Inchicapi de gallina, sometimes just called inchicapi, is a traditional dish from the Peruvian jungle. The name comes from two words in the language of the Quechua people of South America, soup and peanut. This Peruvian chicken dish is not well known in the United States, or indeed, most countries outside of Peru. But that’s unfortunate as it’s a truly delicious soup and I believe it deserves more attention.
I would describe it as having a strong aroma, with lots of texture. It’s big on flavor, being creamy and crunchy at the same time, with good-sized pieces of vegetables and chicken meat. Some people describe it like chowder thanks to the creaminess.
The main ingredients are ground or blended peanuts, corn, yuca, sacha culantro (sometimes called Mexican culantro), and of course, chicken. Hence its full name, inchicapi de gallina. Actually, gallina directly translates to “hen”. Hens are older and less tender birds and therefore they are cheaper. But unless you prefer the taste, a younger chicken is preferable.
The dish has pre-Hispanic origins. The indigenous people of the Peruvian jungle did not use precooked cornmeal originally. They used crushed white corn and spent many hours cooking the ingredients to soften the cassava and chicken. The long-cooked corn had a thick texture that can be achieved with precooked corn flour typically used today.
It’s one of my favorite Peruvian soups. Here’s how to prepare it!
How to cook inchicapi
Inchicapi follows the standard soup prep steps. The first step is to cook the protein, in this case chicken or hen meat, in plenty of salted water. Add the rest of the ingredients to the broth where the meat was cooked. This is how most soups are prepared in Latin America.
Inchicapi essentially follows the same process. However, yuca must be cooked for a longer period than other vegetables for them to become tender, so cook them along with the chicken.
When the chicken and yuca are soft, the rest of the ingredients, except for the cornflour, are blended and added to the soup. After about ten minutes, add the cornmeal dissolved in water.
Stir the cornmeal continuously to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Otherwise, the cornmeal could burn and ruin the taste of the soup.
Substitutions and alternatives
- Use young chicken instead of hen meat.
- You can also substitute coriander (dried seeds) for the culantro (leaves).
- It is possible to use ocumo or yautia (taro) instead of yuca (the root of the cassava plant). However, this substitution tends to greatly modify the final flavor of the dish.
Inchicapi is a fairly complete dish and can be served as a main course as it is. But a few selected accompaniments work well:
- steamed or parboiled plantains (platanos)
- finely chopped sachaculantro
- little toasted peanuts.
With these you will be able to add more flavor and content to the dish, preserving its original indigenous flavors.
Notes & Tips
- When adding the precooked cornmeal it is important to stir constantly to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pot and this would add an unpleasant burnt flavor.
- It is important to make sure that the yuca and the chicken are soft before adding the rest of the ingredients, in the event that they are still hard you must add a little more water and continue cooking a few additional minutes before incorporating the ingredients.
- Yuca is usually sold frozen in large pieces in supermarkets, already peeled. They can be used straight from the refrigerator.
Inchicapi – Peruvian Chicken and Peanut Soup
- Rinse the yuca under running water, and then cut them into discs of no more than three centimeters thick. Put aside.
- Put two liters of water in a pot. Add a teaspoon of salt along with the yuca and chicken pieces. Cook the yuca pieces over high heat for about thirty minutes until they open up.
- While the chicken and yucas are cooking, prepare the rest of the ingredients. Place two cups of water in the blender, add the sacha culantro or coriander, the sweet peppers (without veins or seeds), the peanuts, the garlic, and the two cubes of concentrated chicken broth.
- Blend at high speed for three minutes until you get a homogeneous mixture.
- At this point, the vegetables and meat should be soft and half of the water in the pot will have evaporated. Pour the mixture into the water and stir with a kitchen spoon until everything is well integrated. Cook for about ten more minutes.
- While the inchicapi is cooking, dissolve the cornmeal in the remaining water.
- Add the cornmeal mixture to the pot, cook for five more minutes without stopping stirring. Careful handling of cornmeal is vital, since it tends to stick to the bottom. Turn off the heat and remove the pot. If necessary, taste and adjust salt.
- Serve the inchicapi with sliced chili peppers, plantains, or chopped peanuts