Peruvian cuisine is more that just the simple pleasure of enjoying some tasty dishes. It is above all the convergence of a mixture of flavors and spicy aromas from different cultures that have fusioned through the centuries to give rise to an unique ethnoculinary experience of high quality.
La Canela, which translates to "Cinnamon", was opened in winter of 2007 as a sister restaurant to La Flor de la Canela, our popular restaurant in Gaithersburg. Having for nearly 10 years owned and operated la Flor de la Canela, which was aimed primarily at a Peruvian audience, we felt it was time for us to open a more upscale place in order to share our cuisine and culture with a broader audience. Hence, the idea for La Canela was born. At the same time we were looking for a space to lease, the Rockville Town Square was opening its first shops. We were offered a spot on Gibbs Street, which at the time looked like a little more than a block of cement. Our intention was to build the restaurant as a replica of a traditional colonial house in Lima, adding to the ambiance and feeling of a family having dinner at home. Our greatest wish is to share with everyone who walks through our doors a little piece of our beloved Perú.
About Peruvian cuisine
The culinary story of Peru is a remarkable fusion of cultures and flavors, much like the culinary revolution which has been taking place here in the US over the last few decades. Today, modern American cuisine is influenced by every culture from Nepalese to Italian. Every culture which has immigrated, has contributed to some extent to what is known today as Modern American Cuisine. In Peru, the story is similar, but it has unfolded over a period of 500 years. Every culture that immigrated brought their crops which had little trouble adapting in Peruvian soil due to the diverse microclimates of the country: In peru. every root found a home. Below is a brief introduction to the most important culinary contributions:
The Incas and the potato. The Inca Empire developed an elaborate irrigation system which allowed them to domesticate thousands of grains, tubers and peppers which quickly became their staple. The potato was the most important contribution by the Incas to the world. The potato is native to the Andes and the Incas cultivated more than 1000 different types. They also used Quinoa, Amaranth and hundreds of different peppers which today are the DNA of Peruvian cuisine.
The Spanish and their rice. With the arrival of Francisco Pizarro in 1532, along came thousands of European crops and products: Wheat, garlic, olives, oils, cattle and dairy products... Just as Pizarro "discovered" and introduced the potato to the rest of the world, it was also he who brought the first grains of rice to Peruvian shores. Today, you will find only a handful of dishes that we do not accompany with a portion of garlic and olive oil scented white rice.
The Italians and their pasta. By the year 1860, there were over 25,000 non Spanish Europeans living in Lima, 90% of them Italian. This may not sound like much by today's standards, but in that particular year, it made up more than 35% of a total population a little over than 92,000. The Italians, as they do wherever they go, contributed a great deal not only in the form of products like pastas, breads and sauces, but they also revolutionized our cooking approach. They transformed our peppers, which we used today as either fresh or in the form of pastes. There isn't a single Peruvian stew or soup that does not use Aji paste or some other kind of paste as a core ingredient. The essential pastes are Aji Panca paste, Aji Amarillo paste and Aji Mirasol paste. Without those ingredients, La Canela would probably not exist.
The Chinese - soy sauce and ginger. The importance of the Chinese immigration, which started in 1849, can be seen and tasted in most of our dishes. The Chinese are probably the most important contributors to what is today known as Peruvian cuisine. They brought a whole new universe of flavors and aromas, as well as cooking techniques which quickly merged and fused with our native spices and products giving birth to the "Chifa." Chifa is the result of a fusion between Peruvian and Chinese cuisine and it is cooked at home as well as in restaurants all over Peru. It is by far the most popular approach to Peruvian cooking.
The Japanese and their Sashimi. In 1899, with the beginning of Japanese immigration into Perú, the country was introduced to the world of raw-food cuisine. Even though the Incas did consume raw fish cooked in fermented maize juice, there is no doubt that Peruvian Ceviches and Tiraditos, which are two of our flagship dishes, would not exist had it not been for Japanese influence and elegance.