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CHEF ILONA DANIEL: Traditional street food

Executive chef Javier Alarco shares his recipe for anticuchos

Escaping from the frigid winter climes we find ourselves living in here in Atlantic Canada is something many do during March break.

If you’re like me this year, however, you missed the chance to get a jumpstart on becoming sun-kissed and summer ready. Regardless, we have broached into the spring season, and I am hopeful I’ll be getting outside very soon to start gardening and embarking on new adventures around the province I call home.

It must be noted, I am a believer in having my cake and eating it, too, so I decided to connect with executive chef Javier Alarco of the Delta Prince Edward to take on us on a flavour vacation to his homeland, Peru.

Peru is an ancient nation filled with incredible natural vistas, remarkable architecture and a storied cuisine. Alarco describes Peruvian cuisine as, “a mixture of past cultures and ethnicities, from the common old world Spanish seasonings, to the hot spices of the Caribbean Criollo and the modern Asian flair. With every recipe there will always be a nod to the Peru’s indigenous backbone. Peruvian cuisine uses a wide variety of product from the Pacific coast line to the deep jungle.” Throughout history Peru, like many other ancient civilizations has been visited, occupied or forged trade partnerships with other cultures under many banners. These exchanges leave an indelible mark on the cuisine we see today.

Peru is also the birthplace of some recent trend-worthy ingredients. According to Alarco, “Old world ingredients have been rediscovered for today’s consumers first originated or was domesticated in Peru including the following: potato / quinoa / peanut / avocado / lima beans / cacao/ cotton / gooseberry and so many more.”

Alarco’s recipe is for a grilled dish called anticuchos. This dish is a very traditional street food made authentically with beef heart but can be made with other tender cuts of beef if desired. The anticuchos are flavoured with the beloved aji panca, a Peruvian chili pepper, as well as garlic, oregano and cumin.

To round out the meal, I would suggest grilling some corn alongside the anticuchos and serving a simple Peruvian potato salad tossed with red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, avocado and vegetable oil.

Watch Delta Prince Edward executive chef Javier Alarco and chef Ilona Daniel create some Peruvian anticuchos:


2 to 3 pounds steak (sirloin, tenderloin)

12 cloves of garlic

Water (as needed)

½ cup vinegar (divided)

¼ cup smoky mild chile pepper paste (aji panca, or chipotle if available)

1 tablespoon cumin (plus a pinch for basting mixture)

1 tablespoon salt

2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper

½ cup vegetable oil

Cut the beef into 1 1/2-inch pieces and place the pieces in a nonreactive bowl or zipper seal bag.

Mash or crush the garlic with a heavy utensil, or with a mortar and pestle. Add a little water if necessary, to make a paste.

In a small bowl, mix the crushed garlic, ¼ cup of the vinegar, ¼ cup chili pepper paste, 1 tablespoon cumin, 1 tablespoon salt, and 2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper.

Pour the marinade over the beef and mix well.

Cover and marinate the beef for at least 1 hour at room temperature, or overnight in the refrigerator.

Place the pieces beef onto the skewers (about 4 pieces on each skewer, depending on size).

Make a basting mixture of ½ cup vegetable oil, ¼ cup vinegar, and a pinch of cumin.

Grill the skewers for about 5 minutes on each side, or to the desired doneness. Baste the meat several times during cooking.

Chef Ilona Daniel's food column, Food Seductress, runs on the last Thursday of each month. She welcomes comments from readers by email at or on twitter:

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