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It’s ethnic cuisine that’s part of the Washington region’s cultural fabric: Peruvian chicken. The area is home to dozens of successful restaurants that shell out “pollo” in the Peruvian style, sometimes borrowing elements from other countries. We explore the cuisine’s boom in popularity and what it says about the modern immigrant experience.
- Warren Rojas Dining Editor at Northern Virginia Magazine.
- Yvette Zaragoza Regional Training and Outreach Manager at the Latino Economic Development Corporation.
Audience Suggestions for Best Peruvian Chicken
@CoolBrandi: “The Chicken Place” on Rte 7 in Falls Church. I love it. But don’t tell everyone that “The Chicken Place” has the best. Shhh! I don’t want all those foodies in my favorite spot. Lol.
@Dizzyluv25: Pollo Rico in Arlington is by far best Peruvian chicken in DMV and it’s only $5!!!!
@brooklandavenue: Silvestre Cafe on 12th Street in #Brookland has some damn fine pollo.
@DMVRealEst8: Super Chicken in Falls Church!
@PR311:la brasa Lorton VA
@WmRandomWard: I’d also recommend La Canela in Rockville Town Center for delicious ceviche
Amy Gleason Carroll: Pollo Inca in Herndon
Tshaka Scott El Pollo Rico in Wheaton (the old location that burned down)
Filiz Oruc Troudt: Just discovered Wild Chicken in Fairfax. Very good and affordable.
Suggestions from our Guests/Callers
Crisp and Juicy: 4540 Lee Highway, Arlington, VA;18312 Contour Road, Montgomery Vlg, MD; 913 West Broad Street, Falls Church, VA; 1314 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD; 11160 Veirs Mill Rd # 158, Wheaton, MD; 1331 Rockville Pike # G, Rockville, MD; 4533 Wisconsin Avenue Northwest, Washington D.C., DC; 3800 International Drive, Silver Spring, MD
El Pollo Rico: 932 North Kenmore Street, Arlington, VA; 2517 UNIVERSITY BLVD, Wheaton, MD
Super Chicken: 422 South Washington Street, Falls Church, VA (703) 538-5550; 2531 Ennalls Avenue, Wheaton, MD; 4323 Kenilworth Avenue, Bladensburg, MD; 10380 Festival Lane, Manassas, VA; 8357 Leesburg Pike, Vienna, VA
Edy’s Chicken and Steak: 5240 Leesburg Pike, Alexandria, VA
Don Pollo: 7007 Wisconsin Avenue, Chevy Chase, MD; 2206 Veirs Mill Road, Rockville, MD; 2065 University Boulevard East, Hyattsville, MD
Kickin’ Chicken: 842 Rockville Pike # C, Rockville, MD
Traditional Peruvian/Good Ceviche
El Chalan: 1924 I Street Northwest, Washington, DC
Costa Verde: 946 North Jackson Street, Arlington, VA
Guajillo:1727 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA (703) 807-0840
MR. KOJO NNAMDIYes, there is one here. We're talking already, even though I haven't yet introduced our guests, but I will. They're flavors that build a bridge between Washington and Lima, crispy skin, tender meat and salty marinades, French fries, yucca and sticky sweet alfajor at the end. The Peruvian rotisserie chicken and all that comes with it have become part of D.C.'s culinary DNA. But just how much does the pollo we know and love resemble the chicken from its mother country?
MR. KOJO NNAMDIAnd why haven't other pieces of Peruvian cuisine, which often blends with South American and Chinese influences taken off as much in our area as the humble chicken platter. Joining us to explore the stories behind D.C.'s love affair with Peruvian chicken and what they say about the modern immigrant experience is Yvette Zaragoza, regional training manager for the Latino Economic Development Corporation. Yvette Zaragoza, thank you for joining us.
MS. YVETTE ZARAGOZAThank you for inviting us, Kojo.
NNAMDIAlso with us is Warren Rojas, the dining editor for Northern Virginia Magazine. Warren Rojas, thank you for joining us.
MR. WARREN ROJASPleasure to be here, sir.
NNAMDIFrom the chicken to the sauces to the potatoes, this is food you have grown up. Yvette, you grew up in Lima. Warren, you grew up in a Peruvian and Venezuelan-America home. How would you describe the food you grew up eating and does it compare to the chicken that's caught on like wildfire here in Washington? First you, Yvette.
ZARAGOZAWell, at first glance, I would say that the chicken is just that, you know, a chicken. But once you taste it, I think it's very crispy and the meat is very juicy, wonderfully spiced and it has a very delicious, slightly charred flavor. And I think that's very similar here in D.C. However, I would say that the main difference is, first, the potatoes. We have this wonderful Huamantanga yellow potatoes. Just so the people that are listening know, we have 2,000 varieties of potatoes in Peru.
NNAMDIDid you say 2,000 varieties?
ZARAGOZAI did, yes. And so the Huamantanga is just one of them and it's fantastic. It's very sweet and it's soft and it's grainy and when you eat it, it almost melts in your mouth. But the sauces, don't even get me started. They take the pollo to the next level. We have the traditional ketchup, mustard, tartar sauce, but we have also a yogurt-based mayonnaise.
ZARAGOZAWe have olive sauces. We have very traditional papa a la huancaina o copa and the most popular, of course, is the aji de polladia. But many of the ingredients you can't find here so it's not quite the same.
NNAMDIHow about your experience, Warren?
ROJASWell, as you mentioned, coming from a dual South American upbringing, Peru and Venezuela, I enjoyed the best of both of those possible worlds. Peruvian chicken though, not factor in my household because of course we did not have a proper rotisserie which it's that self-basting, that spinning above the charcoal that really gives these birds that indicative flavor that people crave.
ROJASYou know, they'll stand in line for it, they're willing to extend their lunch hour to get the bit of the chicken and of course the sauces play an important part in both the chicken and the starches, whether you go with the French fires, the yucca. You know, it's all a matter of preference but certainly I did grow up enjoying lots of the other traditional Peruvian dishes.
ROJASMy mother was an avid fan of Seco, which is very much a beef stew, lots of potatoes, peas and carrots. The lomo saltado, which I am a fanatic of. I particularly like the marisco saltado, which is just seafood mixed with fries...
NNAMDII like that, too.
ROJASYou know, the tomatoes over rice. But I wish I could've had rotisserie chicken as a child. I've more than made up for it in my adulthood, actively seeking out every kind of rotisserie chicken I can find. But really it is a magical experience and as Yvette mentioned, the spices, the flavors, not necessarily identical because, of course, a lot of the those home touches from Peru, the peppers themselves or even some of the herbs, not the same here.
ROJASA close carbon copy, but, you know, there's something to be said for the hometown.
NNAMDILet's see what our listeners think. Where do you think Peruvian chicken fits into the culinary DNA of the Washington region? Call us at 800-433-8850. That's 800-433-8850 or go to our website, kojoshow.org. You can join the conversation there. What kinds of food pulls you into the adventurous ethnic eating? 800-433-8850. From Silver Spring to Adams Morgan to Arlington, Peruvian chicken restaurants are everywhere and like many -- like Pollo Rico in Arlington or Wheaton have long lines and lunch rushes. Why has this food become so popular in this region?
ZARAGOZAWell, I think I said before, it's very simple. I mean, it's really a chicken it's so recognizable. Many of the dishes that you've mentioned, aji de gallina, lomos saltado, might be a little hard to recognize. You know that there might be chicken there somewhere, but you're not sure because it has this wonderful sauce on top. However, the chicken really relates to every culture. Just a rotisserie chicken, you've tasted it pretty much all over the world.
ROJASAnd I would argue that it's also very affordable, you know, a half chicken still, in this region, you can probably get a half chicken for about $5 and you consider you go to the grocery store, a whole chicken is still about $8 to $10 and that's raw, unappealing.
ROJASHere you've got a beautifully bronzed bird, you know, probably marinated in a little soy, some cumin, some lime, oregano, paprika, garlic, you know, whatever the house marinade might be, but you get that half of chicken, beautiful, tender, delicious. Your two sides, possibly even gooey crusty alfajor cookie for about $5. I mean, that beats fast food any day of the week.
NNAMDIWhat qualities does a rotisserie chicken need to have to be considered really good or authentic?
ROJASI would argue that it definitely has to be charcoal-fired. You know, I have seen chickens that are cooked in gas ovens. I don't give them a second look but I've seen them. You know, I think that the charcoal firing does give the flavor, you know, it does crisp the chicken a different way. It also helps seal in those juices that are so pivotal to el Pollo la Brasa enthusiast experience and as I said the marinades for the bird themselves, they vary from, you know, from restaurant to restaurant.
ROJASLots of them say they have their own little family recipes. But as I mentioned, you know, predominately you're going to taste some cumin, you're going to taste some chili powder, you're going to taste oregano, lime and then everyone can tweak it by, you know, extra amount of soy for more of a chifa experience, maybe some dark beer for -- you know, a little brothier.
ROJASAnd then the sauces, the aolis, you know, who doesn’t -- my wife is terribly, terribly anti-hot sauce, but she cannot not eat zesty mayonnaise when it comes, you know, that's part of her rotisserie chicken experience. She has to have it.
ZARAGOZAI think you're right. The chicken is very -- the pollo, I would say, is very versatile. You can -- traditionally in Peru, served with French fries made with the yellow potatoes and a very simple green salad. But here if the business owner is Korean, they will add more ginger to it. Maybe if it's from Central America, they will add more yucca and more plantains. You can also accompany it with the rice and beans and it's perfectly fine and delicious that way too.
NNAMDIChefs and rotisserie owners are famous for keeping quiet about exactly what blend of spices they use to season their chicken, Warren. Why is that and are you willing to reveal what it is you used when you recently made Peruvian chicken for your daughter's birthday?
ROJASWell, I wish I had a patentable recipe and I wish that people were calling to find out, to divine my chicken marinating secrets. But it really is, Kojo, I think a -- it's custom tailored by individual restaurants and it suits that particular constituency's tastes. Some people like it a little spicier so they're going to add more chili powder, possibly if they can get, you know, the annatto, which is a Peruvian chili. If, you know, some even grace you with rocoto sauce, which is a beautiful, beautiful hot sauce, you know, just a liquefied pepper.
ROJASBut some places obviously they're catering to more of a, you know, an American constituency. Their chicken might be a little blander, a little aggressive as it were because they don't want to alienate. They want, you know, an open-door policy. But when I made mine, you know, we were having my daughter's birthday. We wanted to have something a little authentic, a little family-oriented so, yes, I did make somewhere in the realm of 20 odd chickens.
ROJASNot as gorgeous as the rotisserie birds, again, because I don't have a rotisserie so mine were simply grilled. But I did stay as loyal as I could to the recipes that I was able to pry from a few friends and, you know, online. So I did some beer, I used a lot of garlic, cumin and as well as some vinegar to help cook the bird from within. And no complaints. When I looked, the chicken was all gone so.
NNAMDIAny secret recipes, Yvette?
ZARAGOZAWell, I actually through my work at LADC, we're a non-profit organization, we serve low to moderate income Latinos and other groups that are underserved and underrepresented. We had a lot of people, maybe one out of three Peruvians wants to start a pollodia (sp?) but the great secret, the real original Peruvian chicken recipe is a matter of national security.
ZARAGOZAIt really is. It was created about 50 years ago in this place that is in the middle of nowhere about 45 minutes from the city itself. It used to be a chicken house and then the business went bankrupt and so this guy started making chicken with its traditional -- the traditional recipe and so these people, the people that actually make the marinade, they are very few.
ZARAGOZAThey can't share their recipe and people right now that are trying to open a restaurant here would go to Peru and get trained by same people, close recipe, but not quite the original recipe.
NNAMDIOn to Carrie, in Fairfax, Va. Carrie, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
CARRIEHi, I wanted to know about some of the best restaurants in the area that serve the Peruvian chicken.
NNAMDIWe were going to get to that later in the broadcast, but I don't mind if they go ahead right now. Yvette?
ZARAGOZAWell, I really like crisp and juicy...
NNAMDIThere's one right down the street from here.
ZARAGOZAYes, which I didn't know. I go to the one in Arlington and Falls Church and then I would say that Pollo Rico is also really good.
NNAMDIAny recommendations, Warren?
ROJASWell, I was going to say I was researching my archives. We actually did a chicken tasting at the magazine about two winters ago where I brought in some fellow food writers as well as some of the people I work with who had never had Peruvian chicken so, you know, this was trial by delicious fire. And I brought chicken in from eight different places as far as out Herndon, you know, Pollo Cinca. We brought in some Pollo Rico.
ROJASAnd I was surprised because my favorite has long been Super Chicken in Falls Church. They're a very small operation right off Lee Highway. They recently opened a second shop over in Tyson's, which has been doing land-office business. A congratulations to them there, but Pollo Rico, Eddie's in Bailey's Crossroad, they all scored high marks as well.
ROJASAnd again, it was the subtleties of the chicken. Some a little bit more fire, some a little bit juicier. Didn't even bring the sides or the desserts in because I guarantee Eddie's would've swept their victory with the lucuma ice cream, which impossible to find. But, you know, there's so many good chicken joints, it's a shame to single one out.
NNAMDIDoes that work for you, Carrie?
CARRIEYes, thank you so much.
NNAMDICarrie, thank you for your call. Warren Rojas is the dining editor for Northern Virginia Magazine. He joins us in studio along with Yvette Zaragoza, regional training manager for the Latino Economic Development Corporation. We're discussing Peruvian chicken and taking your calls at 800-433-8850.
NNAMDIOne, The Economist once wrote that, quoting here, "Peru can lay claim to one of the world's dozen or so great cuisines. Innovative dishes like ceviche and aji de gallina have put the nation's gastronomy on the map, so why do we in D.C. mainly associate Peruvian food with roast chicken, some fries or yucca?" This e-mail we got from Teresa in Vienna.
NNAMDI"My father grew up in Lima and I was raised with my grandmother cooking fantastic Peruvian dishes for my sisters and me every Sunday. It was great to move to D.C. to have Peruvian options readily available. I only wish there were more options that included a wider range of Peruvian foods, such as aji de gallina, chupe de camarones or the Peruvian fried rice. Also do any of your guests have an idea where I can find aji amarillo chili's at a grocery store in town. I can only find the paste." You're first, Warren.
ROJASThe fresh chilies I have not seen. Again, I've not looked for them specifically but I would say your best bet would definitely be one of the international groceries, something like Americana off of Columbia Pike. Maybe -- see, I'm not even sure that one of the Central Americans, like El Premaro (sp?) would carry it. I've only seen it really at some of the Latin stores, but it is tough. And speaking to the more authentic cuisine...
NNAMDIAji de gallina, chupa de camarones...
ROJASYou've struck a chord there, Kojo, 'cause aji de gallina is one of my favorite dishes and it is -- I think the Peruvian chicken in of itself is kind of like the gateway drug to Peruvian food 'cause it is the one that people can readily identify with and it's the one that's been most frequently co-opted. You know, Guapo's right down the street, a Mexican restaurant, they've got a rotisserie chicken.
ROJASThere's a Peruvian restaurant off of Route 7, Machu Picchu, they fell on hard times. They actually combined forces with the Persian store next door. Now it's a kabob and Peruvian chicken place. So, you know, they're trying to keep each other alive but again the Peruvian chicken very much a lifeblood there for them. But there are certainly restaurants that do do more of the authentic food from the ceviches to what Teresa was talking about, the chifa, the Peruvian -- that is, in fact, the Peruvian and Chinese fusion...
NNAMDIWe'll try to get to that in a second.
ROJAS...which is certainly, you know, very, very popular. In Lima, the one place off the top of my head I can think that does that sometimes to mixed effort is Campo off of Route 7 as well in Falls Church. There, you know, if you look at their menu, it just reads like a Chi-American menu of, you know, happy family and this and that. But if you go into the restaurant, you'll see that they do offer the traditional Peruvian dishes, including picarones, which are fabulous, like, doughnut, like, fried fritters. They do...
NNAMDIWe should tell our listeners, aji de gallina is a chicken stew of hot peppers, cheese, cream, peanuts.
ROJASYes, it's shredded chicken in a fabulous spicy cheese sauce. It's very, you know, that cheese sauce up here is a cross Peruvian cuisine, in the papa a la huancaina, as well as in (word?) you know. There's variations of it, but it's always cream, zest, you know, flavor draped across different platforms. But like I said, that chifa cuisine has never really taken off here and it hurts me that it hasn't.
NNAMDII was going to get back to chifa, but since you brought it up, Chinese immigrants have shaped the direction of Peruvian cuisine in some respects and that fusion between Peruvian and Chinese is called Chifa, correct?
NNAMDIWhat kind of dishes are popular in the Chifa tradition?
ROJASWell, historically speaking, you know, anyone who's been to Peru knows that the Chifa restaurants are, like I said, they're so popular they're ingrained in the culture. I have very fond memories of growing up. That was the big outings, you know, when we would go visit our families, you know, the big one-night out when we would go out, we wouldn't go to a Peruvian restaurant, per se. We would go to Chifa and these were ornate, elaborate restaurants usually, you know. I have one in mind that's on the penthouse of a sky rise.
ROJASSo you had this fabulous view of the city. It's all lit up inside. You had the traditional Chinese décor, lazy Susans, but then the food came out and it was the fried rice, but it was, you know, a lot more cilantro, a lot more cumin...
NNAMDINot to mention aji de gallina wontons.
ROJASAji de gallina wontons, I had not seen them for decades. They popped up very briefly at a restaurant, that now since have shuttered, in Arlington called Yacoo, which was opened by the proprietor of the Chi Cha lounge and that group of restaurants. They had them there. For whatever reason, Yacoo fizzled out within less than a year and it broke my heart because those wontons were...
NNAMDIChifa food has not taken off in this area, Yvette, it has not?
ZARAGOZAYeah. I actually haven't seen any Peruvian Chifa places. I know there's one -- I don't remember the name, in the Ashburn area that is pretty good. But just back to our listener, I would recommend if you want to get some spices for Peru, I would recommend Grand Mart, even though it's a more Asian store. They have a lot of -- a whole section of Hispanic condiments, and you can find the Ajias there.
NNAMDIOn to Emily in Arlington, Va. Emily, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
EMILYHi, thanks for taking my call. I also need to say hi to Yvette because I used to work with her at LABC. Hi, Yvette.
ZARAGOZAHi, how are you?
EMILYGood. And I actually wanted to ask about a dish that I don't think has become quite as popular as the rotisserie chicken. I wanted to ask about ceviche because I know that different countries have their own ceviche and their twists on how they serve it. And I wanted to know what is the traditional way that Peruvian ceviche is prepared, and also where is a good place for me to find it.
NNAMDICeviche, raw fish, it's usually cooked in lime juice; is that correct?
NNAMDIOkay, here's Warren.
ROJASWell, cooked is a very liberal term there, Kojo, as you're well aware. It's basically, you know, raw seafood -- and I think that that speaks to a lot of that Pan-Asian influence as I started to say in that previous segment. If you've been to Peru, very high concentration of Chinese and Japanese individuals, you know. They had a Japanese president, you know.
ROJASIt's a very homogenized society, you know. The only thing separating them is the ocean. So the foods translate very well because both have coastlines, both have mountainous regions, so the food carries over. Ceviche in this area, wow. I have had -- I've had some pretty good ones. Oddly enough, Guajillo, a Mexican restaurant in Arlington, they do a very respectable ceviche. Big, lots of tomato, lots of onion there, but a good amount of seafood.
ROJASI've also enjoyed obviously the traditional Peruvian experience, if you've never been, I highly recommend El Chalan in D.C., very unassuming place, you know. You have to walk down a little flight of stairs to get in there. But if you do go, get yourself a pisco sour, which is their traditional drink, a brandy with foamy egg white, not something you see every day, and I guarantee you it's not something you'll soon forget. They do good ceviche.
ROJASThey also do the secos, which I mentioned.
ROJASNo. No mole.
ROJASNo. No mole.
ZARAGOZAI would also recommend Costa Verde. I think they're pretty good. They have a pretty good ceviche as well.
ROJASSee, Costa Verde are more -- are more in love with their chicharrones, which are the fried chunks of pork, than their ceviche, but yes, they're good too.
NNAMDIEmily, thank you for your call. If you have already called, stay on the line. We'll be taking a short break, but when we come back, we will continue our conversation on Peruvian cuisine in general, and chicken in particular. If the phone lines are busy, shoot us a tweet @kojoshow, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. It's Food Wednesday. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIOur culinary world tour of the Washington region continues as we look at Peruvian cuisine in general, and Peruvian chicken in particular, with Yvette Zaragoza, regional training manager for the Latino Economic Development Corporation, and Warren Rojas, dining editor for Northern Virginia Magazine. And taking your calls at 800-433-8850. Here is Rata in Reston, Va. You're on the air. Go ahead, please.
RATAHi, Kojo, thank you for taking my call. And thank you for talking about Peruvian chicken. I think Mr. Rojas and I have the same taste in food because I, too, would recommend Guajillo for ceviche, and Super Chicken. That's why I called. Not many people know about Super Chicken. I grew up in the Northern Virginia area for about 30 years. I'm in my early 30's, and I've tried a gazillion Peruvian chicken places, and -- but in the last ten years, my uncle introduced me to Super Chicken.
RATAThat's the only place I've been to ever since so I'm glad you talked about that. I'm glad that you mentioned there's one opening up in Tysons because it's kind of an excursion for me to go all the way to Fall Church City for it. And I've seen the price rise from like $10 to -- I think it's $15 or $16 now for a whole chicken. But it's the best and I recommend it to all my friends and family, and we actually call it crack chicken, speaking of gateway drugs, because it's that good.
NNAMDIYou can't get away from it. Thank you for your call, Rata. We move onto Maria Luisa in Washington, D.C. You're on the air, Maria Luisa. Go ahead, please.
MARIA LUISAThank you so much for this wonderful program and for taking my phone call, Kojo. I am enjoying so much this conversation, and I just want to mention to your audience that I think a big portion of the success that the Peruvian cuisine is having internationally is because of the work and the talent of Gaston Acurio, a famous well-known chef in Peru that has worked so much to put Peruvian cuisine in a different level, in a more international level.
MARIA LUISAAnd I wish -- and I hope that eventually Gaston can open a place like the places he has in Lima, in Washington D.C., because I think people are eager to have a place like the many restaurants that he has in Peru. And also I hope -- and I invite your audience to go the Internet and find the recipes that are very enjoyable to make and enjoy with friends.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. We got an e-mail from Jeremy in Columbia Heights who says, "Why is it that there seems to be so many Salvadorians in this area that they outnumber the Peruvians by a lot, but that Peruvian chicken has such a footprint in the place? It seems that we are a Peruvian chicken kind of town, not necessarily a pupusa town." A lot of Salvadorian restaurants have added Peruvian chicken to their menus. What do you say? What do think about this phenomenon, and what does it say about an evolving kind of Pan-Latino cuisine in this area, Yvette?
ZARAGOZAWell, I think Peru has it's -- has a wide variety of ingredients. We have the coast, we have the highlands, we have the jungle, and so pretty much anywhere you go you can find a dish that would be -- that you can relate to. But I just wanted to add a couple of like fun facts that I found...
ZARAGOZA...about Peruvian chicken. And one of them is that in 1994, the National Institute of Culture declared Pollo a la Brasa as an official part of Peru's cultural heritage, which I find very interesting. And then I didn't know that, but since last year, the third Sunday of July is the Pollo a la Brasa day, so...
ZARAGOZA...that's how important it is in our culture. And I really thank the previous listener to talk about Gaston Acurio, because the average stay in Peru, before it was seven days, and now they've -- with the surge of gastronomic tours, that number has gone to 10 days. So people actually now go to Lima and stay there and -- to eat. What a wonderful introduction to Peru.
NNAMDIThat's why we started Food Wednesdays, because introducing people's cultures through their food seems to be -- seems to find favor with a great many of our listeners. Warren, most people are familiar with the French fries that Peruvian rotisseries serve, but many American eaters are less familiar with Yucca. Where does Yucca fit into the traditional Peruvian cookbook?
ROJASProbably right at the front, Kojo, because it's -- it is one of the tenants of Peruvian cooking. As I said, my mother, a very avid cook, few and far between were the meals that did not involve potato, onion, rice. Peruvians love their starches. They cannot do away with those. And the Yucca, as we were discussing during the break, is -- it's just one of those signature items that once you've tried it, it really does become -- it changes your tastes and it accompanies dishes very well.
ROJASIt's -- for those who don't know, the Yucca is a root vegetable, very much potato-like uncooked. But you -- to prepare it requires a great deal of time, because you do have to boil, you do have to fry. But once it's done, the crispiness, you can shred it. It is delicious, and it really does stand up to the chicken better than, you know a traditional steak fry, which is good in -- if you have no other recourse. But always opt for Yucca if available.
ZARAGOZAThe best part, in my opinion, is that the Yucca has these shapes that -- and you can get the sauces really well. So you can dip the sauces and it's just wonderful.
ROJASIt's more fibrous, yes.
NNAMDIHere is Larissa in Washington, D.C. Hi, Larissa.
LARISSAHi, Kojo. Thank you for taking my call. I have a stepson who is dating a Peruvian girl, and she's very pretty and she's very nice…
NNAMDIOh, he wants to score points. Okay.
LARISSAAnd she loves to cook. And so I wonder where he can get nice cookbooks and, you know, impress her even more, and that's my question.
NNAMDIYou -- you obviously like this young lady, Larissa.
NNAMDIYou obviously like this young lady for your stepson.
LARISSAI do. I do. She's very nice. And I'm Russian myself, and actually right now I am next to a Russian gourmet store where they sell all kinds of Russian food.
NNAMDIOkay, Yvette. Okay, Warren. Please keep in mind here that what you are giving here is love advice.
ZARAGOZAWell, I think he's got the right idea. I've always heard that Peruvians are gastronomic obsessed. We just love our food, and I would say that the best source right now in D.C. would be the Internet. Although, you can find in some stores I've seen there's a traditional Nicoloni, which a brand of pasta, Nicolini cookbook. And all that has to do with Gaston Acurio, I would say that it's a safe bet.
NNAMDIOkay. And good luck to you, Larissa. We talked earlier about Chifa and the Chinese influence. It's my understanding that Alfajores, the dessert that so many Peruvian restaurants offer, contains a lot of Arabic influences, Warren. What's the story behind alfajores?
ROJASWell, the alfajore, again for those who are not familiar with, it's a fabulous cookie, usually dusted in powdered sugar, and then the filling, usually dulce de leche, caramel, it's just a crumbly delicious thing, you know. The perfect end to a savory meal, and one that's been -- that I've seen replicated in many different -- by many different confectioners. I know Argentineans make one. They take the extra step by dipping it in chocolate, which is unbelievably decadent, but also very good.
ROJASBut Arabic influence, I don't know that I've ever seen it, other than I'm trying to think of any Middle Eastern pastry that's similar, and I -- that's more honey, nuts, that I'm familiar with. So you've thrown me for a curve ball.
NNAMDISomething we picked up in our research. We got this e-mail from Marion. "I live in the Takoma/Silver Spring area, and have, of course, become addicted to Peruvian chicken. But where oh where can we workers find a Peruvian chicken restaurant in downtown D.C.?"
ROJASDowntown D.C. is tough.
NNAMDIYes, I thought as much.
ROJASYeah. Unfortunately, all of the ones that I know of are, you know, Rockville, Wheaton, and certainly the northern Virginia suburbs. I bet probably the closest you're gonna get is Nando's Peri Peri, which is, of course, African chicken, which mimics a lot of the Peruvian flavors, but is much spicier because of the Peri Peri pepper. But, yeah, I can't -- off the top of my head -- a Peruvian chicken joint downtown is not jumping out.
NNAMDIHere is Audrey in Rockville, Md. Hi, Audrey.
AUDREYHi Kojo. You guys -- your guests were talking a lot about Peruvian chicken joints in D.C. and in Arlington and Northern Virginia. But he didn't say anything about, until just now, Rockville or Wheaton, and there's a Don Polly in Twin Brook that's also really good.
NNAMDIDon Pollo in Twin Brooks, thank you very much for sharing that with us, Audrey. Here is Joe in Vienna, Va., who I think would also like to share. Joe, your turn.
JOEHello, Kojo. Thank you for taking my call. I was just calling to actually -- there's another restaurant I wanted to recommend in Gaithersburg, Md., called the Nibbler, and I was wondering if any of any of your guests were familiar with that?
NNAMDIThe Nibbler? No.
ROJASI've heard of it, but I've not been. The only places I've tried out that way was actually, there's a new place Rockville -- right on Rockville Pike called Kickin' Chicken that I was at recently. Lovely bird, so good, in fact, that the day that I went the attendant was flabbergasted. I arrived, you know, shortly after what I, you know, well, what I consider to still be the lunch rush. All he had left was a quarter and like a wing.
ROJASAnd he said, I'm sorry, we just opened, we didn't expect this rush. But, you know, he seemed happy for the business. So obviously, you know, even a new place doesn't take long before word of mouth spreads like wildfire.
NNAMDIYvette, a lot entrepreneurs, the majority of whom are immigrants, open and operate successful Peruvian rotisseries. You yourself are a restaurant owner. Can you explain what kinds of challenges face these restaurant owners?
ZARAGOZAWell, I used to be a restaurant owner. I find that I love to advise people on restaurants, but it's a tough industry. It's many hours of work, and it's -- although the pay is really good, you can eat all you want. But I would say as, again, in my work through LABC, I see many entrepreneurs that want to want to start businesses. Um, and of course you have to have a good business idea. You have to have a marketing plan in place, licensing, and LADC can provide assistance in all that.
ZARAGOZAHowever, when it comes down to Peruvian chicken, we talked about the recipe already. It's very hard to obtain. But you have to also purchase a patented oven called (word?) what has a very -- I don't know if you've seen it. You can see the pollos from the outside, and it rotates in two different ways. Also, I would say that it's very difficult to brand it. Even though everybody knows what Peruvian chicken is, the reality is that you can go to many restaurants, and no two pollos are the same.
ZARAGOZAEach, as you mentioned Warren, each person or each business owner has adapted the basic Peruvian chicken recipe to their particular taste, and it's really hard to...
NNAMDII'm afraid we're just about out of time. We gotta help Warren get a (word?) at his house for the next birthday that his daughter has.
ROJASPlease do. Please do.
NNAMDIWarren Rojas is the dining editor for Northern Virginia Magazine. Thank you for joining us.
ROJASThank you, sir.
NNAMDIAnd Yvette Zaragoza is the regional training manager for the Latino Economic Development Corporation. Thank you for joining us.
ZARAGOZAThank you, Kojo.
NNAMDI"The Kojo Nnamdi Show" is produced by Brendan Sweeney, Tara Boyle, Michael Martinez and Ingalisa Schrobsdorff, with help from Kathy Goldgeier and Elizabeth Weinstein. Help also from A.C. Valdez and Anne Hoffman. The engineer today is Andrew Chadwick. Dorie Anisman has been on the phones. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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