Latina Eats: Exploring Peruvian Flavors


This is the eleventh entry of a multi-part series by our student blogger Giselle.  Check back each week for the next installment of her experience during her semester away in San Antonio.


Hi everyone! Thanks for checking back to see what my classmates and I have been learning this past week. Now, usually in the Latin Kitchen, we learn about several countries in one week. Not this time. This week was definitely an exception—we only studied the food of Peru. And let me tell you, this country needs more than a week to even begin to scratch the surface of its beautiful cuisine.


This Week in the Latin Kitchen…

As we continued our South American studies, we dove into the vibrant culture of Peru. Located in western South America, Peru is one of the most diverse countries we have studied in this section of the curriculum. This diversity could be because Peru borders Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, and the Pacific Ocean. Or maybe because it was home to one of the most advanced ancient civilizations in the world, the Inca. It could even be because of the geographical diversity, from the Pacific coast to the Andes mountains to the Amazon. These factors alone provide the country with a rich culture, plus an amazing cuisine that has swept the globe as a gastronomical phenomenon in recent years.


The Coast

We began this week by learning about the coastal cuisine of Peru, which obviously lends itself to lots of seafood—ceviche specifically. During the first day of the week, this was the only thing we prepared. One would think, “Oh, ceviche. How different could each one really be?” Which makes total sense. I mean, ceviche is just seafood and lime juice, right? Not at all! To my surprise, there is so much more. Thanks to Peru, I’ve learned that there are endless ways to prepare ceviche.


One of my favorite recipes this week is called ceviche a la piedra, which translates to rock-style ceviche. I chose to make this because I was curious to see how a rock would play into the recipe. The ceviche was made with snapper, sweet potato, habanero peppers, and leche de tigre, which is basically a citrus-based marinade that appears milky. It takes on this appearance because it also has scraps of fish added—hence the name “tiger’s milk.” Talk about a flavor punch. The best part of the ceviche (besides the flavor) was how it was presented. The rock was placed on a grill for a few hours, making it extremely hot. When it was time to plate the ceviche, the hot rock was placed in the middle of a beautiful clay bowl, then the fish was placed on top of the rock. The leche de tigre was then poured on top of that. Sizzling and aromatic, this dish really blew me away in terms of flavor and especially presentation. Who would have thought that a warm ceviche would be so delicious? I’m amazed with techniques like these that are a simple reminder of the surprising cuisine Latin America has to offer.



Plating ceviche a la piedra



Traditional Peruvian ceviche



Tuna ceviche influenced by Nikkei flavor profiles and techniques (Japanese-Peruvian flavors)



The whole spread


The Andean Region of Peru

Cuisine from the Andean region of Peru is the complete opposite of the coast. Fish is exchanged for meat, potatoes, and corn, making this region known for their hearty and filling dishes. Just like the coastal region, the Andean region also has interesting cooking techniques like underground cooking. Cooking by digging holes in the Earth and insulating that heat by using stones has been practiced in this area for thousands of years, and takes its roots from the ancient civilizations that perfected this style of cooking.


Anticuchos, which are skewers of tender grilled marinated meat, was one of my favorite recipes from this region. These flavorful bites are known as one of the down-to-earth street foods of Peru. Skewers can be found with a piece of potato or bread at the end, making it that much easier to devour in 3 seconds. And, of course, there’s always a bright and flavorful dipping sauce to go with it. Traditionally, these are prepared by using beef heart, but this week we used lamb loin. It was marinated in aji panco (a chile puree), roasted garlic, and malt beer. They were grilled on skewers and served with potatoes. Simply delicious! The aji panco was a game-changer in this recipe. It completely transformed the flavor profile of the lamb in the best way possible. Needless to say, I’m glad to have discovered this awesome ingredient and this dish.



Lamb anticuchos



Braised lamb shanks



Lomo saltado, a dish with chifa roots, the Chinese-influenced cuisine of Peru



An individual plating of a causa, a layered cold dish made with cilantro- and habanero-flavored mashed potatoes and a mahi-mahi filling, garnished with lime mayo and cilantro



A larger portion of a causa. This one is a turmeric-flavored mashed potato filled with olive oil-poached tuna.



Chef Remolina cleaning live scallops


The Countdown Begins

I have two short weeks left at the San Antonio campus and I have to say, it’s very bittersweet. I am obviously excited to go home to see my family for the rest of the summer, but on the other hand, I’ve had the experience of a lifetime here thanks to everyone on campus. I’m going to miss it very much. I’ve had an amazing time so far, and I can’t wait to see what else I’ll be learning in my last couple of weeks here. Not only that, but next week is our final pop-up—this one featuring South America, which we’re all excited about. Check back next week to see the dishes we came up with, and much, much more.


Until next time,


Giselle Sigala

Hello everyone, my name is Giselle Sigala and I am currently a seventh-semester bachelor’s student at The Culinary Institute of America. I’m honored and excited to be the student blogger for the Latin Cuisine Concentration at the San Antonio, TX campus!

A little bit about myself:

I was born in Long Beach, CA and was raised in Fort Worth, TX since the age of 3. (So I’m a Texan at heart…Go TCU!) My parents are both immigrants from Zacatecas, Mexico, so my siblings and I are the first generation in our family to study in the United States.

Since I can remember, I have always had a fascination with cooking and anything food related. As a child, instead of playing with dolls I was begging my mother for an Easy-Bake oven. (Which I found is a common memory with a lot of CIA students. Right? No? Ok fine, I guess it was just me! Haha.) My fondest memories as a child are set in the kitchen, from helping my mom flip tortillas—I remember always burning the tips of my fingers—to the simple smell of charcoal burning on a Sunday afternoon, because this meant a carne asada was in the works…which also meant we were going to eat some great food! Yum!

A major factor that played into my decision to come to The Culinary Institute of America was the large success of my parents’ carnicerias (a Mexican meat market that sells a variety of produce and delicious baked goods). By spending most of my childhood in the carniceria’s kitchen and bakery, I quickly realized that I had a passion for Latin American cuisine. With time, I knew that there was nothing I’d rather do than to make people happy by cooking for them. Knowing this about myself helped me make my decision about coming to the CIA. And honestly, this place has given me countless amazing opportunities and experiences. The CIA has helped me pursue my dream of working in some of the best kitchens around the world, cooking Latin food, and potentially opening up my own business in the future.I couldn't imagine going anywhere else to pursue these aspirations. It is truly an amazing program that is always evolving and striving to be the best it can be.

As a CIA alum, I couldn't be happier to have chosen to pursue my career goals here. Since my graduation from the associate program in June 2015, I have come to admire and appreciate different cuisines and cultures from all over the globe. From the Cuisines of the Americas class I took to the Cuisines of Asia course, this school has taught me that I can learn so much from a culture by simply learning about their food.With that, I am excited to start my semester studying the vibrant food of Latin America at the beautiful CIA San Antonio in Texas. The campus looks amazing, and I can’t wait to write about my experiences! I invite you to check out my blog as I cook some delicious food, explore an exciting city, and learn from some of the best-trained chefs in the industry!

Giselle Sigala