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Majambo, Chocolate’s Creamy Peruvian Cousin

June 2017

In the Amazonian rainforest, there are hundreds of fruits, herbs, and vegetables that never make it to kitchens in America. Many of them have familiar flavors to Americans, but each one is unique, according to China Chilcano Head Chef Carlos Delgado. “There’s a small nut that tastes exactly like coconut,” Delgado says excitedly, while recognizing that such a delicate flavor is difficult to transport out of the rainforest.

Luckily, Carlos himself is doing something about it, working to import some uniquely Peruvian products. One highlight is majambo, a close cousin of chocolate. Majambo, also known as Mocambo, Pataxte, or Jaguar Tree, produces white or light green pods full of seeds and a pulpy fruit.  Traditionally, the seeds of the majambo pod are grilled and eaten like nuts – they are full of protein, fiber, and theobromine, a caffeine-like compound that boosts energy.

One Peruvian pastry chef, Astrid Gutsche, wife of superstar Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio, started to experiment with the nourishing white seeds. Other chefs in Peru are also thinking about the rich biodiversity of the Amazon, and one restaurant, Maido, served an entirely Amazonian menu. “I think in this country we don’t have the luxury to do that yet, but by bringing some ingredients here and there will make a big difference.”

Carlos is part of making that difference, and recently met with a women’s cooperative in the town of Chazuta, Peru, 600 miles north of Lima on the edge of the Amazon River basin. The Mishky Cacao Association, taking its name from the local Quechua word for ‘sweet,’ is a group of women that make chocolate bars from local cacao, as well as produce a unique product – bars of majambo, processed in the same way as chocolate with 60% majambo solids, majambo butter, and sugar. The bars resemble white chocolate, but with a slightly darker caramel hue, and a richer, less sweet, nuttier flavor – like a slightly sweet, pure macadamia nut butter. Chef Carlos will be importing the bars directly from the women’s cooperative, and wants to highlight them simply in desserts at China Chilcano.

To experience this unique taste of the Amazon, make a reservation at China Chilcano soon and see what Chef Carlos is planning to do with the creamy, nutty majambo, straight from the heart of the jungle.