It may not be the most prominent of global cuisines, but Peruvian food is unique and exciting. Chef Luis Manuel of Limo speaks with online editor Colin Armstrong about sharing his native cuisine with Abu Dhabi diners.
But before clever chefs tried to be on-trend and creative, Peruvian cuisine was the epitome of fusion for centuries. Integrating native culinary traditions, including some preserved since the Incan empire, alongside dishes and practices adopted from European and the Far Eastern immigrants, identifying the essence of Peruvian cuisine is something of a challenge.
For Luis Manuel, speciality chef at Peruvian restaurant Limo in Bab Al Qasr Hotel, bringing a taste of South America to the Middle East is a challenge he relishes.
“I enjoy the challenge of making Peruvian food here, but I don’t change the flavours in my cooking; they stay the same and are as authentic to Peruvian tastes as possible,” he says.
“Our menu is based around my experiences making Peruvian cuisine in other countries, but if you look closely there is a small nod to Arabic cuisine on the menu.
“We have one dish that is a play on kunafa; we use it to coat shrimps. If you like Arabic cuisine then you see this and it feels familiar.
“We use the same ingredients and preparation in Limo as we do in my country and we prepare dishes to represent our national food as best as possible – but maybe with a little less chilli, because not everyone can handle it.”
While most people are familiar with Mexican and even Brazilian cuisine, the food prepared in Peru is yet to reach the same level of popularity.
Delighted to act as a cultural ambassador and share the flavours of his country with the rest of the world, chef Luis hopes that more people will discover Peruvian cuisine through his dishes.
“I like it when people come to the restaurant and they have never tried Peruvian food – that is exciting to me,” chef Luis explains.
“I have met people who have come to the restaurant and they didn’t know what to expect
and then you see them coming back in the future and they have brought friends to try it because they loved it – that’s so satisfying to me.
“I’m happy for me, my staff and for my country because I like to share my culture with the world, and a lot of people, perhaps even more so in this region, are unfamiliar with Peruvian cuisine.”
Keeping things authentic, using traditional ingredients and taking care to represent the culinary history of Peru, the menu at Limo is filled with dishes that may be unfamiliar to the average diner. So where do you start?
“The first dish to try is, of course, ceviche. In fact, the name of this restaurant is Limo, named after ahí limo, a chilli pepper, which is the main ingredient in ceviche.
“All you need to use is this pepper, lime, fish and salt and you make the best ceviche in the world.
“Also, in Peru we have over 300 types of potato so we cook with it a lot, so try the causa (a type of mashed potato).
“Finally, you need to try the anticucho (grilled meat skewers). All these together are the perfect introduction to our cuisine.
“When people come in they often don’t know what to expect, but after they try the food, I can see that they’ve already fallen in love with Peru.”