The youngest of five children, Bruno Andres Santa Cruz grew up in a family of working members. The young boy was dissatisfied with the food being cooked at home, and ventured to prepare on his own. After poring over recipe books, and through multiple trials fraught with failures and successes, he started learning the culinary ropes. At the age of 19, he moved from the city of his childhood – Lima, to Cuzco for greater exposure and experience in culinary studies.
Chef Cruz is now based in Istanbul, and is a renowned name in Peruvian cuisine around the world. He gave a taste of Peru’s signature dish – ceviche – at the Grand Hyatt, Muscat.
The national dish of Peru, the ceviche used to be a humble dish in the beginning. It started as a fisherman’s meal, and has now become one of the most expensive delicacies all around the world. Ceviche is an Inca word, which means ‘fish with chilli’. Its history is as colourful and flavoursome as itself, having Spanish and Japanese influences.
The delicacy is made of fish treated with simple ingredients such as onions, chilli, coriander, and fresh limejuice. It only takes a couple of minutes to marinate, which is also its ‘cooking’ time; for, the ceviche is made without using heat. “It is cooked through the chemical reactions of the citrus and spices. The citrus in the lime breaks the proteins in the fish, so if you keep it for a longer time, the fish can even get overcooked,” says Chef Cruz. “I use limes over lemons because they are sourer and have more acid concentration, so the fish gets cooked faster.”
Chef Cruz made the classic variant of the ceviche with the grouper fish. However, there are other fishes and citrus variants that can be used such as orange, pomegranate, mandarin, says the chef. “In Peru, the tradition is to use fresh white fish that is non-fatty, because fat in fish reacts with citrus and disintegrates the fish easily.”
“In every country that I visit, I try to recreate the dish with the local flavours and come up with something new that the locals can enjoy,” said Chef Cruz, who was on his first visit to Oman. “I’m surprised that in Oman, people enjoy spices. That makes me happy because spices are an integral ingredient in ceviche. In Peru there is a saying that if there is no spice in ceviche then it is not ceviche. That is why, wherever I go, I arrive a couple of days in advance so that I can try the local dishes and flavours and experiment to find a balance,” says the Peruvian chef, impressed with the response of his diners. “I always use the local fish wherever I go, and Oman has really good fresh fish. The secret to good ceviche is great fish. A great fish can become a great ceviche.”
“In Peru, food is a family affair. If someone comes home, we don’t go out to eat, but we cook at home. Sharing is highly ingrained in Peruvian culture,” says the beaming chef. “Food is a matter of pride in Peru. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, the political and social situation of the country was in a mess. So people were looking for something to be proud of, and that’s what we found through food,” relates Chef Cruz.
Recipe of Tuna and Watermelon ceviche by Chef Bruno
Red onion 15gm
Red chilli 2gm
Lime juice 30ml
Watermelon cubes 50gm
Watermelon juice 50ml
- Cut the tuna in cubes, put in a bowl, add the onion, garlic, ginger, chilli and coriander, watermelon cubes and mix gently.
- Add salt and black pepper, lime juice, mix again, add watermelon juice.
- Garnish with coriander sprigs and red chilli. Serve.