Topped with fluffy Italian meringue, flavored with port wine and dusted generously with cinnamon, suspiro de limeña is a rich pudding that tastes like the offspring of dulce de leche and custard. As a kid, I considered it the Peruvian dessert par excellence. It was our reward for behaving well at Peruvian restaurants. If we ordered very Peruvian dishes (i.e., nothing from the kid’s menu), didn’t complain about how spicy the food was, and spoke in Spanish throughout the whole meal, then we'd each earn our own individual cup of Peruvian heaven.
The name of this dessert translates to “the sigh of a girl from Lima.” It originated in the 19th century with a woman named Amparo Ayarza, who was the wife of a poet named José Galvez. Allegedly, Galvez took a bite of her creation and declared that it was as sweet and as light as the sound of a young city girl's sigh, daydreaming about her beau.
I believe that this dessert’s name is more of a tongue-in-cheek allusion to the exasperating process of making it. Those who have taken it upon themselves to recreate this dish know that the real sighs come from having to constantly stir a pot of sweetened milk for over an hour until it achieves the right consistency. In the 1800s, this would have been achieved by combining fresh milk and refined white sugar—both luxuries back then. However, 20th-century advances in food production made this dessert a lot more accessible to the average Peruvian. The modern version of this culinary "sigh" is made with two ingredients that have forever changed the way Peruvians and other Latin Americans cook: evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk. —Carlos C. Olaechea
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