Menu Explorer: Peruvian-Style Rotisserie Chicken at El Mono

Like a lot of you, I consider myself an adventurous eater. When I visit a restaurant that serves the food of another culture, I’m not going to order a cheeseburger. Food provides a window into international cultures and an opportunity to learn about the people, places, and flavors of communities around the world. Why squander that opportunity?

When I visit El Mono, the outstanding Peruvian restaurant located at 2400 East 70th Street in Shreveport, I typically order ceviche (National Geographic says “If Peru had an official national dish, it would probably be this preparation of raw fish marinated in citrus juice.”) or a steak dish called lomo saltado. If you’d told me six months ago that I’d eventually wind up becoming a shout-it-from-the-rooftops fan of their roasted chicken, I wouldn’t have believed you. But here we are.

A photo of El Mono in Shreveport
The pollo a la brasa from El Mono in Shreveport.

It turns out that rotisserie chicken is an extremely popular dish in Peru, where it’s known as pollo a la brasa. There’s even a Peruvian holiday (July 21) that is designated the Official Day of Pollo a la Brasa. There are special rotisserie ovens made in Peru just for preparing pollo a la brasa (El Mono has one of the ovens, which they went to a great deal of trouble and expense to have shipped to the U.S. and installed in their kitchen), but the real magic of pollo a la brasa is marinating and seasoning.

“The biggest thing is the spices, the herbs,” said Matt Khadivian, co-owner of El Mono. “We keep the chicken in the marinade for a minimum of 36 hours. That’s really the trick. Honestly, it’s a simple recipe, but it’s genius in its simplicity.”

Those herbs and spices include lots of achiote and rosemary – visible on the vibrant golden skin of the chicken when it’s served – as well as cumin and other spices. National Geographic says that the marinade traditionally includes soy sauce flavored with red peppers, garlic, and cumin. The chicken cooks relatively quickly – just 80 minutes – but remains incredibly juicy and tender. A half chicken sells for $14.99, a whole chicken for $20.99 (more details here), and it’s worth the price.

In addition to a fancy oven and a secret marinade, the chicken is improved by its freshness. In many restaurants and grocery stores, roasted chicken often loses its character as a result of being warmed under a heat lamp for hours and hours on end. El Mono prepares fresh birds twice each day: for the lunch crowd and for the dinner crowd. That commitment to freshness is evident with every incredibly flavorful bite.

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Read about the history of that Peruvian oven.
If you enjoy this kind of writing, download the third edition of Eat Here: A Food Lover’s Guide to Shreveport-Bossier.


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