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Pan Wawa & Pan Caballo: Bizarre yet Delicious Andean Breads

Pan Wawa

A vendor at the stand “Panificadora Rico Pan” holding a Pan Wawa at the 1st Annual Festival of Pan Wawa in Oropesa, Cusco. 2023 Inca Peru Travel

While the region of Cusco is renowned for its Incan heritage, it is also a place where culinary traditions run deep. One of the culinary delights that has captured the hearts and palates of both locals and visitors is the beloved Pan Wawa and Pan Caballo, two types of bread that hold a special place in Cusco’s rich food culture. In this blog, we will introduce you to these two surreal baked goods that are a unique staple to this part of the world and what meaning they hold.

What is Pan Wawa?

Pan Wawa (wawa=baby in Quechua) is a unique and beloved bread in Cusco, Peru. It’s a sweet, anise-flavored bread that takes on the shape of a baby, complete with a human face delicately crafted on it. This distinctive appearance has made it instantly recognizable and endearing.

What is Pan Caballo?

On the other hand, Pan Caballo is another variation of the same bread, where the dough is shaped into the form of a horse. The horse shape of Pan Caballo gives it a distinct appearance, setting it apart from the Pan Wawa, despite sharing the same underlying ingredients and flavors.

A Bread with Spiritual Significance

In the region Cusco, these bread are often not just food; they are a symbol of tradition and a link to the past. This is particularly evident during the first two days of November when Cusco celebrates “Día de Todos los Santos” (All Saints’ Day) and “Día de los Difuntos” (Day of the Dead). In other parts of the Andes, it’s a common tradition to create altars to honor the deceased.

In Cusco, it is a common tradition to bring Pan Wawa and Pan Caballo to the cemeteries where their loved ones are laid to rest. Families gather at the tombstones of their dearly departed, bringing with them these special breads, often accompanied by traditional dishes like lechon (roast pork). It is a time of remembrance, reflection, and celebration of the lives of those who have passed on. The presence of Pan Wawa and Pan Caballo at these gatherings is a poignant reminder of the enduring connection between food, family, and spirituality in Cusco.

Throughout the entire month of November, bakeries in Cusco work tirelessly to meet the increased demand for Pan Wawa and Pan Caballo. They are seen not only as bread but as offerings to the spirits of the departed. This tradition is a testament to the deep-rooted connection between food and spirituality in Cusco.

Oropesa “The National Capital of Bread”

Stand of Pan Wawa and Pan Caballo breads at the 1st Annual Festival of Pan Wawa in Oropesa, Cusco. 2023 Inca Peru Travel

These breads are so integral to the culinary landscape of Cusco that the small town of Oropesa, located just a short drive from the city, is affectionately known as “The national capital of bread.”

Oropesa’s status as the bread capital of the country is well-deserved. For generations, the town’s bakeries have been perfecting the art of bread-making, passing down their time-honored techniques from one family member to the next. Oropesa’s bakers take great pride in preserving the authenticity and quality of Pan Wawa and Pan Caballo, ensuring that each loaf retains its unique flavor and character.

Embrace the Culinary Heritage of Cusco

For those who visit Cusco, experiencing Pan Wawa and Pan Caballo is a must. The local bakeries in Oropesa and Cusco city itself offer an opportunity to witness the age-old bread-making techniques, as well as to savor the authentic flavors of these beloved bread varieties. Whether you’re enjoying a slice of Pan Caballo with a hearty Andean soup or sipping a cup of hot cocoa while savoring a piece of sweet Pan Wawa, you are connecting with the soul of Cusco. If you wish to explore more of this mystic city, check out our Cusco Tours here!

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