5 Things you didn't know about Latin American Cuisine
1. Peru - The home of Japanese fusion. Peru homes the second largest ethnic Japanese population in South America. The Japanese began arriving in Peru in the late 1800's under the promise of a land "full of gold". The Japanese community constitutes 1.4% of the Peruvian population making a significant cultural impact on the country including the rise in popularity of the Japanese-Peruvian culinary fusion known as Nikkei.
The Japanese introduced new ingredients to Peruvian cuisine like miso, ginger, soy, wasabi and rice vinegar. They also integrated Peruvian ingredients such as aji or yellow pepper, Andes potatoes and corn. This fusion of the two cuisine cultures didn’t happen overnight but took place progressively. Today, Nikkei cuisine is constantly evolving.
2. Chinese influence. Chinese-Peruvian food has also become one of the most popular types of food in Peru. Known as 'Chifa', the fusion originated in the early 20th century when Chinese immigrants came to Peru mainly from the southern province of Guangdong and particularly its capital city Guangzhou.
Though originating in Peru, the Chifa tradition has spread to neighbouring countries like Ecuador and Bolivia. Certain aspects found in Chinese food internationally are common to Peruvian chifa such as wontons, fried rice (chaufa), sweet and sour sauce, and soy sauce.
3. Argentina - Home of the BBQ Argentinian cuisine is most famed for it's Asado (Argentinian barbecue), and their beef-oriented diet. Grilled meat from the asado is a staple. In Patagonia, however, lamb and goat are eaten more frequently than beef. Whole lambs and goats are traditionally cooked over an open fire in a technique known as asado a la estaca.
Aside from the asado, the country boasts the second biggest population of immigrants in the world creating a cultural ‘melting pot’ of Mediterranean influences. Social gatherings are centred around share plates, viewed as a symbol a friendship, warmth & integration.
4. Mexico - Heritage listed cuisine. In 2010 Mexican Cuisine was inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. Over the centuries, regional cuisines developed based on local conditions. Mexican cuisine is an important aspect of the culture, social structure and popular traditions of Mexico. The most important example of this connection is the use of mole for special occasions and holidays.
In Oaxaca, there are 7 types of mole sauces, ranging from a mole negro (black mole) to the fruity mancha manteles, while in Taxco, you can try a mild mole rose (pink mole), and in San Pedro Atocpan, the mole almendrado (almond mole) is particularly famous.
5. Fajitas and Nachos Aren’t Mexican. You’ll rarely fajitas and nachos at a restaurant in Mexico because these foods were invented in Texas. Fajitas and nachos are classic Tex-Mex foods, although venture to the northernmost areas of the country which border Texas and you'll find Tex-Mex dishes have become a part of the cuisine, though reinterpreted and restyled with more traditional Mexican flavours.
Some ingredients are common in Mexican cuisine, but other ingredients not typically used in Mexico are often added. Tex-Mex cuisine is characterized by its heavy use of shredded cheese, meat (particularly beef, pork & chicken), beans, peppers and spices, in addition to flour tortillas. Dishes such as Texas-style chili con carne, nachos, crispy tacos, and fajitas, are all Tex-Mex inventions.