Hundreds of Peruvians gathered in Miami on Sunday to celebrate the Chicken Festival, a culinary event organized as a preamble to the 194th anniversary of Peru’s independence, which will be commemorated next week.
From exquisite portions of causa de pollo or chicken causa — prepared on a base of delicious potato dough — to the “juanes de pollo” — a combination of tamale and rice typical to the Peruvian Amazon —booths across Miami International Airport’s Convention Center were lined by an abundance of traditional dishes.
“This festival is aimed at promoting the artistic and culinary traditions of Peru in Miami,” said Maricarmen Sega, promoter of the event. “We’re convinced that this is a way of keeping our roots alive and, happily, we count with the support of the community.”
Sega noted that her team opted to organize this festival in Miami since in Peru, the Chicken Festival has been celebrated for the past five years. She added that one of the local fair’s most popular products was the rotisserie chicken, a dish she labeled as a Peruvian staple.
In South Florida alone, the number of Peruvian restaurants has jumped from fewer than 100 to more than 300 in less than a decade, said Sega, who says that an estimated 20,000 Peruvians live in Florida.
Six years ago, Jaime Arevalo, who is from Lima, decided to start a family business and opened Las Cholitas, a restaurant in Plantation that specializes in rotisserie chicken.
“The chicken has been very well received and is not only to the liking of Peruvian clients in South Florida, but also of the varied public of the community,” said Arevalo. “Now, we’ve come to the Chicken Festival to continue promoting this popular dish.”
Aside from the food tour, attendants enjoyed folkloric performances such as the Marinera Norteña (Northern Mariner) and the Danza de Tijeras (Dance of the Scissors), an impressive Andean dance characterized by footwork and the body flexibility of its dancers.
The festival also attracted people of different nationalities, among them Rodolfo Handal, a Honduran who attended with his mom, Cristina Amaya, to “enjoy the richness of another culture.”
“We wanted to learn a little bit about Peru and truly the food is delicious,” said Handal, an auditor, who has been living in Miami for three years. “We tried a hen pepper stir-fry sauce and a causa that left us fascinated.”
Franco Cossio, Peru’s consul in Miami, said the event contributes to the promotion of Peru’s culinary traditions and called on the community to participate in a gratitude Mass in commemoration of Peru’s national holiday, which will be held at the Corpus Christi Church, 3220 NW Seventh Ave.
Five years ago, the small Iglesias Museo Peru in Miami Church was inaugurated in the parish’s surrounding areas. It was inspired on the Iglesia de Santa Maria Magdalena Church, in Lima, which has details of several temples built in the era of the Spanish conquest.
“We expect to count with the massive assistance of the public to celebrate such a special date,” said Cossio.
Follow Enrique Flor on Twitter @kikeflor