Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Andean Eats


The poor Andean country of Bolivia holds a special part of my heart. It is my planned future country of residence, and I have written many papers and presented many research projects about it. I first learned of Bolivia when I started sponsoring my Compassion child, Alison. I was 13 then and she was 6. Over the past 6 years Alison has written me beautiful descriptions of her country. She just turned 12 last week, and her love for her God and her culture inspires me. (I love sharing Bible verses with her and hearing her commentaries on various works and miracles of Jesus. We have such an amazing relationship! I am just too blessed.) One day I would love to meet my little Bolivian sister in person and hopefully teach somewhere in her country. Bolivia is over 50% Native American, giving it the highest indigenous population out of any country in South America. Their president, Evo Morales, is actually Aymara. It’s also the poorest with 53% of the people living beneath the poverty line. There are two capital cities in Bolivia: Sucre and La Paz (the highest capital in the world!) The Andean mountain range cuts through the western section and is inhabited by the Quechuas and Aymaras. That’s where Alison lives (she’s Aymara) and where my dinner for tonight came from. Other indigenous groups include the Guarani and Weenhayek in the chacos; the Afrobolivians, Chiquitanos, Cayubabas, and Ayore in the Amazon region, and many others. Bolivia really is a country full of culture and diversity.




 
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I could ramble on and on about Bolivian facts and fun information. I know a ton about it. (Maybe more that the US.) If I wasn’t so excited about the yummy food I cooked, I might write a novel, but these three recipes need to be shared immediately. I was hoping that I would like Bolivian food since I will one day be eating it 24/7. I am happy to say that everything I made was absolutely delicious. I am still drooling over it. Bolivian cuisine is pretty carb heavy, especially in the Andean region. Staples include corn (choclo), potatoes (especially a dehydrated kind called chuno), and rice. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day and often includes a soup and tons of carbs and some meat. Dinner is often lighter and served later in the night. It’s often a bowl of soup and some corn with cheese. My friend Becca has been to Bolivia, and she fell in love with the corn that they seem to sell almost everywhere. They bake it with cheese and apparently it is the bomb. I can imagine why. Cheese makes everything delicious. Read on to find out some recipes that prove this.

 
 
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Sopa de maní is from the Andean city of Cochabamba, but I am glad that a recipe found its way north to the US. A thick and creamy peanut broth is cooked with potatoes, peas, corn, and onions then topped with cilantro, fried potato strips, and a spicy sauce called llajwa. Rice can also be added. The soup typically contains either chicken or beef ribs, but vegetarian options are available. I went down the chicken route and have no regrets.

Sopa de Maní
1 tsp oregano
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cubed
4 cups chicken broth
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 large carrot, cut into ¼” rounds
1 tbsp oil
½ cup peas
3 ½ potatoes, cut into large cubes
2 ounces peanuts
½ cup water

To garnish:
½ potato, peeled and julienned
2 tbsp oil
cilantro
llajwa
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, oregano, garlic, and carrots. Cook for 6-8 minutes until the onions are translucent, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken to brown for a minute before pouring in the broth. Bring everything to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, blend the peanuts and water together into a paste. Mix this into the soup and add in the potatoes and peas. Bring everything back to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook, covered, for another 20 minutes until the potatoes are tender. To make the garnish, heat the oil in a pan over medium high heat. Cook the strips of potato for a few minutes per side until golden. Serve the soup in individual bowls topped with the fried potato strips, llajwa, and cilantro. Season to taste.




 
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Llajwa is a spicy dip/ condiment made from the indigenous locoto chili peppers and quilquina, a type of Bolivian coriander. You can eat this delicious dip with potatoes or bread, mix it into soup, or dip your fried cheese and corn in it like I did. J What’s life without a little spice?

Llajwa
5-6 sprigs quilquina or cilantro
1 tomato, diced (I subbed roasted red peppers because of my allergy.)
1 locoto pepper, seeded

Add all the ingredients to a food processor and process into a chunky paste. Enjoy your spicy sauce with just about anything!

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El Plato Paceño is a traditional meal from the city of La Paz. It’s a must to celebrate the two festivals in La Paz on July 16th and October 20th. To make this carb laden and utterly delicious plate (or ‘plato’), you pile on corn, potatoes, habas (like lima or fava beans), and fried cheese. Yes, I said fried cheese. Are you sold yet?

Plato Paceño
4 ears of corn, husked
4 small red potatoes
8 ounces queso blanco, cut into 8 strips
1- 12 ounce bag frozen lima beans or fava beans
oil, as needed

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the corn, lima beans, and potatoes. Cook for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Meanwhile, heat enough oil to cover the bottom of a pan over medium heat. Fry a couple of strips of the queso blanco for 1 ½ to 2 minutes per side until it’s a nice golden brown. Add more oil to the pan as needed to cook all the cheese. Serve each plate with a potato, scoop of lima beans, an ear of corn, and two slices of the fried cheese.

 

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I am so glad that my Bolivian meal turned out as delicious as it did! I cannot wait to try some home cooked Bolivian food one day. Everything from the soup to the llajwa was delicious. I did not expect to like the dip all that much, but it turned out to be delicious! The soup was amazing, especially with a little swirl of llajwa. And don’t even get me started on that fried cheese! Bolivia is definitely up there in competition for my favorite country so far. I loved every bite of it.

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