Peru is often associated with the Inca ruins and Andean mountains. While this is all true and well, the South American country deserves to be recognized just as well for its rich biodiversity that allowed various cultures to propagate. As for its cuisine, Peru doesn’t fall short on unique offerings and even sustainable methods. It’s also similar to Filipino cuisine in that almost every Filipino food or ingredient we know has a Peruvian equivalent.

Known for its predominantly seafood and vegetable menu, Samba at Shangri-la at The Fort takes sustainability seriously under the helm of Peruvian chef Carlo Huerta Echegaray. His knowledge of Peruvian ingredients and recipes was enough to gain insights on how the restaurant operates with respect for animals and the environment.

Be strict with quality

Peruvian restaurant Samba's outdoor seating
Samba’s outdoor seating

Compromising on the quality of food is not an option for Echegaray. “For example, we only fish and take octopus that weighs seven kilos. It has to be a certain size, color, and temperature so we can serve quality food to our customers. The octopus available in the market usually weighs 600 grams to a kilo, and that isn’t really ideal. We fight with the suppliers and we fight for our product.”

Partner with responsible producers

Peruvian chef Carlo Huerta Echegaray
Carlo Huerta Echegaray

Not all suppliers can meet the standards or demands of a sustainable restaurant, and those who do are still quite hard to find. “For the first year, we changed suppliers because they were not respecting our size demands. We also changed our dishes frequently due to this,” says Echegaray. It’s important to know thoroughly who your suppliers are, their principles and methods, and the ways they treat their staff.

Communicate your purpose

Peruvian flavors: Ceviche jalapeño
Ceviche jalapeño

“Most people would often ask why it’s more costly in a sustainable restaurant, but we serve food that is mostly for sharing and benefits a lot of suppliers so I’d say that is a good deal.” Eating in a sustainable restaurant means you’re eating organic and naturally processed food. Aside from the fact that organic food grows slower and costs for growing them are higher, you also pay for the labor that small suppliers exert to provide better growing conditions.

Think long-term

Peruvian flavors at Samba: Chicharon de calamari
Chicharon de calamari

By 2050, there would have been around 10 billion people to feed with less food and a more unbearable climate. Sustainable food for everyone is a challenge, but it is possible to be able to supply enough food for a bigger demand in the future if we set boundaries in today’s harvests. “I’m a chef because I love to cook, but I love to eat more. And I think that when I’m getting old I will long to see and consume the ingredients that I have when I was a kid,” says Echegaray.

Respect the produce

Causa de salmon
Causa de salmon

Peru is home to a diverse agriculture that has around 3,000 varieties of potato and 270 types of chili. It even produces prima and tanguis (two of the world’s finest cotton strains), and vegetables not available in other countries. “We should take care of our endemic species and respect them where they grow,” says Echegaray.