Seco de Carne is a typically Peruvian stew known since the colonial era, when it was known as Seco Tajime and based on mutton meat. Gastronomic researchers note the influence of Arab cuisine, probably brought to Peru by African slaves to South America. Seco de carne is the result of the fusion of local products and ancestral techniques, mixed with a hint of fine Spanish cooking methods. It’s an aromatic, flavor-packed stew, and despite the plain appearance, is one of my favorite Peruvian recipes.
The main condiment of seco de carne is a type of cilantro (eryngium foetidum), similar to coriander, which besides having medicinal properties, provides a characteristic flavor. This particular herb is native to Central and South America. It grows wild here but the herb is popular throughout the world, especially in Asian cuisine. In Peruvian Amazon regions, the herb is an always present ingredient of local cuisine. In Peru it goes by the name “sacha culantro” to distinguish it from the coriander or coriandrum sativum.
The main ingredients are pepper, loche pumpkin, and chicha, combining Peruvian and mestizo influences. Different regions in Peru have their own versions of the dish. In the north, seco de carne is prepared with kid goat meat and pumpkin loche. In Huacho, beans always accompany the dish. In Lima, seco with tenderloin is common, but it’s also prepared with fish and seafood – Lima being a hub for fish dishes in Peru.
“Seco” is a cooking technique that, as the Spanish word hints, is a method of reducing the liquid over low heat to a minimum. Or at least until the preparation is thick.
The cumin used to season the meat gives the dish a characteristic flavor. Pepper also provides a great kick. Cilantro infuses its own distinct flavor and gives the stew an unusual, but pleasant, green color. This dish is very popular in its country of origin but similar recipes with the same name exist in neighboring countries. Seco de carne is a classic recipe you’ll find it in any Creole buffet.
Seco de carne is a classic recipe you’ll find it in any Creole buffet.
This dish is easy to prepare, although it does require some patience and take a little more work than you might expect. There’s also the question of which type of meat to use. In Peru, many cooks, chefs, and Peruvian mothers use kid goat, lamb, beef, chicken or fish.
To serve seco in the traditional Peruvian way, present the dish accompanied by white rice and braised beans.