Carapulcra, Traditional Peruvian Stew

Carapulcra is a traditional Peruvian dish made of dried potatoes, peanuts, and pepper. The impact of colonization and the introduction of new ingredients from Europe has had a lot of influence on shaping this dish to what it is today. Even though it is a traditional Peruvian dish, it is often referred to as a Creole dish because of the newer interpretation.

Carapulcra is one of the oldest dishes in Peru. Originally, an indigenous stew prepared with dried potato, pork, and a mix of spices, this dish has seen many variations over time. Heavily influenced by history, this dish continues to be a unique specialty of this Andean region. 

Carapulcra is a dish that is packed with deep, bold flavors. This rustic and exotic Peruvian dish is also a time and labor-intensive food, and there is more to this dish than just its explosive flavors; it has a story that is steeped in history. Keep on reading to learn about the history, the traditions, and the unique ingredients that have shaped the Peruvian meal to what it is today.

The History of Carapulcra

The history of any region is also told through its cuisine. The Carapulcra is one such vestige of Peru’s cuisine and culinary history. This dish is a potato and pork stew that is believed to have been first prepared by the Incas over half a century ago.

The Incas cultivated potatoes and dehydrated some of the products as a preservation technique. It also helped reduce the water weight, which made it easier to transport these dehydrated potatoes.

This ancient Andean dish has been prepared for centuries, by both the Quechua and the Aimara people were originally called “Qala Phurka,” which means a stew cooked on hot stones. To this day, hot stones are sometimes placed at the bottom of a clay pot to bring water to a boil and cook the dried potatoes with the rest of the ingredients.

Before colonization, the meat that would invariably feature in this classic Peruvian recipe would be that of the llama or alpaca. These days, it is mostly pork that is used for its smoky and salty flavor, though the chicken is also used at times.

Carapulcra Is Part of the Peruvian Tradition

Carapulcra Peruvian Stew with rice and ceviche
Carapulcra

Ricardo Palma wrote about the carapulcra in his book, Tradiciones Peruanas, highlighting that this dish was served during religious feasts. He mentioned other Creole dishes of Peruvian origin in this context and named the pepián and en adobo as a couple more dishes that played a role in Peruvian traditions.

The Use of Dried Potato in Peruvian Carapulcra

One of the key ingredients of this dish is Peruvian dried potatoes, locally known as papa seca. The dish will not taste the same without this dried ingredient. The potatoes are peeled and dried in the open so that it is dehydrated. The vegetable gradually develops a distinctive flavor and grayish color when it is left out in the open.

Once dried up, the potatoes were cut to small cubes and boiled to serve as a base for soups. The potatoes become firmer and starchier after drying and are capable of withstanding long and slow simmering for hours without falling apart.

Proteins Used

These days the protein of choice for carapulcra is pork. However, it is common to see a combination of pork and other meats for the dish. Sometimes pork is replaced with chicken or beef as well. 

Spices Used

Among spices, the exotic ají amarillo is used as the chief seasoning in carapulcra. It is a Peruvian yellow pepper that is pungent and packs a lot of heat. It colors the stew a vivid ochre and gives the dish a gentle smokiness.

Cloves and ground peanuts are the typical ingredients in Peruvian cooking. They are also used to make carapulcra, and then a small amount of chocolate is also added to balance out the heat and saltiness and bring out the subtle sweetness of the dried potatoes in the stew.

Dry white wine and port are European influences, but they are generously used to give a burst of flavor to the dish.

Carapulcra Variations

This Peruvian dish also has massive African influence. Slaves brought from the African continent to work in the cotton fields, located south of Lima, created their own rendition of this delicious dish. One such variation is the dry soup version of this very same carapulcra. In this variation, the small pieces of meat in the stew are replaced with generous portions, and the rice is replaced with seasoned noodles.

The city of Chincha Alta is the birthplace of this delicious fusion, and it is made to mark special occasions such as weddings and regional holidays.

The Vegan Option

Just because the dish uses pork or chicken does not mean that an alternate option cannot exist for vegans and vegetarians. Instead of the meat, many Peruvian restaurants have started using soya chunks to cater to their varied vegan customers’ needs. This alternative packs just as much flavor when cooked with soya chunks as it does when meat is used.   

How to Prepare Peruvian Carapulcra

Peruvain Stew Carapulcra with white rice
Peruvian Stew, Carapulcra

To prepare Peruvian carapulcra, you will need the following ingredients:

  • Papa seca 1 lb. (0.45 kg)
  • Pork shoulder cut into medium-sized cubes 2 lbs. (0.9 kg)
  • Garlic paste 4 teaspoons
  • Diced red onion 1 cup
  • Aji amarillo 2 teaspoons
  • Cumin powder 1 teaspoon
  • Peanut butter 2 tablespoons
  • Cloves 2 pieces
  • Cinnamon 2 sticks
  • Star anise 2 pieces
  • Chicken stock 8 cups
  • Port Wine 1/2 cup
  • Roasted peanuts and cilantro for garnish
  • Cooking oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

To make the Carapulcra, follow the quick and easy steps mentioned here 

  1. In a dry skillet, toast the dried potatoes or pepa seca for five to seven minutes. Once roasted, soak it in cold water for a half-hour. Then strain and set it aside. 
  2. While the pepa seca is soaking, season the pork cubes with salt, pepper, and cumin powder and allow that to rest as well for a half hour.
  3. Once marinated, heat some cooking oil in a large pot and brown the pork cubes and then remove the pork from the pot and set it aside. 
  4. In the same pot in which the pork cubes were fried, fry the onion with the garlic paste for two minutes before adding in the aji amarillo. Keep on stirring till the onions are translucent.  
  5. Next add the papa seca along with the peanut butter and six cups of chicken stock. Then add the remaining spices – cloves, cinnamon, and star anise.
  6. Simmer this for the next one to one and a half an hour with the pot covered. Do not forget to add water or chicken stock if required. 
  7. The pork should be fork-tender by now. Add the wine and cook it for another ten minutes before garnishing the dish with roasted peanuts and cilantro. 
  8. Serve hot with steamed rice.

In this video, there is another variation of the same recipe:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4dE7UHsqrDs

Conclusion

Carapulcra is a wholesome dish, and an ideal meal for your dinner table all year round, especially so on cold days when the body needs the warmth of a hearty stew. It is a perfect example of Peruvian cookery, and due to its propensity to allow variations, the dish can be readily tweaked to meet the dietary preferences of vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. 

All in all, carapulcra is the perfect dish to try if you plan your foray into the Peruvian culinary world.

Now that we’ve planned our main dish, what’s for dessert? Check out 9 Peruvian Desserts To Die For!

Visit our online store to find carapulcra ingredients and other freshly imported Peruvian foods and drinks!

Sources 

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