Palacio del Inka, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Cusco
Tambo del Inka, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa
The New Andean Gastronomy
Peru is a multicultural country and one of the most biodiverse in the world, making its cuisine the best representation of the cultural, ethnic, and geographic richness that characterizes the country. Over the last decades, a new trend has brought about a style of Andean cuisine that draws on Peruvian history and pantry, as well as incorporating contemporary, international, and sophisticated techniques.
History of a Taste
Peruvian gastronomy is not just a trend or a fancy cuisine; it is the result of historical factors, cultural and religious expressions, the geographical conditions of the territory and its great variety of climates. Each region has its own heritage, which contemporary Peruvian gastronomy has been able to exploit in a creative and unique manner.
In ancient Cusco, the Incas based the structural axis of their food on the already existing cultures, by combining Andean, seafood, and tropical cuisines. Then, during the almost three centuries of Peruvian viceroyalty, many techniques and ingredients were introduced, which included olives, grapes, dairy products, beef, chicken, rice, and the key lime, which is the basis for one of the most emblematic Peruvian dishes: ceviche.
During the 19th century, immigration further enriched and expanded Peruvian cuisine. Two important milestones were reached with the arrival of the Japanese and Italian colonies during the republican period: the creation of the Nikkei and the establishment of traditions such as sangucherías (restaurant specializing in sandwiches), grocery stores, panettones, and ice cream. Furthermore, the Cantonese Chinese coolies that arrived during the second half of the century corresponded to the beginnings of the so-called chifa, a Chinese and Peruvian fusion. At the same time, the French fashion invaded the flavors of certain cuisines of the country.
These are the backgrounds for the emergence of the novo-Andean cuisine by the 20th century. The name of this gastronomic current began to be heard in the 1980s, based on dishes and recipes from the pre-Hispanic era, while combining products from the coast and the highlands with a more cosmopolitan and updated look.
The emergence of novo-Andean cuisine has been one of the reasons why Peru's gastronomy was recognized as Cultural Heritage of the Nation in 2007, and since 2012 the country has always been distinguished in the World Travel Awards as a Top Culinary Destination worldwide.
Cusco: A Culinary Destination
The Sacred Valley of the Incas is located along the Vilcanota-Urubamba River, which rises in the mountain chain and on its descent is intersected by many other rivers that flow down through ravines and small valleys. The landscape is not only of great natural beauty, but it is also a territory of extraordinary agricultural wealth. Only 40 kilometers from the city of Cusco, the Urubamba River valley is its main source of food, since it is the origin of the surprising variety of grains, tubers, vegetables, fruits, and herbs that nourish the cuisine of the Andean department. The unique biodiversity, the mild climate and the richness of its soil inspire a culinary creativity that blooms in the valley itself. The Hawa restaurant and Kiwi bar at Tambo del Inka, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa in Urubamba, and its gastronomy and mixology proposals with a special stamp are proof of such creativity. The hotel's gardens in the Sacred Valley are ideal for an artisan bread workshop in a traditional clay oven. Pisco sour making classes are also offered, as well as pisco and craft beer tasting. "From the orchard to the table" is an activity that invites you to participate in the harvesting of the best produces from the organic orchard and to then prepare different dishes with the hotel's chef. Likewise, the "Five Fires" experience brings together the best flavors of the Andes in five different types of cooking. In this hotel in Urubamba, food and drink are a vital part of a unique experience, sheltered by the nature of a valley that remains sacred for many reasons.
Cusco, like other places in the Peruvian highlands, is distinguished by its geographic and climatological variety, to which it must thank for the ingredients that grow on its hillsides and that have turned it into a wonderful source of culinary ingredients.
In any review on Andean gastronomy, especially on Cusco´s cuisine, it is impossible not to start with the amazing variety of tubers, including potatoes, olluco, mashua, oca and many others. Cusco produces more than 1,200 types of native potatoes out of the 3,200 varieties that grow in the country. Likewise, its giant white corn is grown and produced in the provinces of Calca and Urubamba.
As well as agriculture, livestock farming makes Andean cuisine even tastier: in addition to raising, pigs, cattle and sheep, there is also the consumption of llama, alpaca, and guinea pig meat. Peruvian highlands are synonymous with variety. There are chupes, soups, kapchi and pucheros as a proof of a cuisine that goes back centuries, and that has always been rich in produces of high nutritional value which have been able to be combined and maintained.
Since the 1980s, novo-Andean cuisine has emerged as a genre of Peruvian gastronomy that aims to rediscover the native cuisine, taking up ingredients and styles that were little known and mixing them with traditions from other parts of the world. The result is new dishes and flavors that, notwithstanding, are familiar and close to us.
Since then, products such as maca, quinoa or tarwi have been reclaimed as part of a new, ethnically diverse, and certainly sophisticated approach. This is the path taken by some of the most interesting restaurants in Cusco, like the Inti Raymi proposal of Palacio del Inka, a Luxury Collection Hotel. Indeed, the possibilities of novo-Andean cuisine transcend the culinary art to become a true revolution of Peruvian identity.