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Juanes - comfort food from the Peruvian jungle


Comfort food from the Peruvian jungle

Juanes are a typical dish from the Peruvian jungle regions. Traditionally prepared by cooking yuca (cassava), local fish species and wild bird eggs wrapped in bijao leaves, with the arrival of the Spaniards in Peru, European ingredients such as chicken and olives were included; later Chinese immigrants brought rice to Peru and the Juanes we know today filled with rice, chicken, olives and eggs were born.

In pre-Hispanic times, Juanes were an everyday food in the Peruvian jungle, especially in the Putumayo area in today’s Loreto region. To preserve perishable food for travelers visiting other communities and hunters being far away from their village, local available ingredients such as yuca (cassava), fresh fish, wild bird eggs and herbs were cooked, then combined to a mass which in portions was wrapped in bajio leaves and cooked again. This preparation was known as “huanar” from which today’s “huane” or “juane” might have derived.

Another theory suggests that Catholic missionaries, who came to Peru with the Spanish conquerors and tried to eradicate traditional beliefs forcing the Catholic faith upon the indigenous, named this popular dish in commemoration of San Juan Bautista (Saint John the Baptist), who became the patron saint of the Peruvian Amazon.

While Juanes are eaten year-round in the Peruvian jungle, they are the traditional food for the massive celebrations of the Feast Day of Saint John on June 24 in these regions.

Today Juanes come in many flavors using traditional ingredients or those brought into the region over the centuries, herbs and spices; the distinctive taste, pleasant aroma and lovely presentation wrapped in either bajio or banana leaves which infuses the filling, however, remain.

  • Traditional Juanes: filled with yuca (cassava), fish, especially paice, and banana
  • Juanes de arroz: filled with rice, cooked chicken, olives and hard-boiled egg
  • Juanes de chonta: filled with rice and hearts of palm (chonta)
  • Avisba / Avispa Juanes: filled with rice and ground beef or pork; sometimes fried chicken is added
  • Nina Juanes: filled with chicken and eggs
  • Sara Juanes: filled with peanuts, corn and cuy (guinea pig) or chicken
  • Chuchulli Juanes: filled with rice and chicken giblets
  • Uchu Juanes: filled with fish, eggs and chili
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