Eating raw fish was very common in the pre-Inca cultures and, over time, the dish included chilli, citrus, onions, lettuce and corn. In recent years it has become rawer and fresher, to almost resemble the also popular Peruvian "tiradito". There are a host of fantastic restaurants to try ceviche in Lima (the world capital of ceviche). Some great options include Costanera 700 in the exclusive district of Miraflores. See costanera700.pe
Causa rellena is one of Peru's unique dishes, a mixture of potatoes, chilli and lemon stuffed with hearty and diverse fillings such as chicken, octopus or even crab pulp. The dish's origins go back to the Peruvian War of Independence when boiled potatoes counted as the soldiers' main food.
A classic example of fusing cultures, lomo saltado owes its origins to the influence of the Chinese-Cantonese. It incorporates tomatoes, onions, vinegar, soy sauce and loin using the Chinese technique of frying in a wok. A mixture of Peruvian Creole and oriental cuisine, the secret to a good lomo saltado is the very high fire in which the loin is fried, allowing the meat to seal on the outside and keeping the juice inside. It is usually served with white rice (another oriental influence).
ENSALADA DE PALLARES VERDES (LIMA BEAN SALAD)
A fresh and healthy dish that mixes small freshly harvested pallares (lima beans) with sliced onion and avocado and a marinade of lemon and "quebranta" grapes vinegar. The key is the freshness and delicate sweetness of the "baby" pallares. Ica is in the hot desert of Peru so the freshness of Ensalada de pallares verdes provides the ideal dish for the local farm workers.
PICANTE DE PALLARES VERDES
This tasty, savoury dish is a mixture of fresh pallares with aji mirasol (a sun-dried chilli pepper), milk, garlic, salt and chunks of cheese, served with rice and fried fish. The key is the freshness and smoothness of the chilli cream. You won't find green pallares at supermarkets, only at Ica's street markets.
The absolute icon of Peruvian drinks, pisco sour is what tequila is to Mexico and caipirinha to Brazil. Pisco sour is prepared with pisco, lemon juice, gum syrup and egg white, all mixed in a cocktail shaker. It's a delicious appetiser and the key is in the freshness of the ingredients and the high quality of pisco used.
Capitan is the most elegant and versatile appetiser, prepared by cooling a mixture of 50 per cent of the best pisco and 50 per cent of the best vermouth possible. It's like a Manhattan but replacing the bourbon with pisco and the result is remarkable. It is dry and elegant.
Jose Moquillaza is a wine grower and pisco producer who lives in Lima with vineyards, vines and stills in the Ica Valley. Latin America specialist Chimu Adventures' 10-day A Taste of Peru food tour starts from $4420 a person. See chimuadventures.com