The mysteries of the Inca like Machu Picchu also apply to their superb cuisine which on day 23 of the 30 day ethnic food challenge leads to Peru. Why is it so good? Perhaps influenced by ancient appetites from elsewhere? It is out this world according to many enthusiasts and food trend spotters who predict it will be the next big influence after finishes Thai conquering the earth, the Korean Burrito is harnessed, and we get cupcakes out of our system.
Pollo a la Brasa means Grilled Chicken in Peru and Machu Picchu Charcoal Chicken & Grill means business (in Somerville). The room right in the nexus of Union Square is sit down and take out. A giant red and white ribbon proclaims its love for Peru and the place feels rustic, more like Cuzco than Lima. The only waiter and counter man is happy to explain the menu and there’s some splaining to do. (FYI; In addition to chicken sandwiches for lunch it is recommended to take a whole pollo and yucca to appease the natives back at the house - dos pájaros de un tiro). Devised in the 1950s this chicken it is simply marinated, charcoal fired and eaten with large fries and bare hands. Right after ceviche and before Chifas (Peruvian Chinese) this stuff is the most popular dish in Lima.
First however, they can get you something to drink. Purple corn drink should not be missed. The cold and fruity chicha morada is prepared from purple corn (maiz morado). Like sweet cinamon sangria but unfermented, on a hot day it is a tall cool drink of softness.
Anticucho is not Spanish but the native Quechua word for grilled skewered meat. Machu Chicken offers 3 Anticuchos; beef heart, chicken heart, gizzard (brave heart) that are all delicious. The crunch of the gizzards is textural delight alongside great flavor and condimentalized by two ajies or chili sauces that have loads of flavor and a creeping heat after the fact. The pale green Amarillo Verde Aji has the gentle kick while the yellow Ricotto Aji is picante and creamy. They are destined for the Pollo a la Brasa which is traditional but the anticuchos and a side of boiled yucca benefit as well.
Cusqueña, beer from Peru since 1879, is golden fizzy sweet and lightly malty with unmistakable corn and rice adjuncts (no matter what the label says). Corn is everything as well as potatoes in Peru and seasonal Choclo Peruano con Queso is like cob corn on steroids. Giant juicy corny kernels and resilient cubes of fresh white cheese are refreshing and the dish quickly disappears. Two Sandwiches are the first bird of the day. Traditional with salsa Criolla & provolone and Parrillero (Peru BBQ) on crispy French fresh rolls that are dressed with lettuce, tomato, and mayo then split, traded, and devoured with (aji) relish.
The sweet way out is Mazamorra Morada, a confectionary purple porridge typical of Peru made from purple corn starch concentrate. Bits of fruit and hints of clove make this cold treat quick work for two spoons. The last detail is a box of 10 Alfajores to go. This from scratch ultimate better butter biscuit “oreo” is triple double stuffed with milk jam (manjar blanco) and showered in powdered sugar and will join the pollo to go finishing the second of two perfect Peruvian repasts.
Machu Picchu Charcoal Chicken & Grill
25 N Union St, Somerville, MA 02145