Austro-German Legacy Alive And Kicking In Peru’s Jungle

Originally published on Peru This Week “Dishes From Oxapampa

“We have shtrukala, carbonalathala, shitalan, gransala” reels off Cathi Mesa as she names typical dishes of her native Oxapampa, a mountain city in Peru’s ‘eyebrow of the jungle’ or ceja de selva.

They sound more Yiddish than Peruvian.

“The dishes do have a taste of the Austro-German, coming from the settlers who arrived here in the nineteenth century,” she continues.

That explained the odd Germanic sounds that jarred with the tourism executive’s clear Spanish, as we talked at the launch of Selvámonos, Peru’s most-anticipated music festival this month in Oxapampa.

The city of 8,550 in the Pasco region lies in an area of rich biodiversity.

At 1,830 metres above sea level, it’s situated in a cloud forest that nourishes the thick vegetation.

Yellow-tailed monkeys, spectacled bears, and more than 100 types of orchid are neighbours for the city 550 km, or a 10 hours’ drive from Lima.

Chloraea reticulata, one of the region's orchids that flower locally.
Chloraea reticulata, one of the region’s orchids that flower locally.

The environment reaps a cornucopia of products that has made Oxapampa notable for its recipes.

Its European heritage – the humid city was founded by German settlers in 1891 – yields an idiosyncratic fusion of local produce with old world cooking techniques.

The prominent coffee, cattle-rearing and dairy industries further add to this.

An ecolodge in the cloud forest of Oxapampa in Peru's Pasco region
An ecolodge in the cloud forest of Oxapampa in Peru’s Pasco region

Below are the Oxapampa province’s main dishes. The ‘la’ suffix is a Peruvian innovation to adapt the Austro-German words for Spanish speakers.

Strudel (shtrukala) made with banana, not apple as customary, is a firm favourite. The pastry dessert is made with eggs, milk, and crushed banana to then be cooked in the oven to give its brown shine. It’s an example of improvising with the superabundance of the jungle to substitute unavailable foods from home.

Carabonathalan is another, a salty meatball dish with a soy sauce seasoned with garlic, pepper and a little cornflower.

Pachamanca oxapampina (main picture) is the most representative dish of the area. It’s pork, with yellow yucca and pituca potatoes, wrapped in banana leaves. The pork is seasoned with salt, garlic, and an herb called chincho. The delicacy is cooked on a circle of stones above an open fire.

Fritters (galletas y torrejitas) sticks deep-fried in batter and that taste like un-sugared doughnuts are common.

Fritters / SA 300 (cc)
Fritters / SA 300 (cc)

Chicken soup (sopa de shitalan) is, too. It’s made from a flour and eggs base, which is then added to the soup with noodles. It’s boiled for a short time then served.

Finally Guinea pig is being reared more in the area, as well as cheese such as añejo. It’s similar in texture to goats’ cheese but made with cows’ milk.


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