What Are Anticuchos?

Eugene P.

.Anticucho is a meat dish that originated in Peru but spread and became popular throughout many countries in South and Central America. The original recipe was first recorded in the 16th century in South America, where it was a meal of marinated llama meat that was cooked directly in a fire. When the Spanish conquistadors encountered anticuchos, they modified the recipe to use foods that were more familiar to them, primarily beef. As time progressed, anticuchos became skewered, marinated meat that was grilled over charcoal and served with corn or boiled potatoes. It is still a very popular dish in Peru and is sold by vendors on the street and as an appetizer in restaurants.

Spanish conquistadors modified the recipe for anticuchos to include beef.
Spanish conquistadors modified the recipe for anticuchos to include beef.

The most traditional version of anticuchos that is served begins with beef heart. The heart is cleaned by removing all of the veins and pockets of fat that are attached to the meat, after which it is cubed into bite-size pieces. The meat is then placed into a marinade for anywhere from a half-hour to overnight.

Cracked black pepper is often used in anticuchos marinade.
Cracked black pepper is often used in anticuchos marinade.

The marinade has some core components but also is regularly customized by street vendors and families. The basic parts of an anticuchos marinade are garlic, oil, vinegar, cumin, salt, black pepper and an aji pepper. These ingredients are combined, and the cubed beef heart is coated in the liquid. Most recipes call for the heart to be marinated overnight, although this amount of time can change depending on any modifications to the basic marinade.

One ingredient considered vital in anticuchos in some areas is the aji pepper. This is a type of red pepper that does not have a lot of heat like other peppers. Instead, the aji pepper has a more fruitlike flavor that develops as it is roasted.

Some variations to the marinade include using coffee to provide a different, rich flavor or removing the cumin to let more of the meat flavor come through. In addition, the beef heart can be replaced with another type of meat, usually beef, although anything that can be placed on a skewer can be used, including firm fish and pork. Unlike other skewered meat dishes, anticuchos does not usually call for vegetables to be interspersed between the pieces of meat on the skewer.

The skewered meat is cooked over a fire, usually made with coal instead of gas, for a short amount of time. This is because the heart will become rubbery and have an unpleasant texture if it is cooked too long. The meat can be basted with more of the marinade while grilling. When finished, the end of the skewer can be capped with a piece of bread or a boiled potato.

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