You Say Potato, I Say Papa Seca

Like nuggets of amber, Peruvian dried potatoes

I’ve come across any number of unusual dried food products while foraging through ethnic food markets. But I’d never run across dried potatoes, until Kate passed along a bag of dried Peruvian yellow potatoes (papa seca) found on one of her reconnaissance missions through D.C.’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood.

Hmmmm. Makes sense. Every culture finds a way to dry/preserve its abundant natural resources. Peruvians have the advantage of thousands of potato varieties, and here they’d been dried into little nuggets resembling pieces of amber.

Still, good thing the package included a recipe for Carapulcra, a traditional Incan pork and chicken stew. First step: toasting the dried bits of potato in a pan. No instruction on how long, but it soon became apparent as the kitchen was filled with the aroma of fresh potato chips! The potatoes are then soaked in water for a bit, and added to a pot with some browned chicken, pork, onion, garlic, cumin and chile paste. (In this case Peruvian panca, handily available at my local coop, but other recipes call for chipotle.) The dish is finished off by stirring in some clove, crushed peanuts and red wine.

The result somehow seemed like a pot of chili with the beans swapped for bits of reconstituted, slightly chewy potato (maybe because in this case the wine was replaced with beer from a six-pack in the fridge). It’s not an especially pretty dish, but it’s tasty, hearty, and the kind of long-simmered stew found in every culture. Plus, a single package makes a ton. Now, if it only freezes as well. . .


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