Yes, you read that right: Peru has its very own version of seafood paella and it is delectable. Rice and seafood is the perfect combination. Long-grain rice that has absorbed all of the flavors of the generous amounts of squid, shrimp, mussels, and scallops, ají amarillo chilli pepper, tomato paste, green peas, all topped with some grated Parmesan cheese. Perhaps the only downside to this dish is the fact that all the vitamin B6 and tryptophan from the seafood can make you quite sleepy after you have polished it all off.
So make sure not to schedule in any business meetings straight after!
Learn more about the romantic backstory of this dish as shared by a famous Peruvian chef or jump straight to the recipe below!
Peru boasts no less than 1500 miles of coastline; the connection between Peruvians and the sea is beyond question. There were avid fishermen in all of the coastal pre-Columbian cultures such as the Moche, Chimú, Chancay and Chincha, which historians have learnt from observing the many artefacts and ceramic vessels these cultures have left us. However, the origins of this dish can’t be attributed to these ancient cultures, since the main ingredient is rice, introduced by the Spanish conquistadors at a time when these cultures had mostly been succeeded by others.
Gastón Acurio, the acclaimed Peruvian chef and restaurateur, has a story about the origins of this delicious rice with seafood masterpiece. He says that the daughter of a Genovese baker fell in love with the son of a Cantonese shopkeeper. They knew their families would never approve of their relationship and eloped. In their newly formed home, when it was time to cook, each of them contributed elements of their country’s culinary tradition. Tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese from the Italian side joined a fried rice dish from the Chinese cuisine, and the first-ever “rice with seafood” was created.
Acurio doesn’t specify if this happened in Peru or elsewhere, and whether this account is entirely true does not even matter too much, because either way, it’s a perfect reflection of how new dishes are created when culinary cultures meet. This is, in fact, the secret to many of the most popular Peruvian dishes, such as lomo saltado beef stirfry and ají de gallina chicken stew.
Foodies: Eat arroz con mariscos like a true Peruvian
The best place to have this dish is of course anywhere on the coast at one of the hundreds of cevicherías where it is almost as popular as raw fish dish called ceviche. It can be served and enjoyed on its own, but diners are often swayed to order a combined platter which consists of equally delicious portions of ceviche, arroz con mariscos and chicharrón de pescado.
This is called the trio marino, a seafood trio. Popular drinks to accompany this fiesta of flavors would be lemonade (which is actually lime-onade made with deliciously tangy limes), chicha morada or simply an ice-cold beer.
Now it’s time to get out that bag of rice, fresh seafood and all the other ingredients to prepare our very own delicious seafood and rice stew.
Arroz con Mariscos: Peruvian Rice with Seafood
- ½ pound seafood mix fresh, if possible
- 6 large scallops
- 6 clams or mussels
- 1/2 pound squid
- 1 small crab
- 3 pounds white long-grain rice cooked
- 1/4 cup parsley finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon garlic paste
- 1 onion red, finely chopped
- 1 medium tomato
- 1 small red bell pepper diced
- 1/2 cup peas
- 3 tablespoons ají panca chilli paste
- 3 tablespoons ají amarillo chilli paste
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 limes
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 cup crab and mussel broth or seafood broth
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Place the crab and the mussels in a pot and fill with cold water until just covered. Boil for 15 minutes. Set aside, reserve the broth to use later.
- Place the seafood mix, scallops and squid into an empty pot, cover with boiling water and let it soak in the water for 5 minutes. Remove the water. (It’s very important to only let it sit for 5 minutes, if you leave it for longer the texture of the seafood and squid especially can become rubbery.)
- Heat a frying pan over a high heat, add the olive oil and fry the chopped onion, ají panca chilli paste, ají amarillo chilli paste, tomato or red bell pepper and tomato paste.
- Fry for 5 minutes, or until golden.
- Add the seafood to the mix
- Add seafood broth and cook for 10-12 minutes over medium heat.
- Put this seafood mixture in a large pot with the previously cooked rice, stirring it well to ensure all of the ingredients are evenly distributed and the flavor of the sauce has soaked into the rice.
- Place generous portions on each diner’s plate, each with half a lime and some chopped parsley sprinkled on top. We hope you enjoy your Peruvian arroz con mariscos!