Welcome to a taste of Peru at Antojitos Del Peru, located in Lenexa KS, a suburb of Kansas City. Owner and Chef, Norma Palomino will welcome you to experience her authentic Peruvian foods.
The Beauty of Peru
If you have not been to Peru, it is a country of dramatic and diverse people, landscape, and food. Chefs from around the world are inspired by the cuisine and how it draws from the three main geographical areas – the Pacific coast, the Andean highlands and the Amazon rain forest. Peru has 90 different microclimates. Farmers work to preserve traditional ways of agriculture.
In Peru, you will not only find Machu Picchu- one of the new seven wonders of the world, but you can trek up the highest sand dune in the world, view Rainbow Mountain, float the Amazon river which starts in Peru or visit the Cotahuasi Canyon, the deepest canyon in the world.
The road from Peru to Kansas City for Norma
The road from Peru to Kansas City was not paved with gold for Norma Palomino, owner, chef and bartender of Antojitos Del Peru. It was, however, paved with great determination and persistence. Today, she takes great pride in bringing a taste of Peru to residents of Kansas City.
Norma’s parents were from the small town of Abancay, near Cusco. They then moved to Lima, the capital.
As a young mother, Norma realized that her work opportunities in Peru were limited and would not provide the life she wanted for her family.
In 1994, she set off for the US on foot and traveled through Central America to arrive in New Jersey, where extended family members lived. This was a truly herculean endeavor, but she made it by sheer determination.
Norma’s siblings re-located to the Midwest and encouraged Norma to move to Kansas City, as they felt it would be an appropriate place to raise her children. In 2003, once again, Norma traveled cross-country to resettle in Kansas City.
Shortly after arriving in the Kansas City area, Norma was faced with the challenge of supporting her family when her husband, Autberto, suffered an accident and could not work.
Norma had always enjoyed preparing meals for family and friends, and they relished her cooking. In due course, they were persuading Norma to start her restaurant business and share the delight of Peruvian food.
So, What Is Peruvian Food?
Peruvian food is a fusion of cultures, well before fusion foods became all the rage. It is based on the cuisines of the Inca, Spanish, Africans, Europeans, Chinese, and Japanese.
One of the stalwarts of Peruvian cuisine is Ceviche. Originated in Peru, Ceviche is a wonderful combination of raw fish marinated in lime juice and ginger. Variations of ceviche are available comprised of different seafood and different condiments such as lemon juice or soy sauce.
Potatoes are an ancient staple of Peru. There are over 4,000 different varieties, and the Peruvians use potatoes in many forms. Popular dishes are Papas a la Huancaina, sliced potatoes topped with mildly spicy cheese sauce and garnished with sliced hard-boiled eggs: Papa Rellena, mashed potatoes filled with ground beef, hard-boiled egg, olives, onion and raisins, rolled in seasoned flour and fried (similar to the Spanish croquetas). Papa Rellenas are served with Salsa Criolla (julienned onions marinated in lime, tomato and cilantro). Another standard is Causa, mashed potato cakes filled or topped with seasoned chicken and mayonnaise.
Corn also figures prominently on any Peruvian plate. Yellow, purple and white are just a few corn colors of the more than 55 varieties of corn grown in Peru. Famous for their giant corn kernels, corn is served as an appetizer, part of the meal or even in desserts, such as Mazamorra Morada, a purple corn pudding.
Another well-known food from Peru that is not on the Antonjitos Del Peru menu is cuy al horno (roasted guinea pig). The cuy, or guinea pig, is a traditional dish eaten in Peru during important festivals, and served crispy complete with head, legs and eyes. It is healthier with a lot more protein and less fat than llama meat (also not on the menu).
What makes the dishes Norma prepares so delicious is her mastery in blending the commonly used Peruvian spices and seasonings which are exotic to the American palate.
These include Huacatay known as Peruvian black mint with a flavor profile similar to a blend of basil and spearmint and Paico with a flavor profile with notes of mint, citrus and pine. Lending heat to proceedings are a variety of indigenous chili peppers such as Amarillo, Rocoto and Panca.
When you visit Antojitos del Peru, you will find many traditional Peruvian dishes. Norma’s favorite entrée dish to prepare is Lomo Saltado, the national dish of Peru. This is comprised of marinated beef sautéed with tomatoes, onion and soy sauce. Served with French fries and rice, this dish is a true testament to the fusion of Amer-Indian and Japanese flavors.
Another classic dish is Aji de Gallina, shredded chicken in a spicy sauce made of crushed walnuts and Parmesan cheese.
And, to end the meal with a scrumptious dessert, Norma’s favorites are Leche Asada and Alfajor. Leche Asada is a delicious custard style dessert made with milk, sugar and eggs, while Alfajores are delicate cookies made with flour and cornstarch and filled with dulce de leche.
And no, Norma has not forgotten about the drinks. If you move to the bar, an impressively crafted Pisco Sour is on tap. Pisco is a Peruvian grape brandy and is mixed with lemons, sugar water, egg whites, ice and finished with bitters to make a Pisco Sour.
However, if you are more interested in non-alcoholic drinks you can find a number of options such as Chicha Morada, a Peruvian beverage made from purple corn, sugar and spices, Jugo de Marucaya or passion fruit juice, Inca Kola a yellow soft drink and Postobon, an apple flavored soda.
The Path to Perfection
Norma is quite modest about her journey. Her initial food experience began in Lima where she worked in an Italian pastry shop for 12 years and took baking classes. Norma makes all the desserts served at her restaurant!
With encouragement from her family and friends, Norma (Normita to friends) decided to share her love of Peruvian food.
In 2014, she started her restaurant in a much smaller space. She quickly discovered the need for a bigger space for large family gatherings and that she had an unaccommodating landlord, so it wasn’t long before she was looking for an alternate venue.
Moving in 2017, the restaurant she has today is decorated with Peruvian style colors and décor. Norma’s focus was to create a warm and welcoming place where her guests would feel comfortable experiencing a taste of Peru.
When you walk through the door, you will find a melting pot of Kansas City locals – people from Central America as well as many Norte Americanos. During lunch, patrons come from neighboring businesses. During weekend evenings, you can often find it looking like date night. And, Sundays, large family gatherings following church are common. Sometimes, Norma reports, the families are standing outside just waiting for the doors to open.
She is passionate about every Peruvian dish created. The food is made each day from scratch, using the finest ingredients. It may take a little more time to prepare a favorite meal, but it is worth the wait!
This determined lady does not stand still and has yet another Peruvian restaurant concept in mind. Her children, Thomas and Susanna, work with her today. Thomas is encouraging Norma to open an upscale, gourmet concept which he will help operate. So, you should expect this new concept to open sometime during 2020. In the meantime, Norma is frequently asked if she would franchise her concept so others across the country could enjoy her creations. At the moment she is content to keep her focus on the Kansas City market. For others who might contemplate opening a restaurant, her advice is to just tell yourself you can do it and then do it!
Norma loves to introduce Peruvian food to those who have not experienced it. She is happy when her guests walk away happy and return for another taste of Peru. You can be sure I will be one of the returning guests!
Norma, daughter Susanna and granddaughter Amy
Norma, granddaughter Amy and grandson John Paul
Norma and son Thomas
Antojitos Del Peru
7809 Quivira Road, Lenexa KS 816—220-1723
Monday - Closed
Tuesday – Thursday 11am - 9 pm
Friday – Saturday 11am – 10 pm
Sunday 11 am – 9:30 pm
About the Author
Susan K Spaulding loves to share the stories of others and believes that each of us has a powerful life story to tell. Sharing the stories of immigrants who are now successful restauranteurs is inspiring and mouthwatering. Susan is part of a multicultural family with a Japanese brother-in-law, a Canadian sister-in-law and a Peruvian sister-in-law along with the many multi-cultural family members. She enjoys giving diversity a voice and making connections around the globe.
Sources: Norma Palomino