Ask a Peruvian about Picarones, and wait for the sleepy smile and foggy eye-glaze to take over, as if you had conjured up a particularly fond memory of their late grandmother. In all fairness, you might have! In a country where family is as tight as food molecules, grandmothers and gastronomy are almost inseparable.
Picarones are the Peruvian donut. Inspired by the bunuelo (fried dough ball) brought over by the Spaniards, picarones have taken on an identity completely their own in the centuries since, developed and transformed by Afro-Peruvian communities, then made popular by the nuns of the Saint Claire convent. Compared to the western donut, picarones are a much rawer delicacy. Only enjoyed fresh, the dough is a base of sweet potatoes and squash, spun into thin, lumpy rings and flash-fried in oil. After just a moment or two in the oil, with a loving yet unforgiving eye closely monitoring the stages of browning on the various floating treasures, the rings are fished out one-by-one, plucked in a row along a wooden stick flicked through the central opening of each perfect picaron. All that is left is to drizzle a homemade syrup, unique to the creator although usually based on fig or citrus flavors, and voila! Dessert nirvana achieved.
Lima’s street food culture is one of the more accessible of the world’s major cities, as there is not necessarily a district where street vendors conglomerate. Instead, chefs set up shop on corners throughout the city. Street snacking is engrained in the culture, so vendors service the residents along their daily route. Picarones in particular are not resource-intensive in their production, so a knowing set of fingers, alert eye, and small food cart about 2 feet by 3 feet is all that is needed. It is a display of expert workmanship, of a craft honed through generations, when a maestro starts spinning out rings of dough on the street corner, effortlessly plucking them from the oil moments later. If the process is impressive to the eye, the result is sensational to the taste buds. Picarones have earned their place as Peru’s most popular dessert.
For the ultimate luxe-foodie stay in Lima, contact Atemporal at firstname.lastname@example.org or call +51-1-700-5106 or, if you are in the US, 1-347-713-7030/34.
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