A paradise of colours, shapes and flavours
“If you want to discover the secret of Peruvian cuisine, visit one of Lima’s markets,” advises Gastón Acurio, the Lima-born, globally renowned chef. Here you’ll find mangoes and lush green avocados next to quinoa, lentils, kanihua, kiwicha and sweetcorn in all possible colours. The fish stall, meanwhile, promises the riches of the Pacific Ocean. And let’s not forget its legendary potatoes – it was here, in the Peruvian Andes, that the Incas first cultivated this humble vegetable before it took over the world. A paradise of colours and flavours from a country with the world’s greatest biodiversity that will delight anyone on a Porsche road trip to Peru.
Peruvian cuisine is a fusion of the diverse cultural origins of the country’s inhabitants. Every nationality brought something with them from their homeland – the Italians, Chinese and then the Japanese who, from around 1900, showed the Peruvians that fish can also be eaten raw. Using lime juice, aji chilli peppers and red onions, they transformed the treasures of the seas into ceviche, now Peru’s national dish. It's popular from the Pacific coast all the way up to the fishing communities on Lake Titicaca, 4,000m above sea level. The inhabitants of the Andes and the indigenous peoples of the Amazon also brought their local dishes with them to the capital.
Peru’s most famous chef and ambassador for the country
Gastón is proud of the culinary wealth of his homeland and has made it his life’s work to refine Peruvian cuisine and make it known worldwide. In 1994, he and his German wife Astrid opened the legendary Astrid & Gastón restaurant in Lima. This started the boom in ‘cocina novoandina’ – a new, innovative Andean cuisine. The two passionate cooks had met in Paris at the renowned Le Cordon Bleu culinary school before returning to Peru to revive and experiment with Peruvian cuisine before opening their own restaurant a year later. A chance to sample the menu at Astrid & Gastón on a Porsche road trip to Peru is something you cannot pass up.
We have a beautiful cuisine that deserves to be celebrated around the world
Acurio has built a global culinary empire over the past few years, opening dozens of compact but exciting restaurants worldwide serving various Peruvian specialities. He is now considered one of the most influential chefs in the world, a man always on the lookout for new dishes to make the new Andean cuisine better known around the world. Dishes range from street food classics such as grilled beef heart skewers or the show-stopping 15-course menu at Astrid & Gastón, where staples include Andean guinea pig and delicate coastal tiraditos, a fish carpaccio with chilli sauce. His menus are akin to encyclopaedias of Peruvian cuisine.
As well as his mission to put tourist-starved Peru back on the travellers’ map – savvy participants on the Porsche road trip to Peru will be ahead of the game – Gastón also runs his own culinary schools, where he trains up the next generation of chefs. Children in Lima used to dream exclusively of becoming footballers, but he now inspires many to consider a career in the kitchen. For Gastón, his Pachacutec culinary school – situated in one of the poorest districts of Lima – has a socio-economic impact for those who attend it too.
Fine food and fabulous destinations on a Porsche road trip to Peru
Until a few years ago, only insiders knew that you could eat well in the Peruvian capital Lima. These days more and more travellers are drawn to Peru by the artistry of its chefs. The country has a host of top chefs who are producing indigenous, Asian and European cuisine to the highest standards. It’s hardly surprising that Peru has been voted the World’s Leading Culinary Destination every year since 2012 at the World Travel Awards – an annual event considered the ‘Oscars’ of the tourist industry.
Naturally, besides this Peruvian food revolution, participants on the Peru to the country still have many astounding places to visit, including to one of the so-called New Wonders of the World in the form of the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu. It's joined as a leading destination for visitors by the mysterious Nazca Lines and Lake Titicaca. There are also sights in the south of the country, whose canyons with spectacular gorges and vast areas of unspoiled nature are worth a visit for anyone on a Porsche road trip to Peru. The Colca Valley, for example – a deep gorge that can be reached by car in a few hours from Arequipa – is home to giant condors, which gather there in the morning hours. These kings of the Andes, with their enormous wingspan of more than three metres, soar elegantly to heights of up to 7,000m. Every inch of space is used on the steeply terraced fields in this majestic Andean landscape. At altitudes of between 4,000 to 4,800m above sea level, herds of the llama-like vicuña leisurely roam over the barren pastures of this high plateau.
Meanwhile, around 400km further north from here, a representative of the new generation of Peru’s chefs is creating his own food hotspot outside of the capital. Virgilio Martínez opened his MIL Food Lab on a former vicuña farm, some 3,600m above sea level, right next to the Inca ruins of Moray in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. It’s a spectacular terrace complex, surrounded by picture-book landscapes of extensive fields and sleepy Andean villages.
Visiting Inca ruins and challenging trips through the Andes are a hungry business. A fine spicy dish from the cocina novoandina at the end of the day is merely a further extension of the sensory impressions you receive here. Clearly, this Porsche road trip to Peru will be a huge tick on anyone’s travel and food bucket list.
This story is part of the 25 Years of Porsche Travel Experience anniversary series. We take you on a virtual world tour around the globe – with a new, fascinating episode each week. Click here to read all stories.