Most Peruvian dishes start with a simple aderezo as a base, which adds an amazing burst of flavor to almost anything. Aderezo is to us what sofrito is to Italians: a simple mixture of chopped onions and garlic, fried to perfection until very tender but not brown. To these ingredients you can add some chili pepper paste (aji amarillo paste, aji panca, aji mirasol or make it green by adding cilantro). Which aderezo you use will depend on the dish you are making. This base is what gives flavor to the tastiest soups, stews and sauces of our gastronomy.
The secret for a good aderezo is to make the ingredients sweat carefully. Start with a finely diced onion (we always use the red variety as it is ubiquitous in Peru and the base of our delicious cuisine). After this comes the garlic, tons of it, finely chopped or mashed to perfection with a stone (similar to a mortar) or with a knife’s very sharp blade. Sweat both ingredients in a skillet over medium heat with a little vegetable oil. You can use lard or vegetable shortening as many people do but I prefer to use oil. Cook the veggies, stirring often until they are very tender. The secret here is to make the onion so soft that you won´t feel it at all in the final dish. Add some chili pepper paste, frying carefully until the mixture curdles. Now you can add spices like cumin, turmeric, or any other you are using in the dish you are preparing. Then proceed with the preparation.
If you are making rice with duck, rice with chicken, arroz con conchas, seco, aguadito, and the countless variations of these dishes, you must add cilantro paste to this aderezo. This is also the case for most Northern dishes.