Meet Pablo Valverde, traditional picaronero

August 21st, 2010

He has been selling picarones for 20 years in the Parque Kennedy of Miraflores, and has gone on to take part in a number of gastronomic fairs including Mistura. He is Pablo Valverde, the picaronero.

It’s a cold evening in Miraflores, it’s just about to turn 9pm. As noisy as ever on Av. Larco, a woman and a group of friends arrive at the picarón stand in the park, having walked several blocks to get there. “How is it possible that you don’t have anything left to fry?”, she cries. Pablo can only recommend they walk a few blocks more where there still might be some picarones left. He admits this happens all too often, such is the life of someone with a product so in demand.

The picarón is a delicious creation. A simple batter is made of mashed pumpkin, sweet potato and some flour. Shaped into a ring and dropped in oil to fry until crispy on the outside and still soft on the inside, served along with several others, they are drenched in honey or syrup. Pablo manages to sell 100 portions each afternoon.

Pablo got a rare municipal licence to operate in the park, a place where he’d never lack customers and an income, with a bit of luck and a bit on hard work.

From a young age, Pablo sold cotton candy in various plazas in Lima and at stadiums on match days. He hadn’t a clue how to make picarones when an opportunity presented itself in 1990. The mayor of Miraflores, Alberto Andrade, was offering as a prize permission for a cart in the centre of the district’s main park, a place with a constant supply of locals and tourists. To win, all the competitors had to do was make the tastiest picarones.

“I didn’t know how to make picarones, but someone recommended I go to Chincha to learn, and there, asking around, I found a lady willing to teach me, her name was Josefina”, Pablo explained.

After a short time in Chincha, Pablo won the competition, his picarones were judged to be the best, and the municipal authorities granted him permission and gave him the cart itself, decorated in the classic limeño style of by-gone decades.

He called the business Picarones Mary, after his wife María. Since 1990 he prepares the batter each morning before setting up stall and selling portions for S/.4. His picarones contain a few extra ingredients, he’ll tell you some but closely guards others.

Another stroke of luck happened a few years ago, his path crossed with celebrity chef and promoter of Peruvian food Gastón Acurio. His picarones went down well with the chef and he was invited to the first Lima gastronomic fair “Peru, Mucho Gusto“, in 2008, renamed “Mistura” in 2009.

His classic Lima cart was placed along with others who prepare traditional street desserts, in an area of the fair dubbed “the street of traditions”. He took 8 kilos of batter to the fair and completely sold out. He even won a prize for best picarones, sealing his reputation forever.

You can find the picarón stand from 3pm until whatever time in the evening that they all sell out.

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