Lima Diaries: Cooking Class a la Ruth.

September 16, 2012

J’s sister R offered to give me a Peruvian cooking lesson and teach me to make Aji de Gallina local style. After a trip to the nearby market for produce and poultry, we returned to her minimalistic kitchen (these are the best kind of cooking classes since I know I can return home to replicate the recipe without the need for fancy equipment and the like) to begin the cookery.

Most of the ingredients were relatively commonplace—carrots, celery, chicken breasts—but then R sprinkled in Aji-no-moto, a seasoning I had never seen or heard of before. I briefly glanced at the tiny white crystals reminiscent of iodized salt, wracking my brain for what it could be and making a mental note to bring some back with me to Paraguay.

Several days later, I stopped at a grocery store and hunted down a honking bag of the good stuff. As I scoured the label for hints as to what it really was, my eye caught “Essence of Umami.” Huh? I thought umami was that inexplicable deeper dimension of flavor in really delicious food. I was never aware it was something that came in tangible form.

Then just as I was about to place the salt-like substance in my basket, I saw it. Glutamato monosódico. The mysterious seasoning was none other than MSG! I guffawed aloud and tossed the not-so-good stuff back on the shelf.

And we thought our extreme lethargy and sleepiness after lunch was due to the large portions of the starch-heavy dish…

The marketplace.

Possibly the most variable edible in Peru: potatoes.

Vibrant produce.

Speaking of, check out this freaking giant squash!

Bok bok no more.

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