Peruvian desserts : a hidden treasure of Peruvian Cuisine
Ah, Peru. The land of the Incas, and countless other ancient societies; a mountainous gem of a country located on South American’s Pacific coast. While much is known of the Incas, and the other myths and legends that lie within Peru, outside of its boundaries there is a certain mystery that still remains.
For those of us who live outside of South America, our first thoughts when thinking of the continent generally tend to focus on places like Brazil, and Argentina; countries that are more “westernized” and less indigenous. But Peru’s mixture of both past and present has led to a very unique culture indeed, and the first place one’s mind goes to when thinking about a culture is food, and when I think about food, I think about dessert!
It’s true, I’ll admit it, I have a notorious sweet tooth (at least according to my family and friends), so naturally I use a nation’s after-dinner cuisine as my launching point toward discovering all that I can about it, and Peru is no different.
There is a common misconception associated with South American cuisine, and that is the notion that it is all Hispanic. This couldn’t be further from the truth, citing Brazil with its Portuguese heritage as the biggest example of this falsehood. Though Peru has strong Spanish ties in its food, its indigenous cultures and African influences from colonial times make for a very unique blend, one which is highlighted in its desserts.
Peruvian desserts rely heavily on indigenous agricultural ingredients, as well as dairy products. There are so many actual dishes, that I’ll highlight the three which stand out the most in representing Peru.
I’ll begin with the classic Arroz con Leche, which is basically the Peruvian equivalent of rice pudding. One of Peru’s most popular desserts, which was brought to the country by Spanish Conquistadors, Arroz con Leche is made with rice, evaporated milk, and sweetened condensed milk. It’s a simple, yet incredible comfort food, a definite must have when visiting Peru.
Second (and probably my most favorite) are Picarones. Though they look like a donut at first glance, they are much, much more! Developed centuries ago by African slaves, they are essentially fritters made from sweet potatoes and squash, which is then mixed together with a yeast-based dough, and then deep fried (I can almost taste them as I write). Served with chancaca, a deliciously sugary syrup, Picarones are served as both a dessert and a snack, and are a favorite amongst the many street vendors in Peru’s capital of Lima.
Third, and finally, I give you Mazamorra Morada, a dish unique to Peru as it uses Peruvian Purple Corn, which gives it a brilliant, deep purple color. I love this dish because there’s hardly anything I can compare it to, it’s that unique. The best way I can describe it is to say that its texture is that of a very thick, smooth jelly, and it contains a variety of both fresh and dried fruits inside. This makes every bite a bit of a surprise, and the case of Mazamorra Morada, surprises are good!
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As I’ve said, these are just a few of the many wonderful desserts that Peru has to offer. My advice is to search around for recipes, and try them out, because trust me, enjoying the sweets of Peru is the next best thing to actually being there!