Papa a La Huancaína
This dish is an unmissable classic of Peruvian cuisine that is a perfect combination of many of Peru’s usual culinary suspects: ají amarillo (the yellow Peruvian chili pepper), potatoes, garlic and fresh cheese.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time1 hr
Servings: 4 People
- 17 ounces floury potatoes
- 5 ounces fresh cheese
- 4 large leaves iceberg lettuce
- 3 fresh ají amarillo chili peppers
- 3 cloves peeled garlic
- 1 boiled egg
- 4 black olives
- 1 Teaspoon olive oil
- 1 Teaspoon milk
- Salt to taste
- 2-3 breadcrumbs or salty crackers optional
Cover the potatoes with salted water, boil until soft and remove from the pan to cool. You can peel the potatoes or leave the skin on.
Remove the veins (ribs) and seeds from the chili peppers. Lightly fry the chili peppers with the whole cloves of garlic in a little bit of oil.
Put the chili peppers, garlic, cheese and salt in the batán or your blender and grind/blend until smooth. If you are using a blender it might be necessary to add some breadcrumbs or crushed salty crackers to achieve the correct consistency, or on the contrary, add some more milk if it is too thick.
Slice the potatoes once they have cooled sufficiently, using 2 potatoes per serving. Place on a large single lettuce leaf. Pour a generous portion of sauce over the potatoes and lettuce and decorate with a few slices of boiled egg, and 1 or 2 olives.
Enjoy the result and wait for the compliments from your diners to come pouring in!
You also need a batán (traditional giant pestle and mortar made out of stone) or a blender, and we recommend using disposable gloves when handling the chili peppers.
As for the main ingredients, we already mentioned that the protagonist of this starter is the ají amarillo, a plant native to this part of South America, and practically one of the staples of Peruvian cuisine; it’s an indispensable feature of the seasoning of its recipes from all over the country. This pepper is considered medium hot, so each individual chef can alter the intensity of the sauce somewhat, according to their preference. Historical fact: remnants of representations of this pepper have been found in pottery shards at archeological sites in Peru, some dating back as much as five thousand years. That’s several thousand years before the Incas even laid the first stone of one their many architectural masterpieces, so the ají amarillo is a truly amazing little fiery friend.
The creamy sauce is served over a bed of sliced potatoes, which comes at no surprise since Peru is the birthplace of the potato, and still boasts over 3000 known species of the trusty tuber. However, this dish should be served with a specific type known as “yellow potato” which has a very floury texture. These potatoes might be hard to come by outside of Peru, so you can substitute it with any kind of floury type of potato available in your region.
The cheese used for the sauce is a fairly low-fat fresh cheese, very common in the Andes. The flavor of this cheese when eaten on its own pales in comparison to more mature yellow cheeses, but for this sauce it’s perfect because it doesn’t overpower the other ingredients. Not many people are aware that olives are also produced extensively on the Peruvian coast, and each serving should be decorated by one or two of its typical, intensely tart black olives.
Since all of the above ingredients are very affordable and freely available across the whole country, and preparation is quick and easy, two more factors that are undoubtedly part of its lasting success.
Good news for those following a vegetarian or vegan diet: you don’t have to miss out on Papa a la Huancaína! It is possible to prepare it without milk and cheese, and the result is pretty much as tasty as the original. Just leave out the milk and egg entirely, and replace the cheese with the same amount of strained tofu, and add 2 tablespoons of store-bought nutritional yeast to substitute the breadcrumbs.
Per Serving: 469 calories; 29.6 g fat; 42 g carbohydrates; 13.3 g protein; 163 mg cholesterol; 842 mg sodium