Pundits are heralding Peruvian fare as the next hot food trend. And in an unassuming strip mall in Lenexa, Antojitos del Peru, or “Snacks of Peru,” is already offering up authentic dishes.
Peruvian food is a reflection of the country’s three main geographical areas — the Pacific coast, the Andean highlands and the Amazon rain forest — and it is as varied as its inhabitants, says restaurant owner Autberto Veramendi.
“People from Spain, Italy, France, Asia and Africa came to Peru and brought their own spices,” he says. “In Peru, we eat fried rice, but it is different than what you would eat in China because of the way we make it with peppers, fresh vegetables and cilantro.”
Corn is a Peruvian staple. Choclo entero, or Imperial Maize, is a version of corn on the cob featuring giant white kernels. Maiz cancha, also known as “Incan candy,” is toasted and resembles corn nuts. Both corn preparations are used to garnish the restaurant’s Ceviche de Pescado ($10), a fish dish served chilled and complemented by the freshness of onions, cilantro and lime.
Antojitos del Peru is a true “familia” restaurant. Autberto left his small village outside of Huaraz, Peru, in 1987, and moved to the Kansas City area with wife Norma and son Thomas in 2003. The couple’s daughter, Susana, and extended family were already established in the area.
Norma (or Normita, as she is affectionately called) would always cook for others. “Everyone always told us, ‘This is so good, you should open a restaurant!’” Autberto says. “So last year, we did.”
Their cheery space features five Peruvian-inspired wooden booths and four folding tables draped with colorfully hand-woven textiles called mantas. There are wall hangings depicting indigenous llamas, Peruvian hats (chullos) and musical instruments on display.
And if you’re lucky, Autberto might take his cajon (Peruvian box drum) off the wall and play while Norma dances to the beat.
Antojitos del Peru: 7775 Quivira Road, Lenexa, 816-220-1723; Facebook
Antojitos del Peru’s Ceviche de Pescado
Peruvian corn can be purchased at the Vive Latino market, next door to Antojitos del Peru, at 7777 Quivira Road in Lenexa. (913-268-4239.) A bag of maiz cancha is $3.79 and a bag containing two ears of choclo entero is $4.99.
Makes 4 servings
For the ceviche:
4 large limes, juiced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 pound tilapia, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 large sweet potato, boiled and cut into 4 segments
2 cobs of sweet corn or Peruvian choclo entero, boiled and cut off cob
1 cup Peruvian maiz cancha, toasted in a hot cast-iron skillet
To make the ceviche: In a glass mixing bowl, whisk lime juice, garlic, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper together. Place fish into bowl, making sure every piece is submerged in liquid. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least 15 minutes, or until the rosy hue of fish becomes opaque in color. (The acidity of the lime juice “cooks,” or coagulates the proteins.)
Spoon tilapia mixture onto 4 plates, and top each with onion slices, cilantro and sweet potato.
To garnish: Evenly distribute boiled corn and toasted cancha as a side to the ceviche. Serve immediately.
Per serving, ceviche only: 199 calories (31 percent from fat), 7 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), 68 milligrams cholesterol, 11 grams carbohydrates, 23 grams protein, 198 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.