Mistura is the gastronomic fair for everyone and of every flavor. It is a space where Peruvians celebrate out identity with lots of joy and the full color of our traditions.
With a radiant sun by the side of the ocean, Mistura opened for its fourth year in 2013 with great expectations. The lines to enter were enormous. People claimed Mistura fever with joy throughout these four years and this was no exception.
On entering it seemed we were in a great magical city of food. Our noses filled with an infinity of aromas. Wherever we looked we saw delights.
There was nothing else to do but go deep inside and wander the paths of this marvelous city. This year the fair was very well organized, better than in past years. Stations where money could be exchanged for tickets were well distributed. The reason for these was to take away any incentive for pickpockets.
The kitchens were also improved. Different types of foods were classified into “worlds” such as “Ceviche World”, “Andean World”, “Northern World”, “Amazonian World”, “The Grill World”, and so on. In this fashion visitors could locate their interests within the great space of the festival. On entering, everyone was given a map of the place and the worlds of adventure before them so they could make decisions and find their pleasure.
Like in years past, this year’s Mistura focused on certain important products for feeding us human beings. These are products produced in great quantity in Peru but which are lamentably often under represented on our tables, though they may be exported to other continents.
This year’s theme was water and hydro biological products. It is a very important theme to raise awareness in people of the need to avoid polluting our waters. Off our coasts are found an infinity of marine species. We have the privilege of living on one of the richest marine environments in the world. But the theme was not just about the ocean. It also emphasized the roles of our rivers and lakes.
From our rivers come the famous camarones, our river “shrimp” or Cray fish. Not long ago, they were in danger of extinction, which was avoided due to government intervention, and the support of fishermen who stopped extracting them for a while. This enabled the species to reproduce and to achieve the standard size for consumption.
Thanks to the efforts of our chefs, these resources are attaining improved quality in production and commercialization. Our producers can, as a result, advance and give us products of the finest quality.
Returning to the gate that takes us into this wondrous galaxy of worlds, we can begin by walking through the Sandwich World. The chicharron sandwich we simply call “pan con chicharron” is the king.
It is traditional throughout Peru. Made from pork fried in lard and placed in bread along with sweet golden fried sweet potato. The sandwich is finished with a salsa criolla of onions in limejuice. This is a great beginning for our visit.
Next we come to the Ceviche World where we can taste a spicy but succulent leche de tigre (tiger’s milk, the combination of lime juice and fish flavor from ceviche) from Lima’s best restaurant. The line is long but the wait is worth every second.
Tiger’s milk is a variety of ceviche. What changes is the quantity of juice and the seasoning. Completely awash with flavor we are overwhelmed to taste it on the ocean’s side.
As we go forward looking for other delights, the sounds of a musical group from Peru’s north takes us over. It fills the air with rhythm and joy. Dancers front the band and bring laughter and pleasure to all visitors because of the unusualness of their dancing. But people quickly begin dancing like them and the joy spreads.
The Andean World now opens before us with a taste of sweet tamales. They are so soft that they are those, which can only be found normally on the Plaza of Cuzco. It is a privilege to be able to taste them in Lima. With the softness and sweetness of the corn grown in the perfect climate of Cuzco’s Sacred Valley of the Incas this amazing texture is obtained. And it is only from them.
As a main dish a guinea pig stuffed with wild herbs awaits us, accompanied by native potatoes and boiled ears of fresh corn. This is a very popular dish in the city of the Incas, which has now migrated to Lima for the pleasure of all.
Continuing down the route marked by our map we arrive at the Amazon World. There we find a jungle environment with many plants and filled with color and movement. We can say that it is the world that most pleased the crowd. This is because we know the people of the jungle are the most enthusiastic. And that is how they showed off their food. They had the typical laughing grilled plantains, a simple sweet with depth. We also find their typical dishes, such as grilled paiche (a fish) and the juanes, a composite dish folded in a banana leaf. These are all made with products from the jungle.
Paiche is a fish in the jungle that as soon as it is caught ends up on the grill and the juane is a preparation based on rice, chicken, and their special culantro herb of the jungle. It is cooked all together in a banana leaf. Both dishes are eaten hot.
Almost full, but still with desires to see more, we continue to the Grill World. This is the most popular place in the whole festival because of the dishes found there. These include the very popular pig on a stick, and the Chinese box. The lines to get these are endless. Nevertheless, the flavor of the pig on a stick (chancho al palo) is very intense. It is cooked over an open fire and the pork is tied to a branch and seasoned with salt. As a result the pork is exquisitely flavorful.
The Chinese Box (caja China) does not get left behind. It is called the box because they place the pork in a metal box. Its cleaned and then the four legs are tied together. Then the box is sealed with a metal top and on it coals are lit. These give the box the right temperature to thoroughly cook the pork. It comes out crisp and yet tender, so soft you can eat it without a knife.
Once we get to the front of the line, the two dishes are so good, that even though we had to wait a very long time we are absolutely delighted. The food is so good we try a small glass of a liquor to make everything perfect. It is a custom to drink after eating pork to make sure the pork goes down well, since it is considered to be heavy meat. As a result we went to the Pisco Sour World
Besides gastronomy, this year Mistura added an aquarium. It was an amazing space where you could see up close dozens of marine species. There were all of those that in Spanish we call lenguados, tollos, carachamas meros, pejerreyes, conchas, de abanico and many more. The planners also provided a virtual area where they demonstrated the habitat of the Peruvian anchovy that is so important. In sum you could be in contact with the richness of the marine world that is just off our coast.
There also was a great market where you could buy products from all over Peru. They offered the best of the harvests along with products that are exported all over the world. To close with a golden brush the great festival, Cerveza Cristal, a celebrated Peruvian beer company, provided Peruvian artists who came together to celebrate Peruvian gastronomy. Once again Mistura was filled with flavor, culture, dance, music, tradition, but more than anything else a coming together in unity. Long live Mistura.