One of our first experiences with Peruvian sauces in Lima with this flavorful, cream and yellow preparation called Huancaína that we could not really identify at the first moment. Huancaína means “from Huancayo” (a city in the highlands).
Fetuccine (thin egg noodles) were coated with this fabulous blend and served with a popular beef dish called “lomo saltado”. A completely new world for us, we had no idea which dishes are among the favorites and how this sauce was prepared, we simply understood that it was a cheese preparation and it was a real delish.
The most common way we got this sauce again it was over sliced boiled potatoes garnished with boiled eggs and black olives. This is one of most common starters listed between the starters.
The traditional yellow to orange chili pepper, used for this specialty are called “Ají Amarillo” (ají means “pepper” and amarillo means “yellow”) and it is the most frequently used chili in Peru and probably the most important ingredient in Peruvian cooking. These peppers have a fruity taste with a spicy kick at the end.
Locating and buying this kind of fresh peppers may be a challenge, but don’t worry there are a few alternatives (not the same, but better than nothing) for this and you can prepare this delicious and versatile sauce. This is what I found online; don’t forget to adapt the recipe to the ingredient and your taste:
Ají amarillo paste, ají amarillo ground (need to be reconstituted), dried ají amraillo (need to be reconstituted), orange/yellow bell pepper + little hot chili or cayenne.
The last one was my alternative and the result was wonderful.
Links about the ají Amarillo:
- My recipe may be quite different form many recipes posted in the internet and in books, it is a combination of what I found in my Peruvian booklet and the instructions found in the internet.
- I substitute the ají amarillo by 1 orange bell pepper and a pinch of cayenne
- I added no salt due to the salt content of the cheese I used (a fresh neutral Greek cheese)
- I made additional sauce and used the leftover sauce the next day with boiled artichokes: a winner!
Papa a la Huancaína
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 2 ají amarillo peppers, seed, white inner skin removed and sliced
- 1 small white onion, peeled and sliced
- 1 garlic clove, sliced
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar, optional
- ½ cup of milk, eventually evaporated (the original recipe I got is with non-evaporated milk)
- 100 g white cheese (queso blanco)
- 2-3 crackers or 1 tablespoon of white breadcrumbs
- Salt to taste, if necessary
To be served with:
- boiled potatoes, sliced
- Boiled eggs, quarter or slice
- Black olives
- Green salad and/or parsley for garnish
- Heat oil in a non-sticky skillet and roast pepper, onion and garlic slices for 2-3 minutes until lightly golden.
- Add vinegar and cook until adsorbed.
- Transfer into a blender and add milk, cheese and crackers.
- Blend until smooth. Adjust thickness adding more milk or crackers depending on the consistence desired until creamy and little dense. If necessary add salt. Blend again.
- Arrange potatoes on a plate (eventually with some lettuce leaves) and pour the sauce over them. Garnish with eggs, olives and parsley.