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Ceviche in Lima

Ceviche at La Mar in Miraflores

Celebrated annually from September 15 to October 15, National Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to acknowledge and celebrate the contributions Hispanics have made in the United States.

While there are several ways you can celebrate the vibrant Hispanic culture in Chicago, I can think of no better way than by eating. Whether it’s Mexican, Argentine, Peruvian, or a mix, Latin American cuisine seems to me to always be delicious. An assortment of colorful peppers, creamy avocados, hearty breads, juicy pork, tender steaks—it’s difficult for me to pass up any Latin-inspired dish.

Yes, I lean towards LOVING Peruvian food, and after a short trip to Peru to mainly eat (and visit family), I say the home of the wondrous Machu Picchu should be highly praised for it’s amazing contributions to the culinary arts!

From Lima to Cusco to Ica and Mistura, I ate my way through various regions and cuisines. I have to say I fell in love with the country’s Pollo a Brasa. And while you can get an amazing ceviche in Chicago, there is no ceviche like ceviche made with a Peruvian lime. It’s puckery goodness subtly cures the amazing fresh seafood fetched from the Pacific only blocks away from several of Lima’s cevicharias. (See food photos here.)

So whether you choose to eat, dance, sing, read, or celebrate with family, be sure to take time to pay homage to a culture that makes Chicago a very, very special place.

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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!

Only days after we filed for a Illinois Business Tax number, we received a notice in the mail that we would be responsible for a Chicago soft drink tax (Home Rule Municipal Soft Drink Retailer’s Occupation Tax). I was floored. I thought my sister had created the form as an elaborate prank. The one-page form was extremely informative and covered the basics of who should file, what “soft drinks” consist of, and when I need to file.

Basically, if you sell soft drinks in Chicago, you are responsible for paying this tax. Soft drinks include soda, sport or energy drinks, sweetened tea, flavored waters, beverages with less than 50% fruits or vegetables, and all other drinks known as “soft drinks.”

We all have to pay taxes, so it’s not the tax I’m worried about…it’s having one more thing to remember.

Humberto and I popped by Rebuilding exchange today to look for screens to hide out slop sink which is very inconveniently IN the dining room. No luck on the screens, but it is an amazing place.

Not only do they sell great fixtures from restaurants, churches, houses, and more, they also make custom furniture out of recycled materials.

Some of the handmade tables, shelves, and benches are super cool, but a little pricey.

It’s definitely worth the trip, even if you don’t find your treasure the first time around.

A side note: I did notice a strange sign lurking over the horizon as I was coming out of the building…

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The poor man next to me on the train falls asleep for a second after every word he gets on his crossword puzzle. Exhaustion–I get it.

While we are still working on construction, we have a menu to hammer out. There are certainly disagreements about which Peruvian dishes to feature (they are all so good), as well as disagreements about where to get ingredients, what specials we will feature, and who cooks what when.

All and all I can say there are some extremely passionate people involved in the birth of 4 Suyos.

Do you have a favorite Peruvian dish? Or is there something you couldn’t imagine a Peruvian restaurant not offering?

If you’re not familiar with Peruvian cuisine, check out this site.

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