Grains abound in the city of Cuzco, not only is it rich in monuments and archeological abundance, it also has many cereals. As a consequence there are many street sides and corners, as well as occasional stands where toasted as well as popped grains are offered. We call all these popped grains, and more, maná or manna. They include popped giant grains of corn, popped rice, popped quinoa, and even popped macaroni (though it is not a grain).
What are these? Well, like popcorn or toasted corn, that we call canchita if it is just toasted or palomitas de maiz—little doves of corn—because of the shape they take, these must be heated in oil so that they can split open. Of course both of these are from special, small grains of corn for palomitas, and more medium sized grains for canchitas.
Maná is a lot like popcorn. The corn kernels are much larger and they are heated. The same is done with wheat, kiwicha (amaranth) and others. The maná is the result. It is kind of fun to compare maná with a palomita, since the palomita exploded fully, expanding enormously in the process, while the maná just got fatter.
The flavor is enhanced with a little bit of sugar that is added when the grains are toasted.
There are different machines that can help you toast the grains of large corn. They apply heat and make it expand which can be much harder to accomplish than popping corn.
The same thing happens with macaroni, what we call fideos. They enter these special machines that make maná and then are expanded massively. With just a slight hint of sugar and a lot of crunch, they are delicious. These machines are useful to make large maná, such as of macaroni, corn, and others. The maná comes out in large quantity.
Throughout the city of Cuzco you can find maná for sale. It makes a wonderful, energizing, quick snack. You can find it sold from carts, or in stands or even from people sitting on the street with baskets in front of them, or even sack filled with maná.
Many people might get confused between this Peruvian treat and the musical group called maná as well. Though the exponents of Latin rock are well known around the world, they have nothing to do with our local treat.
The prices of maná are from 1 sol and upwards. It all depends on the quantity that you wish to buy. Generally you purchase between 1 and 5 soles worth, since this is a snack you buy on your way somewhere else. Walking is so much easier while eating maná.
Of course the maná is also distribute to stores and other places where people who like it can find it available.