If you enter a Peruvian bakery or grocery store you will notice a large variety of bread – Pan Yema, Pan Integral, Pan Frances, Pan Ciabatta, Croissants, Pan de Mais, Pan de Papa to name but a few. As a traditional part of the Andean diet bread has become a real part of Peruvian culture with different breads for different occasions.
Pan Chuta is perhaps the best known (The large round bread in the photo below). It is made in one of the 43 bakeries in the small village of Oropesa along with many small ham and cheese filled pasties or “empanadas”, thirty minutes from Cusco on the Puno road. In the cities of Lima and Arequipa this bread is simply known as Pan Cusqueña. A large circular loaf a foot in diameter and a couple of inches thick, it has a sweet taste and is a very popular gift to take to those living in the cities. If you accompany that with some Andean Cheese, you will be a very popular visitor in the homes of those living in the rest of Peru, from the Amazon jungle to the northern cities of Piura and Cajamarca.
For this reason you will find ladies selling the bread at bus stations and Cusco airport. It is also sold at San Pedro Market by the San Francisco church. A loaf should cost around 5 soles or just less than 2 US Dollars.
As we have aout offices in Cusco we can give you some of our local bread knowledge; Pan de Jurca a basic circular bread with a smaller round loaf baked on top of it, is used in many ceremonies. Peru is known for its many public holidays commemorating feast days of saints. When you visit Cusco you may be lucky enough to see these religious processions and the accompanying dancing. In each community someone is chosen to host the party. He must then select people who he thinks can contribute financially and he will invite them to the fiesta by knocking on their door with some Pan de Jurca. They must then respond by contributing something to the fiesta be it food, drink or money. This Andean specialty bread is also often seen at funerals, sharing the bread to symbolize sharing the grief.
Tantawawa is traditional bread that appears around Halloween (photo above left). There are two feast days here, Day of the Dead on the 31st October and Day of the Living on the 1st November. These are not only celebrated in Peru but across all of Latin America with Mexico host to some particularly vibrant celebrations. It is said that on this day the souls of the dead return to earth to visit their families. The families go to the graveyards to see them and share a feast. In Peru Lechon (slow roasted pork) and pan Tantawawa form an essential part of these feasts. Tantawawas are bread loaves shaped into dolls and typically decorated with small baby faces or masks. You will also find them in the shape of older people representing grandparents; stairs symbolizing the path through the clouds to a place known as Alaxpacha in Andean mythology. This is a post-life place where the sun, moon and the stars are located. Flowers and crowns are also represented in the bread and a favorite with the children is the horse shaped bread representing the horses that transfer the souls of the dead, from the earth to Alaxpacha.
If you fancy trying some of these breads remember that they can be seasonal but a traditional way to get off the beaten track and try them is to sit on the wooden benches in local markets and order some hot chocolate with bread as the locals do. If you want to try some more exotic non-Andean breads there are good choices too. Just off the Plaza de Armas in Cusco, try the Cicciolina Bread & Breakfast on Calle Triunfo 393. Sun dried tomato bread, fresh croissants and baguettes accompanied with some of the best coffee in town makes the above-average prices worth every penny.
Just off Limacpampa the tiny bakery with a big heart, Qosqo Maki Panaderia, can be found on Avenida Tullumayo 465. It is a French style bakery, part of the Qosqo Maki Foundation which has worked with street children since 1987. The bakery part of the project was started to get kids living on the street working and helping them get a future. It was closed in the mid-nineties due to lack of funds, but is now operating all day, 6 days per week. You will find well-priced fresh croissants, pan de chocolate, crispy baguettes, Danish pastries and more depending on the daily specialties.
The Cafe Paris, part of the French Educational Institute Alianza Frances on Avenida de la Cultura 804 offers great French pastries and desserts along with coffees, lunch menus and of course a great variety of bread. We recommend the onion or olive ciabatta or Pan Campesino – a great whole wheat loaf.
Provecho! As we say here…..(bon appetit)..