(Lima) Beans and Delhi Cha(a)t

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Peruvian dish: Causa Rellena (stuffed causa)

Alright. This is something I've been wanting to do for a while, tell a bit about some very traditional dishes from my country, in particular from Lima which is where I live. This time we'll take a glance at the causa.

Before I talk about causa I need to get something clear. Peru is home of the potato. We have an uncountable diversity of this root, and many types of it can only be found here. One of these is the "yellow potato". Smaller than a regular "white" potato, the yellow potato is unique. It has a brown skin and it's surface has a lot of dents instead of being completely smooth. Think of many small balls of playdoh stuck together. Our yellow potato not only produces dishes which are (for obvious reasons) more colorful, but is much softer, which makes it excellent to mash.

Causa starts as mashed potatos. You cook the taters and then you press them until this "dough" results. Then comes the traditional part. You add lemon to the dough (again, Peruvian lemon, not the usual kind which are big and sweet; our lemons are the size of ping pong balls and are very sour) and then you add a special type of pepper called ají. The result is a very compact, very bright dough with this unique hot-sour taste.

From what I've been able to gather, causa was eaten by our ancestors (prehispanic cultures), back when potatoes were a very, very, important part of meals (not that they are not today). Back then it was made only with potatoes and aji. When the Spanish arrived they brought lemon. When that lemon was planted on our soil it resulted in this unique breed I mentioed above.

The origins of today's dish causa rellena is much fuzzier however. According to some, back in the days of our independence (1821), the women from Lima served a variation of the causa; it had been stuffed. The people who enjoyed the feast didn't know what it was and they asked for a name. When no one replied, it is said they exclaimed "For the cause!" and thus the name causa (cause) was adopted.

Nowadays there are many ways you can prepare stuffed causa (our causa rellena). You can use chicken, fish, vegetable, seafood, the list goes on and on.

So now you know. When you come to Lima, Peru make sure you ask for it (my recomendation, try the crab filling, it's delicious).

Pass the ... lemon!

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