Foodwise it doesn’t get any more Peruvian than eating Anticuchos on the street. The spicy skewers - traditionally prepared with beef hearts - marinated in a mixture of aji panca, lime juice and / or vinegar, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper and grilled over open fire are deeply engraved in the culinary soul of every Peruvian and part of Peru’s gastronomic history for centuries.
Most probably Anticuchos originated in the Colonial era of Peru; however, there are some indications that similar dishes prepared with llama and alpaca meat were already prepared during the Inca Empire.
Anyway, during Colonial times African slaves worked on the sugar and cotton haciendas owned mainly by the families of the Spanish conquerors and their descendants. When these butchered a cow or ox, they kept the “good” parts to themselves and gave the offal, what they considered waste, to their slaves as meat ration. And without knowing it at that time the African slaves created with the Antichuos de Corozon (beef heart skewers) one of the most popular and delicious typical Peruvian dishes using the few basic ingredients available to them.
Already at the end of the Colonial era, but especially after Peru’s independence, in Republican times, indigenous and black Peruvians – mostly women - grilled Anticuchos over open fire under big clouds of smoke on the streets seducing passers-by with the beguiling smell of freshly grilled meat and spices. And the tradition lives on until today.
Today Anticuchos are still mostly a street foot or outdoors food (yes, you get them in restaurants as well, but it’s not the same), eaten on the go, at gatherings with family and friends, after common activities, at fairs or whenever people crave something smelling and tasting like home, childhood and just Peru.
The key to delicious Anticuchos is the marinate and every anticuchero/a (man or women preparing Anticuchos on the street), every chef or every mamita and abuelita of course has his or her “secret” recipe for it. So below find a basic recipe with which you can quickly and easily prepare typical Peruvian Anticuchos no matter where you are; the only ingredient that might be a bit tricky to find is the aji panca paste; however outside Peru, where it’s readily available, you can get it at most Latin American food stores.