San Gaban’s Third Annual Food Fair, Peru

Giant pineapples, diseased cacao beans and fruit I’d never heard of all featured at the third annual San Gaban Tropical Produce Agribusiness, Agriculture and Gastronomy Fair (III Feria Agropecuaria Agroindustrial y Gastronómico de Productos Tropicales).

Luckily Rocío and I were in San Gaban a few days before the 12 October 2016 fair and after seeing the poster we agreed to stay for the event. Village festivals have a special feel and tropical fruit is awesome so we were looking forward to this.

Third San Gaban Tropical Food Festival Poster, Carabaya, Puno, Peru

The fair poster lists cacao and pineapple sub-festivals

San Gaban is a lowland village in southern Peru’s Puno Region in the Amazon Basin. The Carabaya Province around San Gaban contains both high mountains and low valleys and the fair produce reflected this variation.

On fair day food stalls from the San Gaban District took over the Interoceanic Highway with traffic diverted around the town square.

View of festival site, San Gaban, Carabaya, Puno, Peru

Fair stalls on the Interoceanic Highway adjacent to San Gaban’s town square as viewed from the top of our accommodation (Hotel Plaza)

Nearby, unofficial stalls took advantage of the fair, setting up and selling their wares. One of them sold a dessert Rocío enjoyed in her childhood. The pink foam-like substance resembled whipped and coloured egg white. Do you know its name? Another childhood snack Rocío enjoyed was the thin, hollow wafer biscuits el barquillero.

Rocio at dessert stall next to food festival, San Gaban, Puno Region, Peru

Rocío and the dessert fondly recalled from her childhood

Various official fair stalls sold hot meals, desserts and juices while others exhibited tropical fruit and vegetables. Stalls competed for prizes based on presentation and content, with some elaborately decorated. At the fair we bumped into the photographer we met at Ayapata’s Esquilaya Coffee Festival.

Tropical produce, San Gaban Food Festival, Peru

This stall included grenadilla passionfruit (left), Andean papaya (centre), tamarillo (bottom right), Cyclanthera pedata (light green, bottom centre) and arracacia xanthorrhiza (bottom left). This produce is likely from the intermediate mountains, not the lowlands.

Decorated festival stand, San Gaban, Carabaya Province

Nests woven by the oropendola bird formed part of this lowland tropical produce stall

Cacao was a focus of multiple stalls, either exhibiting the fruit chocolate derives from or selling cocoa products. One stall displayed cacao pods damaged by different diseases.

Cacao stand from Nueva Esperanza, Carabay Province, San Gaban Tropical Food Festival, Peru

Sector Nueva Esperanza displaying Hibrido and CCN-51 cacao clones

At the fair I saw several new fruit and vegetables. There was even a fruit Peruvian Rocío had never seen before: araza (eugenia stipitata).

Pineapple, araza and papaya juice, San Gaban Tropical Food Festival, Peru

Pineapple, araza and papaya displayed in front of their respective juices

Freshwater fish grilling, San Gaban Tropical Food Festival, Peru  A woman grills river fish at the fair while a young boy looks on

Tropical meals, San Gaban Food Festival, PeruTropical Peruvian dishes including cassava empanadas, tamales, fried fish with plantain balls (tacacho), duck in cocona

After announcement of competition winners, some exhibitors sold their produce. I bought a giant pineapple weighing up to five kilos for only three soles (AUD$1.20).

Joe with huge pineapple, San Gaban Tropical Food Festival, Carabaya Province, Puno Region, Peru

With my giant pineapple in front of the fair stage; the gear behind is for give-aways or prizes

Tropical flavoured ice creams, San Gaban Tropical Food Festival, Peru

Delicious flavours of ice cream flavoured by local produce

After eating many of the fair’s products we walked down the highway to and from the Lizard’s Mouth (Boca Chaquimayo) a natural swimming pool. Upon returning to San Gaban, the fair’s formalities were ongoing with officials handing out bags of rice and sugar, shovels and picks to happy locals.

Giving sugar, rice, shovel and pick, San Gaban Tropical Food Festival, Carabaya Province, Peru

A woman carrying rice also receives sugar, a shovel and a pick

If you are in the San Gaban vicinity around October, the district’s tropical food fair is well worth attending, particularly for gourmands.

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