Cary author serves up Latin American street food

aweigl@newsobserver.comAugust 28, 2013 

  • Meet the Author

    Cary cookbook author Sandra Gutierrez has a series of upcoming events for her new book:

    • 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Quail Ridge Books, 3522 Wade Ave., Raleigh. This book launch event is being catered by Raleigh’s Guasaca Arepa & Salsa Grill.

    • 7 p.m. Sept. 11, Barnes & Noble, 760 SE Maynard Road, Cary.

    • 1 p.m. Sept. 14, Southern Season at University Mall, Chapel Hill. This is a cooking class, which costs $45. To register, call 919-929-7133 or visit (Gutierrez has two other upcoming classes at Southern Season on Nov. 10 and Dec. 14.)

    • 7 p.m. Sept. 18, Culinary Historians of the Piedmont North Carolina meeting at Flyleaf Books, 752 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Chapel Hill. Open to the public. Info:

    • 7:30 p.m. Sept. 25, Barnes & Noble at Streets at Southpoint, Durham.

    • 4 p.m. Oct. 19, The Country Bookstore, 140 NW Broad St., Southern Pines.

Long before thousands of people flocked to Raleigh’s Fayetteville Street for food truck rodeos, street food has been a cultural institution from Mexico to Argentina.

Cary cookbook author Sandra Gutierrez fondly recalls her first bite of a hot, sweet churro from a vendor on the streets of Guatemala City where she grew up. Her mother didn’t cook but loved street food and would gather up her children on a whim to go out and satisfy a craving. Gutierrez said, “Those were my favorite days.”

Gutierrez, who has made a career as a cooking teacher and food writer translating Latin American food for American cooks, has tapped into her knowledge of that mobile cuisine with her latest cookbook: “Latin American Street Food.” Her first book event is Tuesday at Raleigh’s Quail Ridge Books, followed by more events across the Triangle.

Even though Gutierrez knew about street food before she started researching for this book, based on her own eating and traveling, she was surprised to learn what turned an enterprise that dates back to colonial times into a daily way of eating in many Latin American countries.

This is what she discovered: Until the mid-to late 1970s, many Latin American cultures permitted a 2-hour break so workers could go home to eat lunch. Gutierrez remembers such a midday commute as a school child. But population growth in large cities, increased traffic congestion and the worldwide gas shortage in the late 1970s curtailed that tradition, and street food vendors multiplied to sell food to hungry city workers.

Gutierrez’s book offers a glimpse of the variety of food that ended up being sold on streets from Lima to Mexico City. There are recipes for ceviche, tacos and tamales, sandwiches, food on a stick and even sweets. They illustrate both the diversity and similarities among Latin America’s 21 separate cuisines and reflect how immigrants from Japan to Italy ended up influencing some country’s food traditions.

In those recipes, home cooks can see Asian flavors creeping into Peruvian food with its fried squid ceviche, similar to Japanese tempura. There are Brazil’s black-eyed fritters called acarajes, which are descended from the akkras made by the Yoruba people in Nigeria and Benin. And what is likely the most famous Mexican taco, tacos al pastor with roasted pork and pineapple, is related to the Middle Eastern gyro – The meat for both dishes are roasted on a long upright spits and shaved directly onto the pita bread or tortilla.

“We eat our history in Latin America,” Gutierrez explained.

To see a printable recipe, click on link:

Tuna Ceviche

Tuna Ceviche From “Latin American Street Food: The Best Flavors of Markets, Beaches, and Roadside Stands from Mexico to Argentina,” by Sandra A. Gutierrez (UNC Press, 2013). 1 1/2 pounds fresh, sashimi-grade tuna, cut into 1/4-inch dice 1 1/2 cups fresh lime juice 1/2 cup minced roasted red bell pepper 1/2 cup minced cilantro (leaves and tender stems) 1/2 cup seeded and minced plum tomatoes 1/3 cup minced red onion 1/4 cup minced jalapeno peppers (seeded and deveined if less heat is desired) 1/4 cup minced chives Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

COMBINE tuna, lime juice, bell pepper, cilantro, tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, and chives; stir well to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour (up to 4 hours.) Season with salt and pepper and serve well chilled. Yield: 8 as an appetizer, 4 as a main course

Weigl: 919-829-4848, or on Twitter, @andreaweigl

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