Three Kinds of Zapallo for Cuzco-style Cuisine

What shall I cook? That is the question that all of our mothers ask every day as they think about the day’s lunch. Every day they go form their homes to the markets and stores to buy the needed ingredients to make their family’s meal.

In the city’s markets you can find a great diversity of diverse ingredient to choose from. They are in good conditions and well set out in their different stands.

One of the most preferred ingredients is zapallo, a hard-shelled squash like a hubbard. Both young and old love it. Thanks to its delightful flavor it captivates most everyone. It is always available in our city and is within everyone’s economic reach. They are round and vary from green to gray on the outside while inside they are mostly yellow.

Most commonly we have three kinds that are always present within our markets. These are called macre, lacio, and crespo. These names were created by the vendors, the caseras, to clarify when the clients ask for zapallo. They can tell you the differences and characteristics of each as well as the dishes you make from them.

The most expensive is the macre. It is characterized by being more creamy when it is cooked. It makes up a wonderful cream of zapallo soup.

The lacio is characterized by being watery in the pot. It is used especially for soups and the stews we call almuerzos. It, for example, finds its way into chairos, or the morón lunch, a barley based stew.

The crespo zapallo is characterized by having a darker color in comparison with the others and is especially valued for making the locro cusqueño.

Locro de Zapallo, a Cuzco's Traditional Dish (Walter Coraza Morveli)
Locro de Zapallo, a Cuzco’s Traditional Dish (Walter Coraza Morveli)

Zapallo is also necessary for making our delicious picarones—a kind of fritter like a doughnut. They boil and separate it before adding it to the dough. From zapallo you also make our wonderful zapallo cakes. These should be served to the side of a white rice.

We even use the seeds of the zapallo. They are considered important for de-worming our children. They are first toasted and then given to children.

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