Some of you might say “That’s not a dessert”, or even “What the hell is lúcuma?”, but I assure you that this is the main ingredient in some of the tastiest desserts here in Peru. So, yes, technically not a dessert in itself, but a major player in the dessert arena, and I could not make a list of Peruvian desserts without it.
Lúcuma is a fruit native to Peru and I have not noticed it to be eaten commonly as a raw fruit. It has quite a burnt taste about it, but when mixed with ingredients for ice creams or mousses, it lends a caramel note to the dish, which is just beautiful. The colour is a deep yellowy-orange, not that far removed from an egg yolk or a sweet potato perhaps. Which is a coincidence because a sweet potato also gives a sweet, caramel flavour to dishes when cooked. When sliced in half, the lúcuma looks like an orange avocado, due to its green skin and large brown seed in the middle.
The fruit is most commonly used mixed with dairy ingredients to make ice cream, smoothies and mousses, and it also partners very well with chocolate.
Where would I recommend in Lima to eat a lúcuma dessert?
1. Mousse de Lúcuma at Museo Larco Cafe/ Restaurant
As I have said in previous posts, this is a great restaurant. The location within the gardens, the food, and the desserts all deserve a mention, but I want to talk about their Mousse de Lúcuma. It is smooth and creamy, with just the right combination of sweetness and that signature burnt caramel flavour. I never get tired of eating this, and because it is not a rich dessert, I probably could eat it forever and never feel bad about it.
……. or Copa de Lúcuma from Pastipan
If you fancy a mousse de lúcuma but do not want to pay restaurant prices, then Pastipan is an excellent choice. It offers small cups of desserts, like Suspiro de Limeña or Mousse de Lúcuma for around S/.4 and is fantastic value for money. The quality of the desserts here is so good and the Copa de Lúcuma will never disappoint. It comes in a little take-away pot, so it is perfect for picnics, trips to the beach, or just to keep in your handbag for that part of the day where you just need a dessert. Genius.
2. Lúcuma flavoured Casino biscuits (available in any supermarket, corner shop or even street cart)
I became addicted to these on my very first visit to Peru, when they were given to us as part of our snack bags when I was hiking the Inca Trail. At the end of my second trip to Peru I had to buy multipacks of them to bring back to England, because apparently 3 months without them was far too much. They are a lot like Custard Creams, but with a lúcuma flavoured filling instead of a custard one. Just brilliant. They come in little packs of 4, which means I can ration myself to just 4 instead of an entire packet like I could do with Custard Creams, or Chocolate Bourbons, or Jammy Dodgers, or…….I could go on.
3. Lucuma Ice Cream from OVNI (around KM62.5 heading south on the Panamericana Sur)
You can read my opinion on OVNI in more detail here, but this is probably some of the best ice cream you will find in, or close to, Lima. Thick, creamy and packed full of flavour, OVNI has been popular for years, and rightly so. Bypass all the fake alien themed stalls on the roadside when heading towards Asia on the Panamericana Sur, and look out for a UFO (or OVNI in Spanish) sign, which will tell you how far you have left to go.
…..or Lúcuma Ice Cream from Vivi (I’m pretty sure this is the name of the store, but I could be so wrong!).
If you are going east from Lima and are heading to the site of Marcahuasi you will pass through Chosica. Once through you will turn left off of the Carraterra Central just after Chosica and head towards Santa Eulalia (116 or Av. San Martin according to Google Maps!). Along this road is a little shop called Vivi (I think!) and it sells incredible lúcuma ice cream too!! I cannot be more specific about location, because I was so tired after our trip, but if you are taking this trip to Marcahuasi, it’s worth a stop!
4. Tentación de Lúcuma from La Casa de Gloria (Punta Hermosa
Think of this as a frozen pie. It has a chocolate biscuit pie crust and is filled with a lúcuma ice cream mixture, frozen and then drizzled with a chocolate sauce. The flavours in this dish are not overpoweringly sweet, and are not overwhelmingly strong either. Both are subtler than you would expect but it makes this dish really, really delicious. And as I said before chocolate and lucuma are a dream pairing. This is the perfect finish to a meal, as it is not a heavy dessert and is actually very refreshing.