Sometimes dream assignments get even dreamier. After asking “if I’d be willing” to go to Peru and take a cruise down the Amazon, my editor said something like: As long as you’ll be in Lima, try a few top restaurants and we’ll run a sidebar on Peruvian food, which is becoming globally recognized. So after spending four days on the Amazon, I spent three days in Lima restaurants and got so much good material that the sidebar became a full-fledged feature. Here’s an excerpt – click here for the full story:

The gigantic red dragon with pointy scales and sharp fangs stops me in my tracks. I spot the fiberglass monster clinging to the top of the wall at Madam Tusan, Chef Gaston Acurio’s newest Lima restaurant, in the fashionable Miraflores neighborhood. The defiant beast speaks volumes about Peruvian cuisine: proud, authentic, and announcing itself to the world.

Acurio, who created the internationally beloved seafood restaurant La Mar, is Peru’s best-known chef. Madam Tusan, perhaps his most daring restaurant, has been dishing out a fusion of Chinese delicacies and Peruvian accents since opening last May. Tusan, which means a person of Chinese descent born in Peru, is just one of many bright lights spicing up Lima’s burgeoning culinary scene. As Peru’s chefs garner international acclaim for their culinary skills, they’re embracing fruits, vegetables, and spices from the Amazon and Andes, bringing the flavors of Peru’s jungle and coastal regions to the capital.

Chefs like Acurio are newly crowned superstars at home and around the world – La Mar has spawned restaurants in San Francisco, Santiago, and Sao Paulo, and Acurio opened La Mar Cebicheria Peruana in New York in September.

Thanks to the global fame of Acurio and other Peruvian chefs, it seems like you now find a culinary academy on almost every Lima corner. Young Peruvians who used to venture off to Paris for kitchen training can now master their skills without flashing their passports. Some Europeans are even donning aprons in the city’s culinary classes, and a Lima food fair called Mistura draws hundreds of thousands of people from around the world each September to sample delicacies prepared by Peru’s top chefs.