Raymi Mosca, who owns Mi Peru South American Grill in Henderson (1450 W. Horizon Ridge Parkway), was a real estate agent in Chicago for 14 years before going back to his roots as a chef of his native Peruvian cuisine. He once had a small restaurant in Lima that specialized in criollo (native) dishes such as seco, dried beef and the mixed grilled local seafood specialty known as parihuela.
Today, Mosca has the best and most authentic Peruvian restaurant in the Valley. If you are not familiar with this cuisine, it’s nothing like the cuisines of Mexico or Cuba, but rather a mix of the Andes and Asia. In the late 19th century, Peru had a flood of Chinese and Japanese immigrants. It gave the world ceviche, tomatoes and potatoes. Fish is popular on the coast, but meat is eaten in the mountain regions.
Photo by Peter HarastyA dish to try at Mi Peru: tiraditos.
Weekends, Mi Peru has a killer pollo a la brasa (rotisserie chicken) and the tiraditos, served anytime, is like sashimi but with a kick, thanks to aji, a fiery yellow Peruvian pepper used in the marinade. Go try them sometime. But for a summertime treat in your own kitchen, Mosca recommends Causa de Atun, Peruvian-style mashed potatoes with tuna, eaten cool. It’s a comfort food that a 10-year-old could prepare (with a little help from Mom). What gives the dish its unique flavor, Mosca says, is the aji. Make sure you use the yellow, he reiterates, not the green.
Causa de Atun
Photo by Peter HarastyChef Mosca’s pick for a summertime dish to try at home: Causa de Atun.
- 1 pound of potatoes, preferably Yukon Gold
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 2 limes
- 1 spoonful pureed aji amarillo (available at International Marketplace and Mariana’s Supermarkets)
- 2 cans water-packed tuna
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- Chopped parsley, one hard-cooked egg, capers
Method: Peel and boil the potatoes until soft. Mash them firmly, mixing in oil, salt, pepper and aji until they turn a pale yellow color. In a separate bowl, combine the tuna with the mayonnaise. Let the potatoes cool in the fridge, about 20 minutes.
Take a mold, preferably about four inches in diameter and two inches high. If you do not have a mold, you can do this by hand. Make one layer of potatoes and top it with an equal in thickness layer of the tuna. Then add a top layer of the potatoes. Repeat four times.
Photo by Peter HarastyDropping your corks off at Double Helix can help to create a pair of flip-flops by Sole.
Garnish liberally with the chopped parsley, thin slices of hard-boiled egg and the capers. Chef Mosca serves the dish with a salad of red onion and chopped tomatoes. This is optional, he says.
The perfect companion for this dish is an ice-cold Cusqueña, a beer from Lima, Peru, that comes from an old German recipe. Like with almost any spicy dish, the beer balances out the acidity of the yellow pepper aji. Alas, the only place you can buy this brand is at Mi Peru. A good, widely available alternative is Bohemia, a German-style pilsner brewed in Mexico.