He’s learned from the best cooks in Peru, past and present. This is how Gastón Acurio prepares the Peruvian sauces we can’t live without: salsa huancaina, salsa ocopa, salsa verde and salsa criolla.
Sauces (cremas) and chili peppers (ajíes) are a bloodline for Peruvians. Try to name a dish that isn’t made with or has a sauce on the side. From appetizers, entrees, to street food: you’ll be hard pressed to find a Peruvian eating a meal without a sauce or two. These are Acurio’s recipes for the most popular Peruvian sauces.
Have it, of course, with papa a la huancaina. But, why stop there. Peruvians have it on top of tallarines rojos (spaghetti Amatriciana), tallarines verdes (pesto, see below), arroz con pato, or with anticuchos, and the list can go on.
- 5 ajíes amarillos (yellow chili peppers)
- 1 garlic clove
- Half an onion
- 1.5 cups of evaporated milk
- 300 grams queso fresco (use feta as substitute)
- 6 saltine crackers
Drizzle oil and sauté 3 peppers (remove veins and seeds) with garlic and onion. Add to blender, and as you blend slowly add milk, queso fresco, and at the end the saltines. Add salt to taste. See video below:
A staple from Arequipa:
- 10 ajíes mirasol (sun-dried ají amarillo)
- Half a red onion
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 small bunch of huacatay, cooked slightly in a drizzle of olive oil
- 12 animal crackers
- ¼ cup of toasted walnuts
- 2 tablespoons of queso fresco
Toast ajíes (remove veins and seeds) with onion and garlic. Blend with 3-4 tablespoons of oil and another few tablespoons of water, add in the walnuts, crackers. Drizzle oil or water as it thickens, add cheese and check for salt. Add a little bit more oil or milk if desired to get creamier consistency.
Listen to Acurio here (recipe starts at 2:38).
3. Salsa verde (pesto)
Peruvian pesto, or tallarines verdes, is typically served with steak, breaded steak or chicken, and huancaina sauce. Some throw in a fried egg because, why not?
- Olive oil
- 2 or 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1/3 of an onion, chopped
- 1 bunch of spinach
- 2 bunches of basil
- 1/3 cup of pecans
- 1/3 cup of queso fresco
- 1/3 cup parmesan cheese
- Salt to taste
- Evaporated milk
Drizzle olive oil, add garlic, onion, sauté. Add spinach and one bunch of basil. Add to blender, then add the rest of the basil, pecans, cheeses, salt, olive oil, milk and blend until smooth. Check out Gastón making pesto with liver below:
Salsa criolla: Mother of all Peruvian sauces
The simplest and most versatile of Peruvian sauces, and it’s not even technically a sauce. It’s so popular that you’ll find variations. Some say, make it with hierbabuena (spearmint) as does Acurio and La Lucha. Others say it should be with cilantro. Salsa criolla will be served with pan con chicharron, butifarra, arroz con pato, papa rellena, seco con frejoles, tamales, pan con pejerrey, and a variety of other dishes. The measurements of the ingredients depends on the amount you’re making.
- Red onion
- Hierbabuena or cilantro
- Ají amarillo
Thinly slice onions Julienne, thinly cut strips of ají, add chopped hierbabuena or cilantro, drizzle juice of one or two limes, and mix. A pinch of salt if you desire. Here’s Acurio making pan con chicharron, he starts making the sauce at 1:58:
Cover photo: G M/Flickr
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