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Jalea is an enormous thing, an acre and a half of fish and shrimp, squid and octopus, scallops and clams, potatoes and chunked yuca, brown and sizzling, piled halfway to the ceiling, still smoking from its bath of hot oil. You've had fried shellfish before, but the clams and scallops in the jalea from El Rocoto are dipped in batter and fried still in their shells, which are almost impossible to prize open without burning your fingers. You've had fried yuca, too, probably at a Caribbean restaurant, but this yuca is especially appealing, frazzled to a deep crunch on the outside and almost molten inside. There is a sprinkling of chancho on top, toasted kernels of oversized Peruvian corn, and an intensely tart salsa criolla, made with shaved red onions, chiles and fresh lime juice. You'll find most of the other Peruvian stalwarts on the menu here, too: papas a la Huancaina, served cold and bathed in a smooth, dense sauce of cheese and mild chiles; choros a la criolla, cold mussels dressed with a lime-intensive fresh salsa; saffron-scented Peruvian tamales steamed in banana leaves. There are usually a few desserts available at El Rocoto, but you will inevitably finish with alfajores, freshly baked Peruvian shortbread cookies, dense as ingots of pure silver, sandwiching a filling of gooey Peruvian milk caramel. It's the only cookie I have ever encountered that can feed a family of four.
Photo by Anne FishbeinAs bouillabaisse is the specialty of Marseilles and paella the most famous dish of Valencia, jalea is the great specialty of Lima’s industrial port suburb Callao, a fry-up reinforced with tubers and oniony salsa that seems... More »
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