Sometimes, the travel bug sneaks up on you and bites you when you least expect it. The other day, while watching an old episode of No Reservations, I thought about, as I always do, what a lucky bastard Anthony Bourdain is. Not only does he get to travel the world, he also gets to eat foods that most, if not all, normal people will never get to taste in their lifetime. Usually, I’m ok with that. He’s a celebrity chef, and I’m not. I get it. But a little part of me still makes me sad that I’ll probably never get to see even a quarter of the countries he’s been to, even though I’ve traveled quite a bit myself.
I know, wah, wah, join the freakin’ club. Most of us will never make it to China, Ghana, Liberia, Iceland, Laos, Romania, Turkey, Brazil, Cuba or any of the ‘Stans. But then again, the U.S. is such a melting pot of cultures teeming with ethnic restaurants and food-tiques that your palate could probably do the traveling for you.
Today, let’s go to Peru, shall we?
My office in Falls Church, Virginia, is dangerously close to a little eatery called Super Chicken. Blink and you’ll miss it if you’re driving–and if you do find it, you might be put off by its postage-size parking lot its no-frills decor and, let’s face it, its superlative title. After all, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
Not so in Super Chicken’s case.
But first things first: What is it about Peruvian chicken that makes it so special? After all, it looks like your everyday, run-of-the-mill rotisserie chicken. I didn’t even realize chicken was a mainstay of Peruvian cuisine until I moved to the DC area.
First, the chickens are seasoned with an amazing combination of unidentifiable spices. I do detect traces of lemon, cumin and paprika, though, as well as salt and pepper, natch. Even though I’ve been to Super Chicken countless times, I’ve never mustered up the courage to ask for the recipe that makes this pollo so super, but my research reveals that some key ingredients that may not be readily available in your local Safeway are achiote, a peppery and nutty red spice, and huacatay (pronounced wa-kah-tee), a type of Peruvian black mint.
Second, the chickens are slow-cooked on spits over a blazing charcoal inferno, like so:
Third, the chickens end up being incredibly moist and delicious, and when you add the special green dipping sauce (supposedly, this “aji” sauce is made with aji chiles, a Peruvian hot pepper, but Super Chicken’s is most likely made with good ol’ jalapeno peppers), you’re halfway there to a decent South American feast. Add a side of fried yuca (aka cassava root, a starchy tuber) with a tangy mayonnaise-y dipping sauce and a simple green salad with ranch-buttermilk dressing, and you’re all set.
If you really want to go all-out, wash it all down with Inca Kola, a Peruvian soft drink that looks like diluted anti-freeze but tastes like cream soda. ¡Buen apetito!
422 S Washington St
Falls Church, VA 22046