One of the reasons for why I decided to travel to Peru, was because of an encounter with Andrés Ugaz, a Peruvian man who defines himself as a gastronomic researcher. He studied anthropology but he’s also a chef and a baker.
On our way to the International Food Fair Terra Madre, organized by Slow Food in Turin, Italy, we started talking about Peruvian gastronomy. I didn’t know anything about it at that time.
In Andrés’ view, after several years of terrorist sieges and economic crises, the resurgence of Peru came from the hand of gastronomy. Gastronomy gave to this country a new impulse, a common goal, it reorganized people to support the food supply chain from its many different aspects (producers, marketers, cooks, restaurants, students and tourism promoters). Gastronomy and food culture is the new pride of Peru and people are willing to collaborate together to make it become more and more important (as demonstrated also by the latest news Peruvian named best chef in the world). Food and all the related issues can work as a social glue to bring together a nation that previously felt fragmented and shocked.
The result being that Peru has been selected by the World Travel Awards (WTA) as the World’s Leading Culinary Destination in 2016 for the fifth consecutive year.
That’s something to be proud of, there’s no doubt! Being Italian and working as an academic in food studies, I was quite impressed.
We went on talking about bread, as Andrés wrote a book titled “The traditional bakery of Peru and its plastic expressions”. According to Andrés, a major kitchen has a major bakery. Even if until not so long ago, bread was just a basic food and it was not so much considered as part of the gourmet culture, it is now starting to be more and more included. So it’s likely that a country with a rich gourmet culture has also a rich bread culture, and this is true for Peru
Bread arrived to South America during colonial times with the Spaniards and before that, the indigenous people cooked corn flour in the form of tortillas, often wrapped in leaves and roasted on the ambers, as they didn’t have any ovens.
Since then, the art of bakery in Peru took off and nowadays we can find so many different varieties of bread: from the ones that people eat everyday, to those that are produced to celebrate special occasions during the year.
Let’s take a look at the most consumed breads in Peru.
(Photo: Living in Peru)
Arabic bread: this kind of bread originated in the Near East around 2500 BC, but nowadays can be found in Peru as in the rest of world, thanks to the migrants’ communities from the Middle East.
Pan Cachanga: this fried bread is mostly consumed on Sundays in the North of Peru (Piura and Trujillo). Pan means bread in Spanish.
Pan Chapla: a sweet bread with aniseeds that are typical of Ayacucho and the province of Huamanga, where it is eaten with a local cheese (queso paria) and elderberry jam.
Pan Chuta: a mildly sweet, big, flat loaf (30 cm in diameter, 5 in height), which is made in Oropesa, the national capital of bread, just one hour from Cusco. http://cuzcoeats.com/cuzcos-traditional-hand-made-bread/
Pan Chapata: is the Peruvian version of the Italian bread called Ciabatta.
Pan de Maiz: this bread, made of corn and wheat flour, derives from the bread made in the ancient times of the Incas.
Pan de Yema: a sweet bread made with lots of egg yolks, which are used also to decorate its surface. It is very popular also in Mexico.
French bread: upon declaring the independence of Peru (July 28, 1821), General Don Jose de San Martin promulgated an edict to invite all foreigners to come to this country and one of the first groups of immigrants was the French, who greatly influenced the lifestyle of Lima’s aristocracy. According to the registers of the Consulate of France in Lima, 54 French bakers arrived in Peru between 1840 and 1895. While the vast majority of breads were marketed in traditional bakeries, French breads appeared in élite establishments like hotels, cafes and restaurants. Nowadays French bread accounts for 50% of the product sold in a bakery in Lima.
Pan Vinco: this bread has a hard crust that allows its transport across the Amazon’s rivers, as it can last several days without losing its consistency even in such a humid environment.
These are just the most common breads that we can find in Peru, but according to Renato Gago Cancela – author of the book “El Perú y sus panes herencia y tradición ancestral” – more than 400 varieties of bread are consumed in this country.
Bread is such an important component of our culture that I would like to encourage you to explore all of its different varieties and to learn more about all the different cultural values that it carries.
Peru is of course one of the greatest places where you can embark on this delicious journey.
Vanessa Malandrin, born and bred in Venice (Italy), has always had a passion for travelling and writing. She has worked for ten years at Pisa University as a research fellow, focusing on local food supply chains and rural development issues, before moving to Australia where she is currently exploring new personal and professional pathways.