It seems like a hundred years since I lived in Lima, Peru. And although some of the memories of my years there have faded, my memories of the food have not. One of my favorites was (and is) palta rellena. Avocados stuffed with anything from cebiche to ham to tuna salad. I found this great variation on the classic over on Peru Delights, a wonderful site dedicate to all foods Peruvian. The avocado is smashed into a creamy guacamole, then topped with a mixture of shrimp, onion, tomato, and olives mixed with fresh lime juice. Drizzled with a fantastic sauce of aji amarillo, mayo and ketchup. Aji amarillo has a fantastic fruity, spicy flavor. Not too hot, but not totally tame either. If you can’t find it just add a few squirts of Sriracha hot sauce instead.
I love Andean popcorn. It’s somewhat similar to the popcorn we enjoy here in the states in that it has a fantastic flavor, even a hint of a butter. The kernels, though, are different. They do not explode and puff up like popcorn has been grown to do here. Instead, they kinda… just go… pop. No big explosion. No fluffy white insides. The kernel is thin, and very crunchy. You just pop (no pun intended) the entire thing into your mouth and enjoy. I recall street vendors up in the mountains of Peru, in the city of Huancayo, selling bags of popcorn along the street on market day. I think a bag was 10 soles which then was less than a US nickel. Well worth the price! They were fried in screaming hot oil then salted. That’s it. You did (and do) have to be careful of the kernels when they first come out of the fryer, though. They are very, very hot. So let them cool a bit before diving in!
I popped the cancha in the same popper I use for ‘regular’ popcorn. It takes a bit longer as the heat needs to get really good and hot, but it’s well worth the wait. If you can’t find cancha in a South American market near you you can order it using the Amazon link at the bottom of this post. It’s great stuff!
Huancayo is a fairly large city about 5 1/2 hours outside of Lima, Peru. It was the first city that I went to outside of Lima when I lived there many years ago. The drive is through some very beautiful areas in the Andes. Once there you can enjoy a potato dished called papa a la Huancaína.
Golden potatoes are topped with a creamy sauce that is almost Holandaise-like, but it has a nice spicy kick thanks to aji amarillo. Aji is a somewhat-spicy Peruvian pepper that is a bit fruity in flavor. Papa a la Huancaina is topped with boiled eggs and olives and sometimes corn. It’s a great summer dish that can be served cold or at room temperature. If you can’t find aji amarillo paste, use pureed habaneros. Papa a la Huancaína has a little kick to it.