PERU’S RECLAIMED BOUNTY By Renée S. Suen
Forget Machu Picchu — the Sacred Valley of the Incas is inspiring a newfound love of high-altitude cuisine, made with heirloom ingredients brought back from the brink of extinction by a leading-edge agricultural research centre and a celebrated chef
Like now, as I attempt to guide a teetering pile of cabuya (agave) nectar-sweetened lamb tartare to my mouth. The load is heaped precariously under a quivering blanket of delicate elderflowers on a fragile quinoa-speckled kañihua (grain) cracker. My greediness is rewarded in a bite that bursts with deliciousness and fantastic textures that dance in my mouth. It’s also the second course served at Mil Centro, chef Virgilio Martínez’s ambitious culinary complex in Peru. Despite the stares of guests in the dining room, I’m happy dancing in my seat. I’m in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, a strip in the Andes Mountains sandwiched between Cusco and Machu Picchu.
THE INCAS WOULD MAKE A HUATIA, AN OVEN MADE OF MUD BRICKS, FOR COOKING – A METHOD STILL USED TODAY
It’s here where snow-dusted peaks footed by sky-reflecting lagoons frame mesmerizing landscapes and the Urubamba River weaves through Peru’s most productive agricultural region. Rich with character and charm, the valley is filled with traditional towns and ancient ruins spared from globalization. From the colonial village of Pisac with its local craft markets to Chinchero renowned for its intricate traditional textiles, and Ollantaytambo and its grid of cobbled streets, many locals still speak Quechua, the language of the Incas. Trek through beautiful maize and quinoa fields towards the bottom of the Sacred Valley and discover the impressive Salineras de Maras. Active since pre-Inca times, these
© RENEE SUEN
ome moments in travel are triumphant; mine seem to be driven by gluttony.