Exquisite Peruvian flavors, melding centuries of global influences and a link to the Incas, are showing up on more upscale menus in South Florida. Yet for the best, authentic fare, we still head to small, neighborhood nooks like Malulo’s in Pompano Beach.Peruvian friends have been raving about the delicioso dishes prepared by owner-chef Eduardo “Malulo” Durand, with help from his wife and three grown children. Durand grew up in Cerro de Pasco in central Peru, where he developed a love of cooking in his parents’ kitchen. He learned more about his country’s diverse food when he traveled as a salesman for a laboratory company. If Durand liked a dish, says his daughter Meilyn Reiterer, he would head straight to the kitchen to ask the chef about its preparation. When the firm closed, Durand turned his passion into a business, launching his first restaurant in Peru. Six years ago, he opened his modest, 60-seat Pompano Beach restaurant, decorated with clay wind chimes, blankets and other mementos from home and brightened with red and white tablecloths. Lots of Peruvian transplants eat at Malulo’s, savoring traditional dishes like anticuchos (skewered beef heart), chaufa de pollo (fried rice with chicken) and the country’s famed ceviches. But everyone will feel welcome. Reiterer’s husband, Hans, is a great help explaining dishes and making recommendations. He gave us good advice for adding a bit of zing to the mild chile-cheese sauce topping a starter of yuquitas a la huancaina (lightly fried yuca): Mix in a little of the pink hot sauce accompanying a complementary snack of cancha (roasted corn kernels). He also suggested the cool, fresh strawberry juice, served in a pitcher with a head of light froth — perfect for a hot summer’s day. The same goes for ceviche mixto, a plateful of raw fish, octopus, shrimp, mussels and other seafood in a refreshing lime juice marinade with thinly sliced red onions, large kernels of Peruvian corn and a slice of cooked sweet potato. Hot rocoto chiles energize but don’t overwhelm the dish. And here’s a tip: Peruvians consider the leftover ceviche marinade, called leche de tigre (tiger’s milk), a great hangover cure. Malulo’s offers a glass for $5.98. As comforting as a good book on a rainy day, chupe de camarones is a homey soup with an aromatic broth spiked with red chile and oregano. It’s packed with shrimp, rice, a little cheese, tomatoes, onions, a few peas and carrots plus slices of fried egg. Tacu tacu, a product based on the belief that “food should never be wasted,” Meilyn Reiterer says, is made with leftover beans and rice in Peruvian homes. Ours was made with canario beans, similar to navy beans, pureed and formed into a large, pan-fried patty with onions and rice. It’s plated with lomo saltado, the classic beef stir-fry, a dish that reflects the impact of Chinese laborers on Peru’s culinary history. Italian immigrants (along with Spanish conquerors and African slaves) left their imprint, too, and risotto is a popular item. We especially like a rich, creamy version made with shrimp broth, perfectly cooked short-grained rice and lots of shrimp, mushrooms and Parmesan cheese. Other hits include ají de gallina, shredded chicken in a creamy chile sauce with sliced potatoes and hard-boiled eggs and grilled swai, a mild fish that tastes like catfish, topped with a delicate garlic sauce. The flan was so-so, but we devoured house-made chocolate and lucuma mousse layered in a glass cup. The lucuma, a fruit native to Peru’s highlands, tastes a little like butterscotch. Like dining at Malulo’s, it’s exotic, yet a taste of home, wherever that may be.
If you goPlace: Malulo’s International Seafood
Address: 900 E. Atlantic Blvd., Suite No. 1, Pompano Beach
Rating:★ ★ ★ (Very Good)
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday, noon-8 p.m. Sunday
Prices: Starters $4.98-$14.98, entrees $10.98-$18.98, desserts $3.98-$4.98, kids’ menu $6.98
FYI: Wine and Peruvian beer. AX, MC, VS.