Wholesome, filling and rustic to boot. This Bolivian fricasé is all about comfort and I love everything about it.
Is it a soup or is it a stew? Well, it’s kinda both. Slow cooked chunks of pork, deep, rich and spicy in flavour. It’s made even more nourishing by adding a good scoop of hominy (white maize) and a rather unique ingredient known as chuño.
Chuño are basically dried whole potatoes – developed by Andeans so that they could be eaten when out of season, if the crops were poor or there were some kind of shortages – especially in remote parts of Bolivia, such as the Altiplano. They’re available at just about any local market in Bolivia, with many different varieties, as well.
They basically lay fresh potatoes out in the fields at the beginning of winter, allowing them to freeze overnight, then naturally defrost the following day. Over several days of sunshine and freezing nights, the potatoes slowly dry and the moisture within seeps out; and with the help of being trodden on to squeeze even more moisture out, the potatoes eventually lose their skins and a supply of firm and dry potatoes is born.
When making my fricasé, I didn’t even bother trying to find chuño anywhere in Sydney. Something told me it’d be quicker to fly to Bolivia than trying to source them.
So I tried my hand at making chuño myself.
We don’t quite have high altitude conditions in our backyard in Sydney’s inner west, so the combination of domestic freezer, domestic oven and summer sun got me the chuño I needed. All it took was a week.
The thing is, once you have your dried potatoes you’re rehydrating them anyway, before using in cooking. A little pointless when fresh can be used to begin with, but the chuño has a specific flavour that it adds to the soup. It’s a more concentrated potato flavour – earthy and slightly pungent.
If you’ve got the time and like a bit of a challenge, I’d say try your hand at making chuño yourself, should you make my version of Bolivian fricasé. If not, I urge you to make the soup anyway with regular small potatoes.
Read about how I made my chuño below.