Mistura Food Festival Opens in Peru

Latin America’s largest food festival runs Sept. 5-14

The seventh anual Mistura, the largest food festival in Latin America, has opened in Lima, Peru. The 10-day food festival, run by the Sociedad Peruana de Gastronomía – Apega, features food from across Peru and seeks to fight against Peru’s ever-increasing malnutrition problem.

Some 45-percent of Peru’s 28 million people live in poverty and 60-percent of its children up to age five are poor, according to UNICEF.

“I think Mistura can help us work for and fight against chronic child malnourishment. If we unite the private and public sectors, we can bring quality food to the homes of the poorest and most affected families,” said Peruvian President Ollanta Humala on opening day of the festival.

This year’s theme is biodiversity and nutrition. “Hopefully, there will be more of Mistura to help fight against chronic child malnutrition,” said Humala.

Held just steps from the breathtaking Costa Verde of Magdalena del Mar, chefs and restaurants from across Peru serve their signature dishes and drinks. Each is placed in one of 12 ‘worlds’; by geography: Northern, Southern, Amazonian, Criollo and Oriental; or by specialty like ceviche (Peru’s national dish), sanguches (sandwiches), barbecue, anticuches (kebabs), drinks, and desserts.

The festival serves as the perfect introduction to Peruvian cuisine for visitors while locals flock to favorite restaurants from near and far for a taste of traditional fare like anticuchos de corazón (skewered goat heart marinated in vinegar, cumin, aji (a fiery red chile pepper) and garlic and grilled over hot embers; ceviche (diced fish tossed with aji, red onion, cilantro, garlic, lime juice, salt, and ‘leche de tigre’ (‘heart of the tiger’ – a mixture of ceviche marinade of lime juice and pureed fish pieces); and picarones (a skinny squash and sweet potato fried donut drenched in chancaca sauce (molasses syrup made with raw unrefined sugar and honey. Dozens of Peruvian specialties can be washed down with variations of the Pisco Sour (a refreshing cocktail of Peruvian pisco, a brandy made of pomace (the solid leftovers of grapes), lime juice, ice, egg whites, and garnished with Angostura bitters.

New this year is a kitchen in the Grand Market where Peru’s top chefs like Gastón Acurio, “the father of modern Peruvian cooking who recently announced his retirement; Virgilio Martinez of Central has taken the top spot on the second annual San Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants in Latin America 2014 list; and Mitsuharu Tsumura of Nikkei restaurant Maido, prepare and serve samples of dishes prepared with Peru’s most symbolic products like fish, limes, orange bananas, and pisco.

The food festival also includes Qaray, a three-day food forum Sept. 5-7 featuring lectures from food experts like Carlo Petrini, founder of the international Slow Food movement, and Kamilla Seidler, known as the “Danish of the Andes” for her work in her modern Bolivian restaurant Gustu in La Paz, Bolivia, where she created high end gastronomy with local produce while upholding Bolivia’s often forgotten food traditions.

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Lauren Mack is The Daily Meal’s New York City Travel Editor. Follow her on Twitter @lmack.