Amazon cruise dining room

Rainforest Foods: 3 Amazing Amazonian Recipes

Amazon cruise dining room

Incorporating a diverse array of cultural influences from Africa, China, Italy, Japan, and Spain, Peruvian cuisine has become increasingly popular in recent years. In 2016, the World Travel Awards (WTA) selected Peru as the World's Leading Culinary Destination for the fifth year in a row.

Peruvian ceviche

Food in the Peruvian Amazon is generally less culturally diverse than what you’ll find in major foodie cities such as Lima (which was recently ranked the world’s best food city). But we found the traditional rainforest foods we tried to be just as fragrant and flavorful as any indigenous cuisine we’ve ever sampled during our travels.

The most popular rainforest foods typically focus on fresh ingredients and simple preparation. Here are three amazing Amazonian recipes you can make at home for a delicious taste of the Peruvian Amazon.  

Rainforest Foods Juane

Juane

One of the favorite "down time" activities on International Expeditions' Amazon River cruises is spending time with the chef learning to make local dishes. The first time I traveled to the Amazon with IE, we learned to make the local staple Juane. Once the cornerstone dish for Christian missionaries in Peru, Juane has become one of the most popular Amazonian recipes. Juanes are typically eaten during the feast of St. John the Baptist and Farmers’ Day, but can be enjoyed any day of the year. This recipe comes to us courtesy of PeruvianFood.com.

Ingredients:

  • 1 chicken, simmered in broth and cut into pieces when cooled
  • 2 cups broth reserved from cooking
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, cut in half
  • 3 raw eggs, lightly beaten
  • Salted black olives
  • 6 cups rice, cooked al dente and allowed to cool
  • 1 Tbs Oregano
  • 1 Tbs Cumin
  • 1 Tbs Tumeric
  • Garlic, Salt and Pepper
  • 6 Bijao Leaves (a.k.a. Heliconia Leaf. Look for it in Latin American supermarkets. Banana Leaf is easier to find, and can be used as a substitute.)


Instructions:

  1. Beat raw eggs with fork and pour into the rice.
  2. Mix to distribute throughout the rice.
  3. Sprinkle desired spices and flavors on the rice mixture.
  4. Pour the broth into the rice and stir well.
  5. Place Bijao leaves (or substitute) on a flat surface.
  6. Each Juane will consist of 1 cup of the rice mixture.
  7. Add 1 piece of chicken, 2 olives and ½ a boiled egg for each Juane you want to make.
  8. Place this combination on the Bijao leaf.
  9. Twist the ends of the leaf together in a rope that ties around the top.
  10. Draw the end down through the loop and turn it straight up so that it will stick out above the water and not leak into the package (if using a substitute, wrap well).
  11. Bring the water to a boil in a pot so that it will cover the body of the Juanes but allow them to the end to stick up just above it.
  12. Lower the heat so it is just barely bubbling and immerse the packet.
  13. Cook for 30 minutes, then remove from the heat. Do not open the package until you are ready to eat it!


Rainforest Foods Pataraschca

Pataraschca

One of our favorite rainforest foods, pataraschca is a delicious Peruvian fish dish that is traditionally cooked over hot coals. This recipe, which includes instructions for cooking indoors as well, comes courtesy of the Culinary Institute of America’s Center for Foods of the Americas.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Misto (Amazonian seasoning paste)
  • 4 lb catfish or tilapia filets, portioned into 8 oz portions
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 1 lb, 4 oz thinly sliced red onion
  • 2 habanero chiles, seeded and julienned
  • 4 oz culantro leaves (a.k.a. Chinese or Mexican parsley)
  • 2 bunches of banana or bijao leaves (Note: If using banana leaves, they must be passed over an open flame to soften them)
  • 1 quart cooked white rice
  • 1 quart Peruvian salsa


Instructions:

  1. Rub the misto paste evenly over the fish filets and season with salt.
  2. Arrange 4 banana or bijao leaves on a work surface.
  3. Arrange a fish filet in the center of each leaf and evenly distribute the red onion, habanero, and culantro between the leaves.
  4. Bring the top edges of each pouch together, and fold the leaf in on itself several times to create a tight seam. Fold the two outside edges down to tuck underneath the filets.
  5. If possible, place the pouches over slowly burning embers until cooked through (about 10 minutes), flipping halfway through cooking. If cooking the patarascha inside, heat a griddle over medium-high heat and cook the packets with seam side down for 10 minutes. Flip and continue cooking for an additional 5 minutes, until the fish is fully cooked.
  6. Unwrap the packages and serve immediately with white rice.


Rainforest Foods Tacacho

Tacacho

Usually enjoyed as the first meal of the day or as an appetizer, tacacho is among the more traditional rainforest foods favored by the indigenous people of the Peruvian Amazon. This simple, easy-to-make recipe comes courtesy of Peru Delights.

Ingredients:

  • 5-6 Plantains
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup Pork Rinds (a.k.a. chicharones)
  • 1 tbsp Lard
  • *Optional:  tomatoes, onions, fried fish, chorizo


Instructions:

  1. Boil or grill several plantains until soft, but not too mushy. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.
  2. Peel the plantains.
  3. Mash the peeled plantains with a mortar and pestle, potato masher, or fork.
  4. Mix in salt, pepper, small pieces of pork rind, and lard.
  5. Use your hands to form the mixture into a baseball-size ball.
  6. Serve with tomatoes, onions, fried fish, chorizo, or simply with salt or sugar.  


Mary Gabbett is the co-founder of ecotourism/conservation website Green Global Travel and Green Travel Media, along with her journalist husband, Bret Love. Together the couple has visited more than 40 countries on six continents.

Photo credit: PATARASCHCA Photo by Flickr User Lou Stejskal