Popular restaurants open at noon and their fixed meal lunch (menu) is ready then for all people. In most of them you can choose between 2 and 3 main courses. The majority of the main courses, called segundos, come with a portion of rice. The cooks must prepare rice perfectly with each grain separate, to put on almost every dish. That is not easy, however.
In very large pots the cooks must cook rice for some 40-60 personas every day. For this, they need a good technique and must select from among the various ways rice is cooked. You do not want the grains to have a hard center or to become a mass. In our favorite restaurants, fortunately, there are always people who have perfected the art.
In what follows we will look at the five most popular dishes.
This is one of he dishes that most enchant at lunchtime. It comes with a portion of rice and the rest is simply the magic of the cook. Nevertheless, it varies from the recipe made popular by the great chef Gastón Acurio in that the type of meat used is not sirloin but top loin. If the restaurants were to use sirloin they would go into bankruptcy because it would inflate costs beyond what ordinary people would pay.
The flavor comes from the aderezo, a kind of sofrito or dressing. All of the ingredients come from the local markets as if direct from our fields and straight to the pan.
Chuleta frita (Fired Cutlet)
People also love fried cutlets, served with rice, potatoes and salad. The great majority of people love meat but a dish that makes you want to suck the last bits from bones.
The seasonings used are pepper, ground garlic, soy sauce, and a bit of lime. You leave the cutlets to marinate and concentrate the flavor. Afterwards you heat some oil in your frypan and add the cutlets until they turn tender and delicious.
Revuelto de patita (knuckle scramble)
This is one of the most pleasing dishes to local people. I love it and could eat two servings at a time, easily. It is made on the basis of beef knuckles, fried potatoes, and a touch of ground peanuts. You always find small pieces of peanuts and the flavor of the dish can vary from a bit sweet and tender to stronger depending on how you finish it.
This is a traditional dish of Creole cuisine. It is now consumed and made not just throughout Peru but in other countries by well recognized chefs. However, it is never missing on our streets. From a distance you can see it on the menu board. Right up front it will say “ají de gallina” and the lovers of creole cuisine come in without thinking two times.
The ingredients require chicken breast that has been torn apart, yellow ají, peanuts, onions, potatoes, bread or salt crackers, ingredients that are almost always found in everyone’s kitchen. You know the dish is good when you get to the kitchen and the scent of the aji de gallina reminds us of our grandmother’s recipe, eat up the dish, and then want seconds.
Another populat Creole dish that people love for lunch is chicken with rice (arroz con pollo). As the cook says you tie it together so it does not fall apart. Thanks to a good aderezo (dressing or sofrito) of pepper, salt, garlic, and ground cilantro the dish takes on a green color and an aroma that you cannot resist. In the same way that we spoke in the beginning about how you make large quantities of rice you need good technique to make a good chicken with rice.
There are many other dishes but on week days these are the ones that standout the most and are most loved by the restaurants’ clients.