Sep 21, 2016

Exploring the World's Most Complex Cuisine

Peruvian Ceviche: Raw seafood, lime juice, onion and chile, accompanied by Peru's ever-present ear of corn and toasted maize kernels. (Photo: David and Katarina*)
I was recently assigned an article about where to find authentic Latin American cuisine on my home ground: Sonoma County, California. 

Less than an hour north of San Francisco, Sonoma County is famed as a world-class wine destination and as the epicenter of the nation's farm-to-table movement, but fewer people realize that it's also home to numerous restaurants serving authentic foods of Central America, South America, the Caribbean, and Mexico. 

As I discovered from my research and conversations with chefs and culinary historians, Latin American cuisine is considered one of the world's richest and most complex cuisines, influenced by the techniques and ingredients of its many groups of indigenous peoples, as well as by centuries of immigrants: Spanish conquistadors, African slaves, French, Dutch, Portuguese, Italians, Asians and others.
The article I wrote, "Where to Find Latin American Cuisine in Sonoma County," appeared in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat in August and covered restaurants specializing in the cuisine of Yucatan, Oaxaca, Cuba, Peru, Brazil and Puerto Rico.

Before researching the article I'd only dined in one of these restaurants, but after interviewing passionate chefs and delving into the romance of the cuisine, I've been inspired to try all the varieties of Latin American cooking within 25 miles of my home. That endeavor will probably take a year or more. But it will be a delicious year--and fun.

If you live in a city or region with a diversity of ethnic restaurants that you haven't taken the time to explore, maybe a delicious year is in the offing for you, too.

Here are few photos of signature dishes from around the Latin American culinary world:

Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic: Asopao de Camarones. Shrimp and Rice soup is hearty, flavored with lime, cilantro, chile, achiote and more. (Photo: Luigis1234**)

Maize--corn--is a culinary staple throughout Latin America. (Photo: Sam Fentress*)
Cuba: Arroz con Pollo. Served throughout Latin America, every restaurant and home has its own take on Chicken with Rice. (Photo: Kobako*)
Brazil: Fejoada. Elaborate and designed to satisfy big appetites, Fejoada is Brazil's signature dish. (Photo: Gildemax*)
Venezuela, Pargo Rojo: With a fabulous fish like Red Snapper, what more do you need than a squeeze of lime and a frosty beer? (Photo: thefuturistics*)
Mexico, Chile en Nogada. A very beautiful dish, it's a poblano chile stuffed with shredded meat and spices and then covered with a creamy walnut-based sauce and pomegranate seeds. (Photo: Arturo Sánchez*)

*   All photos courtesy of [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons
** Courtesy of [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

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