Salty, sweet, delicate, and delicious Choros a la Chalaca from Peru. On first looks, this recipe might look complicated. But let me assure you it’s a relatively easy recipe. The hard part is getting the best quality steamed mussels. If you happen to find yourself in Lima, head to Callao, Peru’s main port town just outside of the capital and sample the best mussels in the world. This is also the place where choros a la chalaca, the dish, was developed. Steamed mussels with a vegetable relish of typical Peruvian cuisine ingredients including corn, tomato, and culantro (culantro is similar to coriander and is sometimes called Mexican culantro. In Peru it’s called sacha culantro).
This is a delicious seafood dish that, apart from the mussels, requires only simple ingredients and an attention to detail. Keep in mind that the flavor and success of this dish depend on the freshness and quality of the mussels. Get the best you can. If you’re longing for a true taste of the ocean and smell of the sea, this is the dish that will bring back memories.
Note: many “choros” recipes use aji amarillo peppers but our version doesn’t use peppers. We thought we’d try a dish without one of the most popular ingredients in this part of the world. But not everyone is a fan of hot and spicy food. So this dish is even more refreshing and perfect for the clammy climate of Lima or winter wherever you’re cooking from.
Choros A La Chalaca – Peruvian Steamed Mussels
- 16 large mussels
- 2 medium tomatoes 160 g
- 2 limes
- 1 small onion white – 70 g
- ½ onion purple – 40 g
- ¾ cup yellow corn kernels 100 g
- 1 celery stalk
- 1 small carrot
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- ¼ cup oil
- ⅓ cup culantro if you cannot get culantro, use coriander
- 1 tbsp salt
- 6 cups water
- Salt and pepper to taste
- It is very important to clean the mussels. Fresh mussels will still have closed shells, so look for these. In any case, place the mussels in a bowl full of water, under running water. Brush the surface of each with a wire brush. With the tip of a sharp knife remove the remains of any mollusks or small snails that are attached to the shells. Open the mussels with the tip of the knife and rinse inside.
- Place the mussels in a cup filled with four tablespoons of vinegar and water for 30 minutes.
- Place four cups of water in a medium saucepan with a tablespoon of salt, the celery stalk and the carrot. Let the water boil for about 15 minutes to extract the flavor of the vegetables. If you wish you can add two garlic and onion. This will serve to improve the taste of mussels, although this step is not essential.
- Add the mussels and cook uncovered for about five to ten minutes until they are cooked. Drain the water and let the steamed mussels cool.
- In another small pot, add the remaining two cups of water and bring to a boil over high heat. When it is boiling add the corn and cook it for about 5 minutes until they are very soft. Drain the water, let them drain and reserve.
- On a cutting board cut the white onion and purple onion into small squares.
- In a mixing bowl add the oil, the rest of the vinegar, the juice of the lemons. Add salt and pepper to taste. Place the onions in this container and stir.
- Peel the tomatoes, extract the seeds and cut into small squares. Finally, cut the culantro. Mix the tomato and the culantro with the onions and the corn. Stir very well. Taste and add salt.
- Open the steamed mussels. Place all mussels on a plate (with shells), and with a teaspoon add a tablespoon of salad on top of each shell.
- Before consuming, add one last splash of lemon and some chopped cilantro.