con leche. It is named for a famous futbol match between the two biggest soccer teams in Peru, Alianza Lima and Universitario. (If you haven’t been to the restaurant, you may not know about the photo scandal concerning this dessert…)

So, no gluten in 4 Suyos homemade mazamorra. Enjoy!!

Bread and HuacatayIt’s no secret that if you’ve been to 4 Suyos, or almos any other Peruvian restaurant, you’ve been offered a bit of the “green sauce.” Whether it was served with bread, potatoes, cancha, or something slightly more creative/gourmet, the green sauce is a Peruvian gem. At 4 Suyos we often get asked, what is in this sauce!?

Well, there are a few secrets here at the restaurant, but the main ingredients are jalapenos and huacatay. Yes, the common jalapeno mixed with the not-so-common huacatay. Officially labeled, tagetes minuta, huacatay is the Quecha word for the plant that, mixed with jalapenos, morfs into a mouthwatering carb topper.

We make the sauce by grounding the minty, citrusy, leaves of the huacatay plant and blending them with the jalapeno. Yes, there’s a little cream… and if you stop in the restaurant to try it, I may divulge a few secret ingredients.

4 Suyos Pan con Chicharron!

Sandwiches, sandwiches, sandwiches. When I surveyed several of my Peruvian friends, they dreamily recounted the numerous types of sandwiches they would take for breakfast back in Peru. Pan con camote (sweet potato), pan con chicharron, pan con jamonado, pan con queso, pan con huevos, and our waitress Cynthia’s favorite, pan con pollo.

Aside from the sandwiches, Peruvians traditionally also eat tamales, and the chef’s mother said she’d occasionally enjoy tacu tacu for breakfast. However, the other Peruvians insisted that was a lunch dish. The chef’s mother also mentioned a dish called relleno, which I think may be sausage, blood, garlic, and onions, but I’m not quite sure.

While 4 Suyos isn’t serving up a ton of sandwiches, we are paying homage to the Peruvian breakfast with the addition of the pan con chicharron to our very new brunch menu. Yep, we are now serving a Peruvian- American brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. We are also serving locally-roasted Metropolis’s Peruvian coffee too!

Check out the complete 4 Suyos brunch menu! Los veo para desayuno!

Kermit the Frog. Image: http://muppet.wikia.com/wiki/Kermit_the_Frog

Kermit the Frog. Image: muppet.wikia.com

The very little I know about frogs consists of warts, princes, and rainbow connections. What I don’t know is how they may be good for me. However, Peruvians are making the bold statement that a little freshly-squeezed frog can liven up your bedroom and ward off asthma and fatigue.

Known more commonly in Peru as extracto de rana, frog juice is gaining momentum. While I haven’t seen it in person, I’ve read that a common juice stand in Peru–one like we have here featuring strawberry, blueberry, and orange juice–may skip the standard and leap straight to the eclectic by featuring frog juice. Fresh frog juice.

According to the Associated Press, to make the juice, one pulls a live frog out of an aquarium, bangs it against a hard surface to kill it, and then peels off the skin.

Flavors are added, and for around $.90, you can down a refreshing class of  extracto de rana.

You can watch a video of the process here, but I have to warn–it’s not for the faint at heart.

Image courtesy of farandulachola.com

I like to talk. I like to eat. These two things don’t mix well, often resulting a disgusted conversation buddy. However, when I’m at 4 Suyos, I can do my eating and talking–just not at the same time. One of my favorite conversation topics is conveniently, Peruvian food. Humberto is really the expert, but since he is generally knee deep in ingredients, I get to relay the Peruvian food info to the customers.

The number one question I get is what I would recommend. The answer to that is easy: everything. However, I understand eating a menu’s worth of food in one sitting isn’t generally possible, so I pick a few things I think are absolutely crucial Peruvian dishes to have tried to say you’ve had Peruvian food. One of those dishes is Papa a la Huancaina.

Papa a la Huancaina is a traditional Peruvian dish consisting of sliced, boiled potatoes topped with a sauce made with blended cheeses, cream, aji amarillo, garlic, and a few secrets our chef has asked we not disclose per his grandmother. It is a drippy, yummy slice of  highland heaven.

The dish originated in Huancayo, the capital of the Junin region in the Peruvian central highland and remains their signature dish. To this day it is served in just about every Peruvian restaurant, so if you stumble upon a restaurant claiming to be Peruvian, and they don’t serve Papa a la Huancaina, it’s safe to say you can consider it not Peruvian.

Photo courtesy of Perudelights.com

I’m going to start this post with the obvious–Pisco originated in Peru NOT Chile. I mean there IS a town in Peru named Pisco! :) If you’re unfamiliar with Pisco Sours or Pisco itself, you must familiarize yourself. Pisco is a grape brandy produced in Chile and Peru. There are generally regional differences to Pisco. Peruvian Pisco is produced in the Ica Valley region of Peru using copper pot stills. Pot stills are generally also used for producing single- and double malt whiskey. Regulations in Peru require the variation of grape and aging process be the determination for the type of Pisco.

While there is a million things that can be said about Pisco production, history, and cultural influence, one of its best qualities is what it can do to a little lime, eggs, and sugar, also known as the the intensely popular Pisco Sour. In fact, the Pisco Sour’s notoriety has gained it an official day in Peru. National Pisco Sour day falls on the first Saturday of February each year. This year, the celebration falls on February 4.

To make a Pisco Sour, you’ll need 3 oz. of Pisco, 1 oz. of freshly squeezed lime juice, 1 1/2 oz. of simple syrup, 1/3 of an egg white, and 1 drop of angostura bitters. Blend until frothy, and serve with a tiny bit of cinnamon on top.

This Saturday, if you’re not feeling up to making your own Pisco Sour, pick up some Pisco at Vas Foremost just around the corner and stop into 4 Suyos. We’ll make your mix for you!

Lomo SaltadoNow that the restaurant “construction” is complete, and we are waiting for our license inspection, I’ve had a little time to learn more about Peruvian food. (Thankfully, I’m not the chef–that has been left to a team of Peruvians.:) However, I am a food nut, so this experience has been beyond wonderful.

I started with Lomo Saltado, one of Peru’s most famous dishes consisting of sirloin strips marinated in vinegar, Peruvian spices, and soy sauce stir fried with onions, parsley, and tomatoes. The stir-fry is served over rice with potato wedges. This is the traditional way to make Lomo Saltado, but be rest-assured, our chef has a few secrets!

When researching Lomo Saltado, I kept running across the name Gaston Acurio. And after researching the name, I’ve found I’ve been completely in the dark about Peruvian food until now. Gaston is Peru’s cuisine ambassador as well as one of the world’s most famous chefs. He owns several international restaurants, including Astid & Gaston, which he opened with his wife Astid in the Miraflores district in Lima. Since opening, the chain has spread to eight countries! (Gaston…come to the US!!!)

Gaston is also the star of La Aventura Culinaria, a culinary television show featuring the chef visiting Peruvian restaurants. He is also a published author.

I’m learning a lot from Gaston, including how to make Lomo Saltado!

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