A Taste of South America with Chef Bill

Chef at work shelling peas
images-2January is typically the month that we at Coho take a breather after the hustle and bustle of the holidays! Some of us visit family, some of us have a cozy stay-cation at home….and some jet off for a little international travel! Our own Chef Bill had an exciting time in South America. Mp>He was kind enough to share some of his experiences with me; being a chef, he talked to me about one interesting thing and one really good thing that he got to eat in South America!

Ceviche is undoubtedly Peru’s most popular cuisine, and there’s a dazzling variety of it to be had. (I’m sure that as Chef Bill was trying out all that ceviche, he was surrounded by people that might have been wearing yellow underwear, as it is tradition to give the sunny garment as gifts to friends and family on New Year’s Eve! I really just had to share that with you all.)Peru has a coastline bursting with fresh fish, as the Humboldt Current runs beside it. It’s one of the major upwelling systems of the world and so, it produces a huge amount of seafood. Ceviche is raw fish that has been marinated in citrus juice. The acid in the fruit “cooks” the fish, producing a light flavor and mildly chewy consistency. Chef Bill had some ceviche in a seaside town called Huanchaco, at the Big Ben restaurant. He called it the best of all the ceviches he ate while abroad!

“The seabass was very fresh and the dressing was light, acidic and balanced with just the right amount of heat and spice,” he said.

“There were also little black clams on the dish that had really good flavor but didn’t pair as well with the acidity of the ceviche and were slightly sandy. The white beans added contrast and the plantain chips had a nice sweet crunch that completed the dish. The restaurant was on the second floor on an open air patio, across the street from the beach. The nice atmosphere and the good food complemented each other and made for a memorable experience.”

Sounds as if he should be writing for food magazines in addition to being our chef!
The adventure didn’t stop there, as he also visited the beautiful town of Loja, in Ecuador. This is where the trip took a turn that was a bit Andrew Zimmern-esque…so brace yourself if you’re a picky eater! Cuy is a delicacy in Ecuador and in many surrounding countries. It often costs $20 a plate or more. It has roots in ancient Incan royal culture…..and chances are, you might have had one as a pet!
Cuy = guinea pig!
Cuy = guinea pig!

Cuy is guinea pig. It is called that because the sound it makes sounds like “cuy.” Bill called it a “must-try for every adventuresome eater.” He described it as tender and juicy with a flavor similar to duck or squab. “The skin was crisp and if you don’t mind eating something that’s staring at you, I would suggest that everybody try it. The dish came with the standard Ecuadorian sides which is rice, potatoes and a few veggies (most Ecuadorian dishes seem to be lacking in the vegetable department).”

On a fun side note, Bill fully expected to get to consume loads of delicious coffee while in two nations that produce a fair share of the world’s java beans! But it turns out that the locals generally prefer good old Nescafe instant!

We thank Bill for sharing memories of his trip tastes with us, but don’t worry….we won’t be adding guinea pig to our menu anytime soon!

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