Peruvian food brainteaser

Here’s a questions for all you foodies and Peruvian food fans:

When making papi’s famous chicken and french fries – Peruvian style of course – which ingredient is most likely found underneath the living room couch?

While you ponder on that let me tell you I like my food simple. I’ve had a chance to eat fine cuisine at some of the best restaurants in different places around the world and I do enjoy that occasionally, but for the most part simple is better in my humble kitchen. One of the things I don’t like about Europe is that many Europeans seem to try and do fancy food all the time. You get a really pretty-looking plate with some unidentifiable food that leaves you $50 poorer but still hungry. Not me, I’ll take a simple plate of good food over fancy fish eggs any day.

When I was a kid we rarely ate out but I remember during one summer vacation eating at a restaurant with my parents and grandparents in La Jonquera, Spain. While we were enjoying simple yet delicious steak and french fries my grandfather told us this very Belgian story:

Two guys are at a restaurant and order steak and french fries. The waiter brings 2 plates of steak and fries. One guy asks his buddy: “Which plate do you want?” His buddy takes the plate with the biggest piece of steak.

The first guy says: “That is not polite, when you take the first plate it is not polite to choose the plate with the biggest piece of steak.”

“OK”, says his buddy. “So you choose”.

The first guy ponders for a moment and then grabs the plate with the biggest piece of steak. “I’ll take this one.”

“I thought you just said it isn’t polite to choose the plate with the biggest piece of steak!” exclaims his buddy. To which the first guy responds:

“It isn’t polite, but I don’t care, I’ve got the biggest piece of steak!”

I was only 7 or so at the time and thought that was the funniest story ever.

At any rate, have you figured out my Peruvian food brainteaser? If not I’ll give you a hint: it’s the same ingredient you would look for under the couch when cooking pretty much any Peruvian food. Here are the ingredients for my world-famous Peruvian-style chicken and french fries:

  • Chicken.
  • Potatoes.
  • Spices: salt, pepper and cumin al gusto.
  • Last but not least: look under the living room couch for Peruvian lemons! Soak chicken liberally in Peruvian lemon juice.
peruvian style chicken and fries

Papi's world famous chicken and french fries

OK, maybe in your house the Peruvian lemons aren’t under the couch but properly stored in the kitchen somewhere. In our house nothing has been properly stored since Pitufiloquita has gotten big enough to reach practically anything, even if she needs to drag a chair around to reach what she wants to get at. She likes to take our Peruvian lemons to her little play-kitchen and inevitably all my Peruvian lemons end up on the ground and under the living room couch.

That was easy, no? As soon as I said Peruvian food you knew there would be Peruvian lemons involved somewhere. Practically all Peruvian food gets lemon juice: salads, meat, fish, etc. Of course lemon juice is a main ingredient in both the best known Peruvian food (ceviche) and best known Peruvian drink (Pisco Sour), but you find Peruvian lemon juice in practically any Peruvian food. There is even a supposed Peruvian hangover cure based on the lemon juice.

I guess I should clarify the thing I’m calling “Peruvian lemon” here is closest to a “lime” or “Key lime” in US stores, it’s the little green one, not the really sour yellow one.

Also as a little disclaimer, I’m by no means a Peruvian food expert. In my kitchen everything is al gusto and nothing is ever cooked the exact same way twice. Every day is a new adventure. If you’re looking for a blog that is really good about Peruvian food, check out Kelly.

So if you’re entertaining or just in the holiday spirit and want to impress your friends with your Peruvian food expertise, just add Peruvian lemon juice to whatever it is you wanted to do in the first place 😉


Pitufiloquita enjoying chicken and french fries - Peruvian style!


Mamacita linda having papi's world famous chicken and french fries

vacation in Spain

Playing cards with my grandparents on vacation in Spain, many moons ago.

vacation in Spain

Vacation in Spain

Never tell a Peruvian 15 minutes

Peruvians are famous for their rather peculiar sense of timing. Peruvians are habitually late, they call it “la hora Peruana” or “the Peruvian hour”. Even for business meetings everyone is typically at least 20 minutes late.

That isn’t news in itself, I’ve written about this before. However, the other day I jinxed myself, I know better by now…

Since mamacita now works in the afternoons, I’ll try to cook dinner most days right around the time when she arrives home, around 8:30 or sometimes later. Now meals in any Latin culture are typically much later than in Western Europe or the US. We normally eat lunch between 2:30 and 3:30 in the afternoon, dinner is sometimes as late as 9:00 pm.

As I said, the other day I jinxed myself. I was cooking my famous lemon-pepper baked chicken with tortellini and alfredo sauce… Mira, que rico 😉

chicken with tortellini

Papi's famoso lemon-pepper chicken with tortellini and alfredo sauce

Just as I was getting the water for the tortellini to a boil, mamacita called to say she’d be a little late. I’m not the best cook and I usually wing it a bit when I’m cooking, but one thing I’m picky about is the time to cook the noodles. So as I was talking on the phone I just happened to have the box of noodles in my hand and looked at the “recommended cooking time” and said to mamacita:

… okay, hurry home, the food will be ready in 15 minutes exactly.
… okay, love you, bye.
… okay, love you, bye.

Just as soon as I hung up the phone it hit me. Because the “recommended cooking time” said 15 minutes I told Patricia 15 minutes.

You never tell a Peruvian 15 minutes

You can be assured 15 minutes will be at least 45 minutes on a real clock, and probably closer to an hour. If you want a Peruvian to do something in 15 minutes, you better use words like “hurry up”, “right now” or “2 minutes”. That’s not to be fussy or anything, that’s simply the Peruvian sense of timing.

So I turned down all the food as best as I could, but after about half an hour the little goose and I ate our dinner anyway, since it was after 9:00 already. About 45 minutes to an hour after the original 15-minute call, mommy did make it home and gobbled away the remaining noodles and chicken, which was sort of lukewarm but still yummie 😉