SUSHI ROCKS ALL OVER THE WORLD
There are swarms of taxis in Lima so it was chaos at the airport. Half the residents of Lima seemed to want to take me to my hotel – and Lima has a population of 7 million! I felt like a rock star. And my taxi driver was buzzing too as he set off with me in the back. He skilfully navigated his way around cars, potholes and pedestrians even though the road kept narrowing from six to three lanes every few seconds – and then widening again to six. I held on to my seat with both hands, sweating blood, as my driver performed a carefree slalom with just one hand on the wheel. His other hand honked the horn nonstop.
After such a hectic start, I was looking forward to a relaxed Sunday afternoon with my two business colleagues. We arranged to meet for drinks at a pleasant beach bar. My two friends recommended a Pisco Sour cocktail, Peru’s national drink. It consists of grape brandy, lime juice, sugar and egg white. I have to admit that the cocktail hit me like a train. I felt a little light-headed after just one. “You’d better not have another,” advised my laughing colleagues and pointed up to one of the many restaurants carved into the steep cliffs of Lima’s coast like eagles’ nests. “Today is national ceviche day, so the meal is on us. But first we have to climb 400 steps.” I was astonished, to put it mildly. The two women were sporting elegant high heels, as do most of the women in Lima. And I’m not talking about any old high heels! In Lima, they have to be at least 12 centimetres high to earn the name.
I reached the top last, despite my flat shoes. High heels seem to be the Peruvian equivalent of Swiss climbing boots! “So who was this Ceviche?” I asked once I’d got my breath back. They fell about laughing. They told me that ceviche was their national dish, the Peruvian version of sushi. It consists of wafer-thin cuts of raw fish, which is marinated in lime juice, raw onion, coriander, chilli and salt. You can buy it on every street corner in Peru and there are countless different takes on the dish. Unlike sushi, the lime juice denaturates the fish, so it is cooked in the acid. I was astonished once again. I had always thought of raw fish as Japan’s national dish.
My ceviche tasted like heaven and was garnished with fresh coriander and cherry tomatoes − my favourites. I immediately tucked in. My colleagues were awestruck. But it was too late. The cherry tomato set my mouth on fire! “That’s Peruvian rocoto chilli, otherwise known as the gringo killer,” said my apologetic hosts. “Unlike the usual chillies, they are round instead of long!” So I was glad to be able to quell the fire on my tongue with another couple of Pisco Sour cocktails. Never mind the 400-step descent!