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[photo: Anna Virkama de Cabrejos]

Peruvian Desserts, Demystified

Yesterday, our Lima correspondent Anna Virkama de Cabrejos gave us an explanation of some classic Peruvian dishes that might go overlooked by travelers or those unfamiliar with Peruvian cuisine due to their odd names.  Today, she’s talking dessert, giving us some insight into the sweeter side of Peruvian fare.  From squash donuts to a dessert that might confuse some Texans, the sweet side of Peru’s national menu is just as delicious and tantalizing as the savory.  See for yourself. 

By Anna Virkama de Cabrejos

[photo: Anna Virkama de Cabrejos]

[photo: Anna Virkama de Cabrejos]

Here’s a look at ten Peruvian desserts with curious names and delicious flavors.

Mazamorra Morada
A popular dessert sold in parks and public gatherings, especially in religious feasts of October celebrating El Señor de los Milagros (The Lord of Miracles). The main ingredient of this pudding is maíz morado, Peruvian purple corn. It is also known as “combinado”, as it is often combined in layers with another typical dessert, arroz con leche (see below).

Arroz con Leche
This sweet rice pudding is a dessert that is common in many parts of South America. In Peru, it often comes in combination with Mazamorra morada, layered on top of it. You can also enjoy it alone. There are many variations to this basic recipe, so a wide variety of flavors is available.

Crocante de lucuma
Lucuma is a fruit that goes particularly well in desserts as it has a soft and sweet caramel taste.  In crocante de lucuma, the fruit is baked into a crunchy, crumble-like pie. Lucuma is also used for cheesecakes, ice creams, pralines, pies and puddings.

Picarones
These doughnut-like deep-fried pastries soaked in sticky chancaca molasses are often sold in parks and events, or served as a dessert in anticuchos (grilled meat skewers) restaurants.  Instead of flour, the main ingredient of picarones is squash or sweet potato.

Turron de Doña Pepa
Like Mazamorra Morado, this sweet pastry is also typically consumed in October, when celebrating the Lord of Miracles. The story has it that an Afro-Peruvian lady known as Doña Pepa was healed by the Lord of Miracles. Grateful for this miracle, she decided to come every October to Lima to sell her turrones. They are made of anise-flavored cookies layered and glued together with chancaca molasses and topped with colorful candy sprinkles.

Terremoto de Chirimoya
Apart from lucuma, cherimoya (also spelled chirimoya)  is another sweet Andean fruit that goes extremely well in desserts. In terremoto (literally, “earthquake”), the chirimoya fruit is mixed with cream and topped with meringue. Try chirimoya also in cheesecakes, soufflés, crumbles and ice creams.

Suspiro Limeño
“Whisper” is one of the most common Peruvian desserts and you can find it everywhere from fancy restaurants to street vendors’ stands. It is made of manjar blanco (milk caramel spread), egg yolks and milk, flavored with vanilla and covered with a meringue layer.

Queso Helado
Although the name translates as “cheese ice-cream”, this dessert does not have cheese in it. It is made with milk, coconut and cinnamon, and it is a typical dessert in Arequipa. Why the name? Cut into square pieces, this ice cream looks like cheese on your plate.

Tejas
If someone stops you on the street to sell old-fashioned looking sweets wrapped in white paper, chances are you’re being offered tejas -sweet confections from tbe Ica region of Peru. They are either covered with white fondant or with chocolate, in which case they are called chocotejas. They are filled with manjar blanco caramel spread and various other ingredients including: peanuts, prunes, pecans, etc.

Tres Leches
Although this dessert is not uniquely Peruvian -one can find it in Spain and many other parts of Latin America -it is one of the most popular desserts in Peru. Delicious pastry or cake made with spongy cake is moistened with three types of milk: heavy cream, condensed milk and evaporated milk. The texture is very similar to an Italian tiramisu . Variations on the dessert include chocolate and vanilla versions, as well as layered with fruit, and so on.

[photo: Laurent Lhomond]

What’s Cooking In The Earth? Curanto And Pachamanca, Explained.

By Joanna Marracelli

Utilizing the earth to prepare food over hot stones is one of the most primitive forms of cooking known to man.  Archeologists depend on the discovery of these dug-out holes for evidence of human settlements.  Today, they are still being used by many cultures around the world.  For example, there are various riffs on the ‘umu’ in the South Pacific islands (known in Fiji as a lovo and an imu in Hawaii), the h?ngi in New Zealand and even the clam bake in New England.  They all use the earth as a cooking vessel. There are different variations to each method but the general idea is the same.  In general, these dishes are only reserved for special occasions because of their labor-intensive nature.

[photo: Laurent Lhomond]

[photo: Laurent Lhomond]

South America has its own versions too.  Pachamanca in Peru is so popular, that there are even different variations within the country (and heated arguments about which is the ‘correct’ way). Most of these areas are located within the central Peruvian Andes.  They vary slightly, like in the Huallaga valley where the dish gets flavored with a locally grown herb, chincho. Ayacucho is said to have the most authentic form and in and around Huancayo, they use lamb as a central ingredient.

The word itself comes from the Quechua and translates to earth (pacha) and pot (manca).  Like many things in Peru, it has been around since the time of the Inca empire and is steeped in ritual with sacred traditions.  It goes beyond just a method of cooking here.  It is used with reverence to pachamama (mother earth) and to give thanks to the bounty the earth offers.  The ancient Incas used to eat it at the time of harvest in February and March as a way of showing their gratitude to nature. It remains an important part of Peruvian culture and is normally reserved for times of celebration including weddings and special birthdays.

[photo: Laurent Lhomond]

[photo: Laurent Lhomond]

[photo: Laurent Lhomond]

[photo: Laurent Lhomond]


To make the dish, first a large hole is dug.  Next, volcanic stones are heated with fire until they are very hot.  The meat (chicken, pork, sometimes lamb and guinea pig for special occasions), which is usually marinated, gets placed directly on the hot stones.  Potatoes, sweet potatoes and sometimes yucca are arranged around the rocks and meat.  More hot rocks are piled on.  Special herbs like marmakilla, huacatay and paico are laid over the entire thing. On top of the herbs, whole habas (fava beans) and sometimes corn are added.  Humitas and tamales are often included inside, too.  Damp cloths are laid over the herbs and finally it’s all covered back up with the earth’s soil.  It takes less than a half hour for everything to cook.  To eat it, simply dig up the earth, take everything out and enjoy as is.  The meat cooks up succulently between the combination of the hot stones and the steam.  The vegetables are all perfectly tender.

[photo: Laurent Lhomond]

[photo: Laurent Lhomond]

[photo: Laurent Lhomond]

[photo: Laurent Lhomond]

Southern Chile also has a rendition.  Curanto en hoyo (translating to ‘curanto in the ground’) was originated on the island of Chiloé where it is still extensively prepared. Although slightly controversial, some believe that it was the influence of early Polynesian settlers who first brought the dish over.  Like other earth-baked dishes, it utilizes native ingredients found on the island like nalca leaves, special varieties of potato, and fish.  The dish is found all over the island of Chiloé but has also migrated to the mainland, in places like Puerto Montt and Valdivia, where it is most likely made in a pressure cooker, rather than the traditional earthen way.

[photo: Laurent Lhomond]

[photo: Laurent Lhomond]

[photo: Laurent Lhomond]

[photo: Laurent Lhomond]

Curanto dates back over 6,000 years ago.  On the north coast, near Ancud, archeologists have uncovered an ancient curanto en hoyo at the archeological site of Puente Quilo.  The word curanto comes from the Mapuche’s kurantu, meaning ‘stony ground’. But the curanto had been prepared years before the Mapuche.  The Chono were a hunter-gatherer, nomadic group and were the original indigenous people of the Chiloé archipelago.  It is more widely held that the dish originated with the Chono, who are now extinct.  The Chono’s last survivor died in 1875.

[photo: Laurent Lhomond]

[photo: Laurent Lhomond]

[photo: Laurent Lhomond]

[photo: Laurent Lhomond]

There are slight variations of curanto found all over the island but all of them take advantage of Chiloé’s bountiful, fresh seafood.  To prepare a curanto, first a hole is dug and a fire is built inside to heat large stones, similar to the pachamanca. When the stones are fiery hot, meat is placed on top of them. Usually chicken, chorizo sausage and ham is used.  After the meat come the potatoes.  The island of Chiloé is famous for its variety of potatoes and normally 3 different varieties are used in the curanto.  Large, edible nalca leaves (known as Chilean rhubarb) which are ubiquitous in the area, are used to cover up the meat and potatoes.

[photo: Laurent Lhomond]

[photo: Laurent Lhomond]

[photo: Laurent Lhomond]

[photo: Laurent Lhomond]

Shellfish is the next layer that is added. Traditionally a curanto contains cholgas (large mussels), almejas (clams), machas (razor clams) and picorocos (giant barnacles).  More nalca leaves are used to make another layer and lastly, due to their fragility, milcao and chapaleles are added. The first is a kind of potato pancake made from grated potatoes and the latter is more of a Chilean dumpling made from both flour and potatoes.  Both are molded into small discs and placed on top before being covered with a final layer of nalca leaves.  The entire thing gets sealed up with wet sacks, usually some earth too with the grass facing inward, and then left to cook for about an hour.  The leaves give the dish great flavor and help with steaming.

[photo: Laurent Lhomond]

[photo: Laurent Lhomond]


The resulting curanto gets uncovered and is served fresh, usually with some Chilean wine or chicha and pebre (a Chilean salsa-like condiment made from tomatoes, onions and cilantro).  Like Pachamanca, it is often only assembled for large celebrations.  The shellfish turns out beautifully. Potatoes and milcao are perfectly steamed.  The meat remains juicy. The flavor from the nalca leaves and its ability to steam everything is flawless.

Any visit to these regions in South America is not complete without trying one of these famous dishes.  Keep an eye out for versions in Ecuador, Brazil and Paraguay too.  Although time-consuming and marginally labor-intensive, the end result is well worth the effort.

[photo: Ceviche UK]

Video: Making Pisco Sours With Ceviche UK’s Martin Morales!

With Peru’s national Pisco Sour day coming up this Saturday, the reports are flooding in as to where you can get your drank on and enjoy the national beverage.  Our proposal?  Start with one, or several, at home, then stumble from bar to bar that will inevitably be serving the already ubiquitous beverage.  However, should you happen to find yourself in a country other than Peru, yet still craving the delicious cocktail, chef Martin Morales and mixologist Miguel Arbe from the wildly-popular Ceviche UK in London have just a demo video for you.

Pisco Sours are quite simple:  lime juice, simple syrup, egg white, pisco.  Shake (or blend), pour, top with bitters.  See you tomorrow.  However, watching Morales and Arbe shake one up is a lot more fun, particularly because it’s set to some hot Peruvian chicha music, undoubtedly from Morales’ Tiger’s Milk records archive.  Pisco and chicha?  Why wait until Saturday to start partying?

[image: Pebre Chile]

‘Hazte Pebre’: The Mini-Doc About All Things Chile

Want to get to know a little more about what Chile’s ingredients are but don’t have the money to eat at Boragó?  Then check out this new mini-documentary series called Hazte Pebre, and see Chile region by region.  Brought to viewers by Pebre, Chile’s first collective of chefs, journalists, foodies and culinary professionals formed in order to spread and defend all that is good about Chilean cooking, the series will give insights into regional ingredients and cuisine in each episode.  In this first, high-definition episode, Paulo Russo takes us to his hometown of Talca and gives us a look at what the city has to offer.

The series will highlight simple things like homemade sandwiches and various tortas, soups, entrées and other dishes known throughout the country, but it will also highlight lesser known ingredients.  Beautifully shot and perfectly edited, the series is an instant hit.  Not just a country of the completo, Chile has so much to offer visitors and residents alike.  And Pebre’s gonna make it happen!

Check in for more episodes.  We’ll certainly be waiting.  [via Pebre]

[photo: ikurasur / Kate Casey]

Caviar in Southern Chile

[photo: Kate Casey]

[photo: Kate Casey]

Kate Casey, owner and founder of IkuraSur, is obsessed with caviar.  She has spent the past fifteen years of her life in Southern Chile cultivating her business to bring the best that the area has to offer both across the country and across the world.  As a former biologist and part of the caviar business in Alaska, she knows a little something about what she’s selling.  In this great interview with thisischile.cl, she details her transition into the caviar business, her profound respect and love for the salmon and what they do, as well as Chile.  Her site also offers some insight into aquaculture and its growing importance.  Needless to say, this isn’t just another business focused on the gourmet food industry–she truly is green.  Many restaurants including Matsuri, Ichiban and Sushi Hana are already using her product, so if you’re in Santiago, go try some ASAP!  [via This is Chile]