In this comprehensive and aptly titled guide to Peruvian cuisine, world-renowned chef Gastón Acurio shares the colourful and culturally-diverse gastronomy of his South American homeland.
Yasmin Newman

31 Jul 2015 - 10:20 AM  UPDATED 4 Aug 2015 - 5:18 PM

Why buy it?

Gastón Acurio is lyrical and rousing: “We are convinced that our cuisine is the fruit of a long, tolerant relationship among people and a treasure trove of ingredients that is the result of centuries of dialogue between our ancestors and nature,” writes the acclaimed Peruvian chef on his country’s cookery. The owner of 44 Peruvian restaurants worldwide (including number 18 on the S.Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurant List), TV host and philanthropist has been billed as a future president contender for his ambassadorial work on Peru and its cuisine, and a few pages into his new title highlight the depth of his knowledge and passion for the cause.

Peru: The Cookbook is also the newest addition to Phaidon’s national cuisine series (think Italy’s The Silver Spoon and the Spanish 1080 Recipes, both of which have been in print decades running) and, as such, is a comprehensive compendium. In 500 traditional recipes, Acurio catalogues the country’s diverse food styles, dictated by distinctive coastal, mountainous and rainforest climates, and foreign influences, from Chinese, Japanese and African migrant workers to Spanish conquistadors and new-age international culinary styles.

As high profile global chefs, including Ferran Adriá, Alain Ducasse and Acurio, have focused attention on the cuisine, and modern Peruvian restaurants have proliferated worldwide on the back of the trend, this ordered, info-laden book with its striking cover comes as interest in the formerly far-flung cuisine reaches its apogee. A collector’s reference and a future Peruvian culinary bible.


Cookability Acurio shares the country’s classic dishes rather than his restaurant chef d’oeuvres, meaning most recipes are simple and straightforward. The catch is the ingredients, many of which are indigenous and obscure, including a multitude of different chillies and exotic Amazonian produce, for which there are not always substitutions. Hands up for keeping it absolutely authentic. In saying that, there is still plenty to make in an Aussie home with ingredients from the local supermarket.


Must-cook recipe Ceviche is Peru’s national dish and the one for which it is best known globally. Acurio includes 34 recipes, including classic fish ceviche to the more challenging snail ceviche and even vegetarian renditions with mango, sweet potato and corn. Try at least one, such as the Japanese influenced ceviche ‘nikkei’, named for the country’s Japanese fusion cuisine.


Most surprising dish How long is a piece of string? It’s the diversity within the cuisine that’s most astounding, from European-style stout-marinated roast chook with fries to Chinese-influenced ‘airport-style’ fried rice and noodles to Andean veal shank and tripe soup.


Kitchen wisdom “We, the chefs of Peru, are precisely that today: messengers,” writes Acurio in his intro on the power of cooks to share a message, unite a people, inspire change and, above all, bring happiness. Hear, hear. 


Ideal for Peruvian and Latin American food enthusiasts, World’s Best Restaurants List followers, reference book collectors, global cooks, authentic food seekers 


Cook the book


1. Classic ceviche (ceviche clásico)


2. Lima-style fried seafood and cassava medley (jalea limeña)


3. Quinoa chaufa (chaufa de quinoa)


4. Pisco sour


Recipes and images from Peru: The Cookbook by Gastón Acurio (Phaidon, $59.95, hbk).