Food Culture, Traditional Food, Uncategorized

Oven Baked Bananas, a Seasonal Treat in Cuzco

Bananas Baking over Hot Coals (Photo: Arnold Fernadez Coraza)

Every year spring* arrives in Cuzco, and with it comes the season of fresh fruit.  Trucks filled with fruit start trekking up to the city and to other destinations in order to take fresh fruit to all the cities of Peru.  When the trucks run and the markets fill with abundant fruit we know the season of fruit has come.

Many different kinds of fruit are found in Cuzco this time of year.  Among others, we receive amazing bananas fresh and tasty.  There are many varieties of banana, such as platano de la isla (banana from the island) that is the most commonly consumed banana.  We also get the pinguito de mono (monkey dick).  This banana is characterized by its small size.  In English it is often called a finger banana or a baby banana. We also have frying bananas which are most delicious when they are cooked.

Ripe Bananas in Cuzco (Photo: Walter Coraza Morveli)
Ripe Bananas in Cuzco (Photo: Walter Coraza Morveli)

Nevertheless, I had not heard before of oven-baked banana.  Many people go around talking about this dish.  They say it is very sweet and has the consistency of honey.

You make this with the platano de freir, the frying banana.  In a closed traditional stove that at its base has many very hot coals, you cook this banana on the carbon.  You slice a line down the peel and cook the banana whole.  They cook slowly in the heat until a client asks for them.

These oven-cooked bananas cost between 1 and 2 soles (0.40 and 0.80$US).  Baking a good banana is an art.  You have to pull them from the coals at the precise instant just before they burn.

People also cook the bananas in other ways.  For example you can add brown sugar and a bit of cinnamon to the exposed part fo the banana before cooking.  Since the heat is concentrated in the center and lower parts of the banana, the sugar and cinnamon gives it a sweet and distinct flavor.

Preparing and Selling Oven Baked Bananas in the Street (Photo: Arnold Fernandez Coraza)
Preparing and Selling Oven Baked Bananas in the Street (Photo: Arnold Fernandez Coraza)

Many people cannot wait to try this delicious street food.  But, where do you find it? There are not a lot of places that make it.  You can find it in a few stands in Wanchaq to the side of the fire station and on the corner of Garcilaso and Tullumayo, just outside the colonial core.

The stands that sell these bananas generally are open from midday to around 7 pm, according to the demand. You can also make this dish yourself, if you have a carbon fed oven in which to cook the bananas and give them their intense and exquisite flavor.

* Translator’s note:  According to international norms it is summer in Cuzco, but when the rains start falling, bringing cold and dark, people in Cuzco will generally call that “winter”.  As a result, it makes sense to speak of spring now that with the coming of fruit one knows that period of rainy cold is passing.

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