Thursday, 5 April 2018

Pachamanca Farm Lunch at El Albergue, Ollantaytambo, Peru (Cusco Region)

Pachamanca, which translates to "earth oven" in Quechua language, is an ancient cooking technique that dates back to the time of the Incan Empire in which the meal is cooked on hot rocks under the soil. This method of cooking remains to be an important part of Peruvian cuisine as it emphasizes on the strong link between food and nature because Incas believed that cooking the food underground is paying a homage to the goddess Pachamama 
or Mother Earth.
To prepare the Pachamanca, you start with digging a hole in the soil and heat some stones over a fire and layer them into the pit. Next, place the toughest ingredients to cook first like the potatoes placing them at the bottom then add the meat and the vegetables last. Finally, cover everything with banana leaves or corn husks and a layer of canvas then seal it with heaps of dirt. This will allow the food to be slowly cooked inside.

Oven's ready to go! Add ingredients according to its cooking time. 

Chicken and meat marinated in garlic, vinegar, salt and a variety of aromatic Andean herbs.


While waiting for our Pachamanca meal to cook, we had a walk through the organic farm. I found the farm-to-table concept terrific and enjoyed learning about the large selection of organic vegetables grown for the restaurant.

Peruvian Black Mint or Haucatay.

Notice the amazing terraced fields. These were built more than 500 years ago.

Don't be deceived by the humble looking rocoto peppers, they may resemble bell peppers in appearance but be ready for a fiery surprise.

Buckwheat seeds

These lovely deep red and purple flowered plants produce a steady stream of seeds known as quinoa. Quinoa is not a grain at all although we cook and eat it like grain. What we eat is actually the seed which is why quinoa is gluten-free.

White beans (below) called tarwi from the Lupin plant (above).

(left) These small round zucchinis are perfect for stuffing.
(right) A goldenberry or cape gooseberry fruit encased by its papery leaves.
It 's got a unique taste that is a bit sweet and tangy with peachy flavour.


Table setup for our private lunch.

Et voila! Our pachamanca meal is ready.

Fava beans

Cooked lamb and chicken pieces.

Root vegetables and tubers.


(left) Sauces and dips. (right) Chicha Morada is a Peruvian beverage made from purple corn. It has a sweet and pleasant fruity flavour that's really refreshing. 

These potatoes were incredibly good and I found myself eating more and more of the ollucos, the ones which are tubular in shape with bright yellow skin. It has a soft texture, slimier than most potatoes and a slightly sweet taste.

Chicken is well seasoned and cooked perfectly.

Chocolate cake topped with goldenberries.

We had the most beautilful meal and unique experience at El Albergue which was also the hotel where we stayed. 
It was definitely the highlight of our time in the Sacred Valley.

 After that wonderful meal, we lingered around the property soaking up the gorgeous and relaxing scenery of Ollantaytambo. It's an atmosphere of calm and absolute tranquility. Then we visited Cafe Mayu's roasting facility located on the property grounds where we watched the coffee roasting process and were shown how to use an automated system to register color and temperature. We also learned how to choose the right coffee and grinding technique to prepare for a delicious coffee. Café Mayu, by the way is located next to the train station platform where train arrives and departs to Macchu Picchu Pueblo (also known as Aguas Calientes) and is open to hotel guests and travellers alike.

We enjoyed cups of freshly brewed coffee made with the same beans roasted and grounded on the spot by the master roaster. 

Just beside Cafe Mayu's roasting facility is The Destilería Andina. It is the Sacred Valley's first distillery and has been growing sugar cane in these high valleys for generations.

After sugar cane is converted to cañazo it goes through a second distillation in copper alembic still at an altitude of 2,792 meters above sea level in Ollantaytambo then only the heart is kept.

They produce Caña Alta in two versions, azul y verde (blue and green). These Andean spirits are twice distilled.

The spirits are aged using organic herb extracts which are harvested from their organic farm.

Matacuy is a compuesto, a traditional Andean digestive made with local botanicals. The recipe was developed by Wendy Weeks 35 years ago.

Using Wendy Weeks' painting as label for the Matacuy bottles.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Kushiya Monogatari, Shinjuku

Does the idea of selecting your own food to fry sounds like fun
Kushiya Monogatari is an all-you-can-eat kushiage (deep-fried meat and vegetables on skewer) restaurant located only a stone's throw away from Tokyo's Shinjuku Station.  
A peek through the restaurant's window made my stomach growl and since I've never tried nor seen one like it before I thought I should give it a go. They have a huge selection of skewered meat, seafood and vegetables to fry, a variety of sauces and preserved vegetables as well as salad and dessert stations and a chocolate fountain. I thought the price seemed reasonable and will leave you completely satisfied as long as you won't mind finishing your food in 90 minutes and leaving smelling a bit like deep fried tempura.

There are around thirty kinds of ingredients available for you to fry, including meat, seafood, vegetables and even desserts.

Salad station

Tsukemono (preserved vegetables) and furikake (rice seasoning).

Variety of homemade sauces from sweet plum to savoury radish as well as cheese.

Coat ingredients with batter and panko then deep fry in oil. It's easy as 1,2,3.

Yes, it's taiyaki. My favourite Japanese fish-shaped cakes filled with red bean paste.

Fry, fry, fry!

Marshmallows, rainbow sprinkles and a chocolate fountain.

My guiltiest pleasure for sure. Now it's time to hit the reset button on my body.  

Kushiya Monogatari
1-19-1 Kabukicho | 1F Shinjuku Toho Bldg., Shinjuku