After falling in love with the flavors in Perú, I knew the only way my taste buds would forgive my return to the USA would be the promise home-cooked recreations. So I signed up for the Andean Delicacies cooking class at Sky Kitchen in Lima (and a gym membership to counteract my love of Peruvian food).
Sky Kitchen cooking classes are held in a modern penthouse space overlooking Lima’s gorgeous Miraflores neighborhood. They’re led by Peruvian native Chef Yurac, who began cooking at eight years old when his mother punished him for some form of misbehavior he claims not to remember by depriving him of the family meal she’d prepared. He decided he didn’t need her cooking anyhow, he could do better himself. This launched a lifelong passion which he now shares with visitors to Lima.
Over the course of a leisurely afternoon, we learned about a variety of native Peruvian fruits, vegetables and grains, the history of many Peruvian dishes, and the techniques used in their preparation. We chopped, sliced, stirred and fried our way to an incredible meal.
The first course we prepared was ocopa, a native potato drenched in a sauce made from a fascinating mix of yellow pepper, cheese, onion, garlic, huacatay leaves (black mint), toasted peanuts and vanilla crackers. Yep, vanilla crackers. Who knew? I’d seen this served at restaurants and thought it didn’t look all that appealing, but I was surprised to find it was one of my favorite dishes.
Next up was the chupe, a savory soup featuring prawns and fried fish, along with corn, peas, carrots, pumpkin, more huacatay, and a healthy dose of cheese and rice.
The main course was seco de alpaca a la norteña, a mixture of cilantro, onions, garlic, ají panca (a spicy Peruvian pepper), white wine, and chicha do jora (Peruvian maize beer). The sauce and meat slowly simmer for hours resulting in a flavorful alpaca that’s so tender it falls apart. This was my first time trying alpaca, and I am a fan. It’s super lean, but tender and versatile. The dish was served with asparagus and a guiso de quinoa featuring my favorite grain doused in cheese, milk, garlic and yellow pepper. Quinoa’s only recently become popular in the USA, but it’s been a protein-rich staple in countries like Perú, Ecuador, Bolivia and Colombia for thousands of years.
And to top it all off, perhaps my favorite of the day, was a delicious mousse made with lúcuma fruit. Lúcuma looks something like an avocado when you cut into it, except bright yellow, with a slightly drier texture similar to that of a hard-boiled egg yolk. The flavor is impossible to describe, like nothing I’ve tasted before, but it’s addicting. Lucky for me it’s served throughout Perú in milkshakes and ice cream. (Yeah, that gym membership was a must). We topped the mousse with a maracuyá (passion fruit) reduction. I can’t wait to try my hand at making mousse back home!
Sky Kitchen offers classes Mondays through Saturdays for lunch or dinner, and classes are available in English, Spanish and German. Come hungry, because it’s a TON of food! For more information or to book a class, visit the Sky Kitchen website.