Mistura festival 2013
Mistura is Peru’s largest gastronomy fair, with restaurants setting up stalls to showcase their speciality dishes and producers demonstrating their region’s finest fare. The food fair takes on a celebratory, festival-vibe come night, with music performances and entertainment to as you wash down Peru’s hearty food with local drinks.
Visiting Mistura Festival
After waiting to get inside, we waited in line for tickets for food, and then we waited in line for food with our tickets. They gave us brightly colored maps to navigate the venue spanning some 2.5 kilometers (about 1.5 miles) along Lima’s Costa Verde de Magdalena. Many resourcefully turned their maps into hats to protect their heads from the sun which was shining down unexpectedly this past Sunday. To get a sense of the size, take a look at this video that gives a virtual tour of 2013’s Mistura venue.
Though it was my first time at Peru’s international gastronomic fair, this year marks the sixth Mistura since 2008. It has increased in size and duration since the first fair which lasted a paltry three days with a total of 30,000 people passing through the Cuartel San Martin in Miraflores. Since the first Mistura, the fair has changed location and scope such that this year, the host of the event, the Peruvian Society of Gastronomy (Apega) reported that by the end of the first weekend of the fair, some 101,742 people had attended. It was a 10% increase from 2012.
Food & Drink from across peru
The venue was sprawling. There was every type of Peruvian food that any non-Peruvian, and probably most Peruvians, could possibly imagine or ever desire. There was a Mundo (world) for everything: coffee, bread, quinua, anticuchos (beef heart kebabs), sánguches (sandwiches), de las brasas (grill), oriental, ceviche, líquidos and tabernas y bares (aka pisco, wine and beer). Then, there were mundos for each culinary region of Peru: el mundo limeño, el mundo norteño, el mundo sureño, el mundo amazónico, el mundo andino…
Crowds and queues aside, merely walking around Mistura and glancing at menus or dishes in hands of hungry mistureros, I learned about the diverse gastronomy of Peru. Though I wanted to taste a little of everything, with 140 vendors at the fair, it would have been impossible. However, to give you a little taste, I’ve looked into the different regions and their culinary traditions and specialties as they appeared in the “mundos” of Mistura 2013:
Mundo Norteño: The Mundo Norteño includes northern provinces like Tumbes, Piura , Lambayeque (Chiclayo), La Libertad, Cajamarca and San Martin (Moyobamba). In these provinces you’ll find specialties like succulent duck with rice, seafood dishes like el sudado–steamed fish and seco de cabrito–goat cooked with ají or in chicha (a corn-based drink), seasoned with coriander and ginger and typically served with rice, beans and yucca (this is the preparation in Trujillo).
El Cántaro, a restaurant from Lambayeque whose dishes included the apatadito de patita – duck served over rice, and pepían de pavito—turkey cooked in a thick, chili sauce flavored with garlic, olive oil, onion and of course, ají– both are traditional dishes of the north that people here in Lima could try for only s/. 13 a plate (about US-$5).
Mundo Limeño: Given that it’s the largest city in Peru, Lima is country’s gastronomic headquarters and boasts an ample selection of diverse Peruvian cuisine. In Lima you’ll find fresh seafood from its coastal location as well as oriental inspired chaufa rice dishes and a hearty criollo (Creole) tradition.
Teresa Izquierdo Gonzales founded her restaurant El Rincón Que No Conoces 35 years ago. Now being run by her daughter, Elena Santos Izquierdo, it is known for its criollo dishes and at Mistura offered visitors the classic ají de gallina—chicken and rice in a creamy ají sauce served with potatoes and a hard boiled egg.
Mundo Andino: The Andes provide the Peruvian diet with a variety of staples, most notably the many colorful potatoes, which you could find throughout the Gran Mercado at Mistura where vendors from were selling them. Perhaps the most traditional Andean culinary contribution is the pachamanca in which meats, seasoned and wrapped in banana leaves, as well as vegetables like corn, green lima beans, potatoes and yucca, are layered on heated stones underground and baked inside of the earthen stove. It was part of a ritual honoring a god in the Andean region of Pachacamac, which was one of the most important sacred centers in Andean culture.
Restaurant Campestre El Remanso served puca picante con cuy o con chicharrón de cerdo–a dish typical of the Ayacucho region served with cuy (guinea pig) or fried pork. Puca is the Quechua word for red, which refers to the red ají sauce in which the potatoes are cooked.
Mundo Amazónico: In the depths of the lush rainforest, in provinces like Loreto and Amazonas, you´ll find a unique culinary tradition inspired by the native plantains and fresh water fish that inhabit the river. Ever present in Amazonian dishes is meat, either cecina (cured ham), chicharrón (fried pork), or carne (beef) as fillings in fried plantain fritters. The most famous dish from the selva (rainforest) is tacacho con cecina—grilled plantains mashed with bits of chicharrón served with cecina.
ámaZ, located in Miraflores (and recommended by Aracari), serves Amazonian-inspired dishes and was among the vendors in the Mundo Amazónico. Chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino is the culinary genius behind the menu of this relatively new restaurant in Lima. At Mistura ámaZ offered two dishes, one of them was paiche, which is one of the largest fresh water fish (some up to 300lbs). This delicacy was served with mushrooms and coconut rice with a mild, fruity sauce. I tried this dish myself, and I’ve never had fish so tender and flavorful as the paiche, which is a white meat with a texture somewhere between salmon and chicken
Mundo Sureño: Comprised of the southern provinces of Ica, Tacna and Arequipa, the southern cuisine offered at Mistura was inspired by the sweet and spicy culinary traditions of these regions like the rocoto relleno—a spicy rocoto pepper stuffed with rice, meat and cheese, costillar dorado—rack of lamb and the sweet queso helado.
The Restaurant Campestre La Olla de Juanita traveled to Mistura from the province of Ica where it began as a dining place on the back porch of a home in the countryside. Their menu included sopa seca con carapulcra—a stew served with noodles and chicken, and tacu tacu con seco de cordero—a criollo dish with a long history in Peru that consists of a bean and rice fritter served at Mistura with a lamb chop.
Peru Culinary Travel
Peru is also home to a dramatically varied natural biodiversity and rich ethnic make-up. Its history and internal migration have also contributed to producing an exciting food-scene, with Lima now home to three of the Worlds Best 50 Restaurants. Check out our recommendations for some of the best culinary experiences for a tailormade culinary tour Peru.
Contact us if you’d like more information on visting the annual food festival Mistura as part of a tailormade trip to Peru.