Recipe: Simple huancaína sauce

This is the quintessential Peruvian sauce, originally the main ingredient of papa a la huancaína (Huancayo-style potato), but nowadays used as a sauce to serve alongside pretty much anything. I like to serve it with cassava chips, made by boiling frozen cassava and then frying it in butter.

The original recipe has the following ingredients: ají amarillo (Peruvian yellow chilli), queso fresco (Peruvian feta cheese), evaporated milk and soda crackers. I used to sautée the chillies with onion and garlic but this is optional. I now omit the crackers to make it gluten-free and lower carb and use ají amarillo paste because I can’t find fresh ones in Sydney. Also, Australian feta is closer in flavour to its Peruvian cousin than the Greek or Danish varieties.

Simple huancaína sauce
Yield: about 1 cup

Huancaína

Ingredients

  • 200g Australian feta
  • 1/2 cup cooking cream
  • 1 tsp ají amarillo paste

To serve – any or all of the following:

  • boiled potatoes
  • boiled and fried cassava
  • Peruvian corn kernels threaded in toothpics

Directions

  1. Blend all sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor to your desired level of chunkiness.
  2. Serve with starchy things to dip in sauce.

Review: Cafe de Lima (Marrickville)

Up to a few months ago, when people asked me where to go to try Peruvian food I didn’t know what to answer. I knew there were a couple of Peruvian restaurants in Sydney but I decided not to try them based on their reviews. The La Bodeguita del Medio opened its doors with my compatriot Danny Parreno in charge of the kitchen. While the menu is meant to be Cuban/Latin American, he has introduced some Peruvian dishes and elements in the menu, and I must say the ones I’ve tried have been excellent. Then another compatriot, Alejandro Saravia, opened Morena, with a mainly Peruvian menu. Food is outstanding and I’m recommending the restaurant to anyone who asks, but with the caveat that is pricey, and it’s not your everyday typical cuisine. La Parrillada falls in the budget category, portions are large, food is tasty and service is great.

I don’t know how but my sister found Cafe de Lima a while ago. When I looked at the about page in their website I was pretty sure I had seen the owners selling Peruvian food in the Marrickville Festival before. We scheduled a visit ASAP.

The cafe is located in the heart of Marrickville’s commercial strip. A peak inside made it obvious that most of the customers are Latin Americans, presumably Peruvians.

Cafe de Lima

We ordered two dishes from the regular menu and one special to share. The anticuchos can be made of prime beef or heart (we ordered heart, which is the traditional cut) marinated in Peruvian spices and grilled. The portion consists in 2 skewers with a side of potatoes, huancaína cream, and salad greens. The anticuchos tasted great but were a bit dry. We had decided to make an exception and eat potatoes and dairy to try the sides. Sadly, the huancaína cream was disappointing, too thin and bland for our taste. I loved that they put palmitos in the salad.

Anticuchos

Anticuchos ($13.00)

The cebiche was better. It had a good fish/onion/chili ratio but lacked a bit of zing. Later I realised they cure the fish in lemon and lime juice, definitely the lemon lowers the acidity we’re used to.

Cebiche

Cebiche ($18.00)

Finally, we tried the adobo de chancho, marinated pork which is slowly cooked in a casserole with Peruvian spices. It was the best dish, hands down, flavourful and tender. I was very happy my allergy to pork is gone.

Adobo

Adobo de chancho ($18.00)

We didn’t find the food breathtaking but it wasn’t bad. Prices are good, serving sizes are right, service is efficient and correct. And a bonus: it’s close enough to home. I reckon we’ll be back.

Cafe de Lima
208 Marrickville Road
Marrickville NSW 2204
(02) 9569 3331
http://www.cafedelima.com.au/

Cafe de Lima on Urbanspoon

International dinner

“Multicultural” is a word you hear often when someone’s talking about Sydney. I used to think we had all sorts of races in my country but it was when I arrived when I truly understood the meaning of the word.

The group of friends I usually hang out with (a.k.a. those freaky Buddhists) is indeed multicultural. That’s why Jane had the idea of organising a dinner in which each one brought a plate from their country (or any other country if they chose to). In the beginning it seemed that there wouldn’t be enough food but, as often happens, we ended up with heaps of leftovers.

The eclectic mix of dishes looked a bit scary when you imagined all that stuff blending in your stomach but fortunately there were no reported incidents the day after. This is what we had:

Japanese rice (seasoned sushi-style, and with thin strips of thin omelette, nori and vegetables) and sushi rice wrapped in thin omelette, by Taeko

Japanese rice

Green salad with feta cheese, by Gary

Green salad with feta

Kiwi-style lamb chops, by Gary

Lamb chops

Hot dogs, by Matt

Hot dog buns & sauces

Hot dog

Russian salad, by Andrey

Russian salad

Pulpo al olivo, by me

Pulpo al olivo

Huancaína sauce and yuquitas fritas, by me

Huancaina sauce & yuquitas fritas

Black forest cake, by Jane

Black forest cake

As I said we thought that there was not enough food and the guys that didn’t bring a plate went to the supermarket to get a roast chicken and bread (not pictured).

The next posts will be the recipes for the dishes I brought, so stay tuned!

Holidays in Lima (April 28 2010)

Wednesday’s pre-workout meal was a granadilla*, three boiled quail eggs that my mum had left in the fridge for me and a banana de seda**. Then, after training I had one banana de la isla** and almonds.

I had lunch with my friend from school Carla. Ironically, she was the one who “booked” a meeting with me before than anybody else and we had to reschedule our lunch a couple of times. First she was sent to a beach in the South of Lima on the day we had originally agreed. Then we chose another restaurant that was closer to her office, and when I got there it was being renovated. I ringed her and we quickly thought on another meeting point. She picked me up and I chose a restaurant nearby, another cebichería (I LOVE seafood) called La Preferida (the preferred). We ordered a tiradito*** with two sauces (yellow chili and Parmesan cheese) and conchitas a la parmesana (scallops with broiled Parmesan cheese).

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I had a Cusqueña beer and Carla a Inca Kola**** and, of course, we ate a lot of canchita****.

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Food was really good, as usual, and I had a great time chatting with Carla. After lunch I checked my emails and went to Julio’s house. We walked a few hundred meters to the seafront of Miraflores, where the tandem flight guys are located when there’s enough wind to fly. The experience costs 150 soles (I think it was cheaper before) and lasts only 10 minutes. Because you fly with an instructor, you have to do nothing but relax and feel like floating over the sea and the seafront, watching the buildings beside you and other people in tandems performing tricks.

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When time was over the wind kept pushing us up, so the instructor had to turn around and try again three times, meaning that I had extra time for free!

Then Julio and I went to Larcomar (a shopping centre next to the sea) to drink something. We stopped in a fruit bar called Disfruta (it means enjoy but the name in Spanish plays with the word fruta, fruit). I had a juice called Tuna Manía that had tuna, mango and granadilla. Before you scream in horror, tuna in Spanish is the name of a fruit, the fish you know as tuna is called atún. Tuna (the fruit) comes from cactuses.

On my way back home I had to change buses. I went to a bakery called Wilton’s and ate an alfajor, two corn flour sweet biscuits with a layer manjarblanco (caramel) in the middle and covered with icing sugar. It was delicious and it didn’t have shredded coconut on the sides (most of the times, people roll the sides of alfajores in shredded coconut, which I hate).

That night I went with mum to my aunties’ house. I had leftovers from the previous day for dinner: yuquitas fritas***** with huancaína and ocopa sauces and a quarter of a butifarra plus picarones, a dough made with flour, cooked pumpkin, cooked sweet potato and yeast, shaped like a donut, fried and served with miel de chancaca, a syrup made from dark cane sugar, fig leaves, cinammon and cloves.

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* The explanation about granadilla can be found here.

** The explanation about the types of bananas can be found here.

*** The explanation about tiradito and huancaína sauce can be found here.

**** The explanation about Inca Kola and canchita can be found here.

***** The explanation about yuquitas fritas and ocopa sauce can be found here.

Holidays in Lima (April 27 2010)

On Tuesday I deviated from my usual quinoa plus fruit and shake options. I had been shopping in the market on Monday, and I bought ciruelas criollas, creole plums, which I honestly don’t know if are truly related to the plums everyone knows. They are smaller and with a elliptical shape, edible thin red skin and juicy, sweet and tangy yellow flesh. I had a big bunch plus some almonds and a banana de seda* for breakfast.

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That day I finally had lunch with my parents in a very well known cebichería called La Red (the net). I had tried to have lunch there a number of times with no luck, it was always packed and I hate to queue for a table. This time was not different but I had to try this restaurants, so we waited. I said hi to my Buddhist friend César who works there as a waiter, he said he’d try to get us a table soon but the place was really busy. We checked the menu while waiting and chose our plates (then changed our minds, then decided again), so we ordered as soon as we were given a table. My mum and I shared a causa de pulpa de cangrejo (causa* with crabmeat), a tacu tacu de locro con camarones (tacu tacu** made with locro instead of beans, topped with shrimp and shrimp sauce) and a small jug of chicha morada***. Locro is a stew made with cubed pumpkin and potato, cooked until they collapse, mixed with milk and feta cheese, and served with corn, peas and usually beef. My dad ordered a saltado de pescado (lomo saltado**** made with fish instead of beef).

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Food was spectacular. I loved the taste, the portion sizes were enormous (except the causa, which was regular sized) and the prices were not very high, although all dishes featuring shrimp were 39 soles, around 10 soles more than the rest of them. I didn’t have room for dessert but I tried a spoonful of my mum’s suspiro a la limeña***, which was tasty but not as good as the one in El Rincón Que No Conoces, a famous creole restaurant where I have tasted the best suspiro in my life, followed by mine (of course!).

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After lunch I went shopping and then to look for creole sandwichs. Right next to the sandwich restaurant there was a garage where a lady with two giant pots was selling arroz con leche (rice pudding) and mazamorra morada (purple corn pudding, made by boiling purple corn with pineapple skin, cinnamon and cloves, thickening it with potato and corn starch and adding dried fruit), traditional desserts that are commonly sold in carts, stalls, etc., and that can be eaten alone or served together in a cup, changing the name of the dessert to combinado (combined). I ate the smallest combinado available, which was an 8 oz cup that costed 1 sol. Then I bought two butifarras (sandwich made with a special ham called jamón del país or country ham, with salsa criolla on top, ie thinly sliced onions with chili and lime juice) and one turkey sandwich. I asked the girl to pack the bread rolls, meats and sauces in different containers, to avoid the rolls from getting moist.

That night I went to Gloria’s apartment, one block away from my parents’ house. My sister was sick, but she did her best to have a good time and be a good host. She helped me with the preparation: cooked cocktail potatoes and broad beans in the microwave, skinned the broad beans, separated the corn from the cob and helped me wash plates and utensils. I prepared a solterito “reloaded”, a remake of a typical salad from a city called Arequipa. My version had lettuce, broad beans, corn, black olives, Paria cheese, avocado and lime juice. I also prepared ocopa sauce (a sauce also from Arequipa that has yellow chili, oil, peanuts, a herb called huacatay, milk, feta cheese and sweet biscuits) and huancaína*** sauce to dip the cocktail potatoes, corn and yuquitas fritas (yuca pieces that had been boiled and browned in butter). We also had the sandwiches I had bought previously.

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We spent the night chatting and drinking a really good Argentinian Malbec that Gloria and Aníbal had (from the Luigi Bosca winery). I didn’t go home too late to let Gloria rest. Before I left, we split the leftovers for the next day.

* The explanation about the types of bananas and causa can be found here.

** The explanation about tacu tacu can be found here.

*** The explanation about chicha morada, suspiro a la limeña and huancaína sauce can be found here.

**** The explanation about lomo saltado can be found here.

Holidays in Lima (April 17 2010)

On Saturday I didn’t have a pre-workout meal because I had been out the night before (again!), drinking and eating, and I wasn’t hungry. After training I had a papaya and banana de la isla* juice. Papaya is great for healing the stomach lining that is usually irritated after a night out. I always add cinnamon to juices that contain papaya. I also had half a wholemeal bread roll with butter and black olives. Until some years ago I totally hated olives. Lots of people write about the dualism that surrounds olives, it seems that people tend to either love it or hate it with passion. That happened to me, too, and now I’m in the olive lovers’ side. And I must admit that I love Peruvian olives a lot more than the ones I buy in Sydney.

After breakfast I prepared crema volteada, a Peruvian dessert similar to flan and crème brulée, made with eggs, evaporated milk, condensed milk and vanilla esence. When it was almost ready I turned off the oven and left it inside to finish cooking with the remaining heat. I went for lunch with my sister Gloria, her boyfriend Aníbal and my niece Ale. Aníbal drove us to a cebichería that belongs to a well-know Peruvian chef. The place, called La Pescadería (the fish shop) is located in a not-so-good neighbourhood but inside it’s a fancy restaurant on the pricy side. They even have a sushi bar inside. We ordered some sushi to nibble while waiting for the mains: maki montado (fried fish, avocado and Philadelphia cheese, topped with huancaína sauce**) and drinks (I had beer, of course). Before the sushi arrived we were served complimentary chilcano de pescado, a fish broth seasoned in this case with ají panca (dried red chili) and drank with lime juice and fresh chili, perfect for a cool afternoon.

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While browsing the menu looking for the most appealing main option I spotted something I couldn’t believe, a dish that I’ve been craving for ages but that is hard to find in restaurants (and impossible to re-create here): cau cau de choros. The traditional cau cau is a stew made with mondongo (cow’s stomach), cubed potatoes, palillo (turmeric) and a herb called hierbabuena. I hate mondongo because of its strong smell and towel-like texture, but I love the dish when cooked with choros (mussels). According to the menu, this version of cau cau came with mussels and chorizo but instead of chorizo there was salchicha de Huacho, a spicy sausage (as in “with spices”, not as in “hot”) similar in flavour to a Turkish sausage called Sucuk. It comes from a town called Huacho, hence the name. The stew was served in a big clay pot with white rice in the center, it was espectacular.

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Ale ordered cebiche de corvina (corvina is the name of the fish) without chili, Gloria jalea de calamar en salsa de tumbo (fried squid in a sauce made with a fruit from the jungle called tumbo, with fried yuca as a side) and Aníbal mako en guiso de frejoles y salchicha de Huacho (a fish called mako with a bean and salchicha de Huacho stew, which was served also in a clay plate like mine and was almost as good. Food was excellent, the only flaws in the restaurant were a dirty fork (which was changed as soon as I told the waiter) and that the waiter failed to let us know that the credit card system was not working before we even ordered. Luckily, Aníbal had cash on him.

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At night, after dropping Ale at home we went to the city centre to have a pisco sour, our national drink made with pisco**, lime juice, jarabe de goma** and egg whites, in the old Hotel Bolívar, which fame relies on this drink. Gloria drank algarrobina, a cocktail made with pisco, algarrobina (a syrup made in the North of the country boiling carob pods for very long hours), jarabe de goma, evaporated milk, egg yolk, cinnamon and sometimes cacao liquor. We ordered two servings of bolitas de yuca rellenas de queso con salsa huancaína (cassava balls stuffed with cheese and served with huancaína sauce) to nibble on. The sauce was very thin (I like it chunky) but tasted alright.

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We wanted another drink so we went to Huaringas bar “for a change”. We always end up here because a) the drinks are awesome, b) the food is amazing, c) the vibe is great, d) the manager is my good buddhist friend Alfonso and over the years many other buddhist friends have worked there as waiters/waitresses. Before going there we went to Aníbal’s house and left the car there. My friend Rashid was working that day, so he found us a table (the place is always packed, so he actually removed the “reserved” sign from a small table and let us sit there). Aníbal ordered one of the signature drinks: Huaringas sour (I don’t remember what’s in it), Gloria had a granadilla and mandarin juice and I had a sour de granadilla con fresas de Pachacamac (pisco sour but with granadilla and strawberries from Pachacamac instead of lime juice). We also had more nibbles (I know, we ate a lot!): quinoa-crusted prawns. Once again, everything was super yummy.

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* The explanation about the types of bananas can be found here.

** The explanation about huancaína sauce, pisco and jarabe de goma can be found here.

Holidays in Lima (April 16 2010)

On the third day I overslept. I had been out the night before and I just lost track of time. My breakfast, at noon, was two bananas* (de la isla and manzano). Then I took a taxi and went to Segundo Muelle, a cebichería (seafood restaurant) where I met my ex-colleagues from Ernst & Young. We ordered two jugs of chicha morada, a sweet and refreshing drink made by boiling purple corn with pineapple skin, cinnamon and cloves. Before serving, sugar and lime juice are added. I drank as much as I could when I was there because, unlike lúcuma**, the powdered stuff is terrible, tastes like a lolly. I ordered cebiche de lenguado, langostino y pulpo (raw fish, cooked prawn and cooked octopus mixed with sliced onions, salt, chili and lime juice, served with corn and sweet potato), and a tamalito verde (green tamal**, the colour and flavour come from fresh coriander). I also tried tiradito a la huancaína (sashimi-style fish with huancaína sauce, made with yellow chili, oil, feta cheese, evaporated milk and soda crackers), piqueo Entre Causas (yellow potato causa* and sweet potato causa, with cooked seafood between them) and arroz con conchas negras (rice with black mussels), all of them very tasty. There was no room for dessert, but I gave them a big Tim Tam pack for afternoon tea in the office.

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In the afternoon, in an Internet cafe I spotted doncellas, a sweet similar to turrón de Doña Pepa but very small, orange in colour and without lollies. I love those, so I ate one as dessert. After training in the gym I had a papaya and banana juice.

At night I went out with my friends from uni. We went to Cocodrilo Verde, a restaurant/bar with live shows. There was a three-men jazz band from the US playing that night. When choosing drinks I decide to have something with pisco, our national liquor made from distilled grape must (the just pressed grape juice that contains all solid parts of the fruit). I chose suspiro de lúcuma (pisco, milk, lúcuma, jarabe de goma, cinnamon and whipped cream). I know, I know, it was more a calorie-loaded alcoholic dessert than a drink, but it was really good. Actually, it’s named after our typical dessert suspiro a la limeña, which consists of a layer of manjarblanco (aka dulce de leche or caramel) mixed with raw egg yolks, topped with Italian meringue infused with cinnamon and port. It’s sweet as hell but delicious. It’s better eaten while drinking a large glass of water or a pisco shot to cut the sweetness. Back to the drinks ingredients, jarabe de goma is a syrup infused with citrus, used in lots of Peruvian cocktails.

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We order some food to nibble on while chatting: piqueo criollo (fried yuca with huancaína sauce, corn with chili sauce, tamalito, humita, chicharrón de pollo or fried chicken morsels) and crunchy prawns with passion fruit sauce. Humita is another kind of tamal, the main difference is that the corn isn’t mixed with chili. The food was beautiful. When I finished my drink/dessert I order another pisco cocktail called pisquiri de mango (mango daikiri with pisco instead of rhum), also very nice.

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Back home I wasn’t really hungry but I wanted to eat something. There was some asado with mashed potatoes left from lunch, one of the many dishes my mum cooks really well, so I had a full-size serving.

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* The explanation about the types of bananas and causa can be found here.

** The explanation about lúcuma and tamales can be found here.