Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Neighbors' Cuisine - An Andean Dinner in Fortaleza

As Brazilian gastronomy continues to develop its passion for regional and traditional roots, often combining them with contemporary techniques and new or long-forgotten ingredients, it is beginning to similarly explore the gastronomic heritage of Brazil's neighbor countries in South America. Though they share a continent, Brazil and the Spanish-speaking countries that consitute most of the remainder of South America are culturally not very similar in most respects - linguistically, ethnically, geographically, to name a few. But these days, Brazilian chefs are looking across this culinary frontier and cross-cultural Latin American influences are popping up everywhere on the Brazilian food scheme.

An excellent, and absolutely delicious, example of this mixing of South American cuisines was a dinner that Flavors of Brazil attended this week here in Fortaleza. As part of the Universidade Federal do Ceará (UFC) Festival of Culture, currently underway, local Fortaleza restaurant L’Ô hosted a six-course dinner entitled "Revisiting Andean Cuisine" to showcase the food traditions of Peru and Bolivia.

Two visiting chefs created the menu and cooked the dinner at L’Ô. Fábio Barbosa, a Brazilian, is the executive chef of La Mar Cebicheria, a Peruvian restaurant in São Paulo, and Checho Gonzalez, a Bolivian, is the chef at Ají, in the same city. Working together, they composed a dinner that highlighted ingredients and techniques from the heights of the Andes - a world away from the tropical coastal city of Fortaleza. Each course was paired with Chilean wines from the foothills of the Andean Cordillera.

The meal was a superb showcase of the best of Peruvian and Bolivian cuisine. The dinner included two first course plates, two main dishes and two desserts. Unusual ingredients, such as the Peruvian fruit lucuma and enormous kernels of Andean hominy corn were given prominence. So were typical sauces as seasonings, like salsa criolla, salso chimichurri and salsa antichuchera - the peppery sauce used to season the Andean version on kebabs or satays, anticuchos.

The complete menu is pictured below.
Tiradito (ceviche) of whitefish
Escabeche of octopus with salsa criolla and mango cream
Mixed seafood in salsa anticuchera on a bed of mashed potatoes and chimichurri sauce
Chicharonnes of baby spareribs with salted potatoes, hominy corn and shredded sun-dried lamb
Lucuma in coconut-scented tapioca with coffee syrup
Bunuelo fritters with dulce de leche and cinagni coulis


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