As every year on the 3rd Sunday in October, Peru celebrates today with the "Dia Nacional del Anticucho" one of its most popular national dishes.
Anticuchos are barbecued skewers traditionally prepared with marinated beef hearts (Anticuchos de Corazon). This inexpensive and popular Peruvian dish is eaten at any given opportunity: as appetizer, as snack in-between-meals bought at one of the countless street vendors, at festivals, at parties with friends and family, basically everywhere and at any time. Anticuchos are usually served with salsa de aji, a hot and spicy Peruvian chili sauce, cooked choclo (white corn) and boiled potatoes or French fries.
Anticuchos most probably have their origin in Inca cooking. The Incas cut llama meat into small pieces, seasoned them with herbs and Aji (Peruvian chili) and barbecued them over open fire. After their arrival in Peru, the Spaniards replaced the llama meat with beef meat, which they marinated in wine and various local and brought along spices. The meat was first fried and then put on skewers.
Today’s for Peru so typical Anticuchos de Corazon, so the as Peruvian national dish celebrated skewers with beef heart, however were invented by African slaves during colonial times. The Spaniards despised of the offal and other less "noble" parts of the cattle and left this sort of "trash" to the Africans slaving on the sugar cane plantations in and around Lima. This way beef hearts became an important and nutritious part of the slave’s diet.
The slaves cut the beef hearts into small pieces and marinated them in vinegar and chicha. Afterwards they put the hearts on small sugar cane sticks and barbecued them over the open fire. Over the centuries the marinade was refined and today contains vinegar, lime juice and different spices such as aji, cumin and garlic; the preparation of the Anticuchos however remained the same as in colonial times.
Anticuchos surely are a must-eat for every Peruvian and foreign visitor. For those who prefer to stay away from beef heart, most vendors offer as well absolutely delicious Anticuchos de Pollo (prepared with chicken), Anticuchos de Carne de Res (with beef meat) and Anticuchos de Pescado (prepared with fish).