Thursday, April 9, 2009

Fruitful Adventures in Peru!

We decided to take a one day culinary tour from PicaPeru. Our guide, Sandra, began the day with trip to La Gran Fruta, a chain of juice bars in Peru. As Americans, when we think juice, we quickly go to orange, apple, grape--often thin in viscosity, clarified, and pasteurized.

When we walked into La Gran Fruta, we thought immediately of Jamba Juice where the offering is really a blended smoothie with frozen fruit and sorbet or frozen yogurt and juice. The appearance looked similar but the juice was an entirely different thing.

First, the menu of exotic juice blends is huge. Peru is an amazing country with 84 different climate zones. We soon realized that many unusual fruits and vegetables are native to Peru and completely new to us. This store goes to the market everyday and selects fresh fruits to blend into juices. We tasted three blends of juices that were unlike anything we had every had in both flavor and texture:

• cherimoya with mandarin orange
• mango, maracuya (passion fruit), strawberry, and mandarin orange
• lucuma with milk

Cherimoya with Mandarin Orange

Cherimoya is often translated into English as "custard apple", but that doesn’t do it justice.

This large, green dimpled fruit looks nothing like an American apple. It is ripe when the flesh is a tiny bit soft. The fruit has a sweet and juicy flesh that is white with large black seeds. But you might notice, that is is a fairly dense flesh which gave the juice a thick and delicious viscosity--almost like a shake made entirely of fruit with a sweet, but not overly sweet flavor.

Mango, Maracuya (Passion fruit), Strawberry, and Mandarin orange

The second juice was a full flavored blend, which was as vibrant in flavor as it was in color. We were a bit more familiar with these fruits (mango, maracuya (passion fruit), strawberry, and mandarin orange) but we often eat them as ingredients in desserts, ice creams etc. and haven’t had them in this fresh form.

The maracuya (passionfruit) has crunchy seeds wrapped in juicy membranes and has a flavor that is completely different than passionfruit flavored candies etc. This juice blend with its absolutely market fresh flavor was incredible--full of sweetness, tartness, and the delicate notes that can be lost with a traditional pasteurization.

Lucuma with Milk

Of the three juice blends, the lucuma with milk was the most unique and one of our favorites.

Lucuma has the most unusual texture--it’s very dense, not juicy, and has a fibrous like texture that dissolves in your mouth. When blended with milk, this juice is like a decadent milkshake with a flavor that can be described as brown sugar/almond . . . sweet but unique. Sandra, our guide explained that lucuma pairs very well with chocolate or caramel in desserts.

We actually had a cake with lucuma later in the week and it was delicious!

So it was a great start to the beginning of many food adventures to come . . . up next, the outdoor market!