Ceviche and Pisco Sours: we have Peru to thank for these two iconic South American creations, loved and consumed throughout the world. When they weren’t hauling giant granite boulders up mountains to build Machu Picchu, mastering the concept of tiered agriculture, and creating complex lunar and solar calendars, Peruvians somehow found the time to also invent Pisco and figure out how to chemically cook raw fish. Makes you feel a bit lazy, doesn’t it? Luckily, we’ve found a way to compensate: learning how to make authentic Peruvian ceviche and Pisco Sours! Since Lima is such a foodie city, it seemed almost criminal to not take advantage of unique dining experiences (or at least that’s the excuse we used). So during our visit to Lima, we were thrilled to discover Lima Gourmet’s classic Ceviche and Pisco Sour cooking class. In one short hour, we went from boring average Americans to masters of Peruvian cooking! I know, I know, you’re amazed. The change took us by surprise, too. Lima Gourmet’s class – ranked #1 in Lima with a perfect score on Trip Advisor – is fun, easy, and affordable: we think it’s an absolute must-do when visiting Lima.
Learning About Pisco
The class is hosted by the energetic and friendly Silvia. We were joined by an Australian couple who were halfway through one of Lima Gourmet’s day-long food tours: they had already visited a coffee shop and a mercado, and would soon be dashing off to another restaurant after casually learning to make ceviche and Pisco Sours. Impressive. We stifled our jealousy and tried to focus on the task at hand: sampling the three shots of Pisco sitting in front of us at the bar.
As Silvia filled us in on the nuances of Pisco fermentation and grape variety, we ooh’ed and aah’ed knowledgeably while quietly getting our Pisco buzz on. If you’ve never had Pisco, it’s almost exactly like Italian Grappa. The only difference between Pisco and Grappa is that Pisco uses only the juice from the grapes, while Grappa is fermented along with its pulp, seeds and stems. If you like Grappa, you’ll love Pisco. Like other types of brandy, Pisco tastes sweet and a lot smoother than you’d expect for 80-proof liquor. (And this is coming from someone who makes a face when even smelling straight alcohol!) Pisco is at its shining best when mixed into a Pisco Sour.
Pisco Sours are the closest thing possible to being the delicious health food drink of the cocktail world. Topped with a protein-rich foamed egg-white, they’re almost appropriate for a post-gym smoothie (we can dream, right?). They’re made with simple syrup, lime, egg white, and of course Pisco, and traditionally garnished with a cute little dot of angostura bitters. They’re surprisingly easy to get right, once you know the tricks. And Silvia, accompanied by a bartender, filled us on on all of the tricks.
Learning How to Make Pisco Sours
Once we’d finished delicately shooting our three Pisco tasters and were all feeling a little more comfortable, the spotlight was on us: Jeremy and I volunteered to demonstrate the creation our very first Pisco sour!
Of the two of us, Jeremy has always been the bartender. Whether it was mixing up themed 90’s drinks at his 25th birthday party or creating custom cocktails for our wedding, he’s always been the bigger lush (not even mad though, our wedding cocktails were amazing). But even in my naivete, I have to admit: making a Pisco Sour was surprisingly easy. The hardest part was foaming the egg white, and – because I am hopelessly clumsy – pouring the drink into the glass without spilling it everywhere. All in all, I have to say that the next time I feel like impressing my friends with my worldly travel skills, I’m totally whipping up a Pisco Sour. Plus, you guys, it’s like a health drink. So good for you.
Our Pisco Sours were out of this world delicious. We got to watch the Australian couple mix up their own Pisco Sours while we sipped the boozy fermented fruits of our labor. And then, it was time for ceviche.
How to Make Peruvian Ceviche
If you’ve never eaten Peruvian ceviche, you’ll be forgiven for misunderstanding how good it is. I’ve never had decent ceviche in the United States, and I was under the impression that ceviche was some sort of cold tomatoey seafood soup thing. Which it’s not. At all. Seriously America, why do you have to ruin everything? Peruvian ceviche is bright, fresh, and tangy. The shining star of the dish – aside from the fresh fish, which is always caught in the morning and never prepared later than lunchtime – is Tiger’s Milk, the citrussy marinade that cures the fish and gives ceviche its delicious flavors. Tiger’s Milk is a dish in its own right: in many Peruvian restaurants, you can order a shot of Tiger’s Milk on it’s own. It’s that good. The secret of Lima Gourmet’s Tiger’s Milk is a Secret Sauce. Obviously, you have to take the class to learn the recipe for the Secret Sauce, because it’s Secret, but what I can tell you is that it’s super good and I’m going to be using it as my new favorite condiment on literally everything.
As Silvia translated, a chef walked us through the step by step process of creating our ceviche. Truth be told, ceviche is a lot harder to master than Pisco Sour. But after a lot of trial and error, sneaking tastes, and adding pinches of salt and dashes of lime juice, Jeremy and I each finally achieved something that was up to our high standards. Our creations actually tasted like the ceviche we’ve been eating for the past 2 months all over Peru! I was so proud. And still a little Pisco drunk, if we’re being honest.
The most important part of any dish is presentation, and Silvia walked us through the steps: make a mound of your fresh ceviche; drizzle it with Tiger’s Milk; then, delicately border it with sweet potato and corn; and finally, garnish with onion and chili. My plate looked like a masterpiece. Jeremy’s tasted a lot better than it looked, which is why all of our pictures are of my beautiful creation. You’re welcome, world.
All finished with learning things, we were finally allowed to stuff our faces with delicious ceviche. Bonus: we even got to eat the chef’s creation. Score! We’re already planning to impress our family with our new cooking skills (and spiffy Lima Gourmet aprons) when we visit home for Thanksgiving. Learning how to make ceviche and Pisco Sours with Lima Gourmet was the perfect way to end our 2-month long visit to Peru.
About Lima Gourmet’s Food Tours and Classes
Lima Gourmet is the top ranked food & drink tour operator in Lima. In addition to the budget-friendly Ceviche & Pisco Sour class, they also offer both day and evening food tours, where you’ll eat and drink a lot, learn all about Lima while you explore the top foodie destination in the world… oh, AND become a master of Pisco Sour and ceviche!
Website and Tour Information: http://www.limagourmetcompany.com/
Disclaimer: We attended this cooking class as the guests of Lima Gourmet. All opinions are our own.
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