(Lima) Beans and Delhi Cha(a)t

Monday, April 03, 2006

Peruvian Dish: Papa a la Huancaína

Time for another glance at Peruvian food. So far I've given you an idea of some desserts (like Mazamorra, Alfajores or Milk Rice), some Chifa, some Causa, and even some Pisco Sour. Now it's time to get even more traditional.

This time I bring you one of our most famous entreés, typical from the city of Lima, where I'm from. This dish is yet another prove that many Peruvian dishes aren't really difficult to make, but the flavor they pack, that's something else. In this case you basically need our old buddy Ají, some white cheese (we call it "fresh cheese") and our noble potato. Yup, one of our major contributions to the world of food, potatoes in Peru are abundant in countless forms. We can't run this blog, without potatoes having their own post.

The time has come.

Our dish today: Papa a la Huancaína ("Huancayan" Potato)

Papa a la Huancaína is a cold entrée, a key dish of Criollan food (the food from Lima) and one of the most beloved. It is basically cooked potatoes served with a cream made with cheese and aji.

How it all began:

The history behind this dish goes back many years ago, during the construction of a railroad from the capital city Lima to the mountain area. This enormous work was in charge of a number of crews that worked at 2000 m.a.s.l. You can imagine how a project of this magnitude can wear down even the toughest worker.In consequence, people (especially women) from the Huancayan population would approach the crews with meals for lunch. Among these people, one woman stuck out because of the dish she brought: nice potatoes with a delicious cheese-based sauce and some hard-boiled egg pieces. The sauce consisted of crushed cheese mixed with minced "rocoto" (a sort of aji) and diluted with some milk. This particular dish was a hit and crews would expect this woman's arrival, calling out:

"A que hora llega la papa de la Huancaína" (What time does the Huancayan's potato arrive?)

With time, the recipe evolved. Rocoto was changed for ají and oil began to be included in the preparation. With the advance of technology, the ingredients began to be mixed with the aid of blenders, in contrast to the original mortars. However, one thing did not change, and that was the uniqueness of this dish.

The following is a simple recipe for Papa a la Huancaína:


1 kg potatoes
4 green ají
1 tbsp. sugar
500 gr. fresh cheese
1 cup milk
3 lemons
2 eggs
lettuce leaves
salt and pepper
10 olives


Boil the aji (no seeds) with sugar; remove after boiling and then blend with egg-yolks, cheese, milk, lemon and oil. Add salt. Use this sauce over previously cooked (boiled) potatoes over a bed of lettuce leaves. Decorate with half a hard-boiled egg and olives.

Simple, huh? Give it a try, and when you do, let us know how it went.



22 comment(s):

Looks very yummy and delicious:)

By Anonymous Karthi Kannan, at 3:16 AM  

Thanks Karthi, it also tastes just as god ;) Nice to have you around.

By Anonymous Cesar, at 7:42 PM  

Hi Cesar,

With the lemons, do you use just the juice, or also the zest?

By Anonymous Dawna, at 9:23 PM  

Hi Dawna,

That would be the juice :) Enjoy!

By Anonymous Cesar, at 9:39 PM  

seems so very simple.. another addition to my to do list...
would be interesting to taste un cooked egg yolk. Never tried it before..

By Anonymous santhi, at 11:33 PM  

Hope you enjoy it Santhi! Let us know how you found it ;)

By Anonymous Cesar, at 9:49 AM  

This is great! I have all ingredients for this!


By Anonymous Paz, at 10:40 PM  

Let us know how it turned out, Paz. I'm sure you'll love it ;)

By Anonymous Cesar, at 11:09 PM  

Hey buddy, I have you tagged, come visit me to find about it!!!

By Anonymous Karthi Kannan, at 9:08 AM  

Gracias César, I've been waiting for this recipe to appear! I compiled a list of other papa a la huancaína recipes I found on the internet and made a post about them, but yours is the best by far. I'm going to make a post about it over at Peru Food.



By Anonymous Gato Volador, at 5:45 AM  

Here it is: a post about this recipe at Peru Food.

I can't wait to make it!



By Anonymous Gato Volador, at 12:46 AM  

Thanks so much for the post and all the good stuff about our blog, Gato! Yours is a great one we've come across. Be sure we'll stick around and we hope you will too for a long time :D

By Anonymous Cesar, at 9:33 AM  

Wow, It's so colourful.....:)

By Anonymous Lera, at 4:33 PM  

you have been tagged

By Anonymous lakshmi, at 6:57 PM  

So... how did you get the redish/yellow tint to the sauce.... perhaps paprika???

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:47 AM  

Mmmm, actually the resulting sauce is kind of yellowish, you get this color just by mixing the ingredients really, no secret technique.

Never tried using paprika, though maybe you could try. If you do let us know how it went!


By Blogger cesarcarlos, at 10:12 AM  

Perfect Huancaina. Just the way it should be done. For those who don't live in Peru, however, finding the right cheese can be the biggest problem. To my taste, the best alternate cheese (even better that original queso fresco) is the Ricotta Salata that can be found in italian stores.

By Anonymous Don Lucho, at 1:12 AM  

Hey, Don Lucho! Many thanks for the comments. Indeed trying to explain out queso fresco (fresh cheese) is a bit difficult so you mentioning Ricotta Salata as an alternative is just great.

All the best,


By Blogger cesarcarlos, at 10:04 AM  

I'd love to make this but can't find the Aji Verde chilis. Where can you buy them? Do they come in a jar? Is there a mail order place that I'm just not finding?

My favorie version of this is at a place called El Pollo Inca in Lawndale CA. I have had several other versions and none compare. I'm hopeing this recipe will be just as good or better!

Any information is appreciated.

Thank you,

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:52 AM  

Wow this is delicous!! Incredible. Used the ricotta salata. What is a good second best for the green aji and which common potato sold in the United States is the best. I used a red potato but there are blue, yellow fleshed and white russet types here, not much else.
Thanks for the great recipes. I am going to bring my list on my visit to Peru for the month of May. I can not wait!!
Patrick Worley (Author of 'The Passionfruit Cookbook'

By Anonymous Patrick Worley, at 7:02 AM  

Perdi mi receta para papas a la huancaina, y buscando en el internet me encontre con la suya, Cesar. La voy a probar el viernes, que tengo invitados. Ademas, tengo que decir que aparte de la comida peruana, la de la India es una de mi favoritas, la preparo muy frecuentemente.


By Blogger Sharon, at 4:08 AM  

i have some aji amarillo paste in the fridge. how much paste would i use, if i'm not using the whole peppers?

By Anonymous Jarrett, at 9:04 PM  

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