Creole cau cau

Creole cau cau

Peru’s African, Chinese and Andean histories sing a story to your
tastebuds in this creole stew. Yellow ají chillies high five turmeric for a golden
sauce over potatoes and seafood or chicken (or the more traditional tripe).

Peru’s fusion history can be traced through cau cau. For centuries, the humble potato was unknown to the world except in Peru in 3800 varieties. Then the Spanish conquistadors stomped in and feasted on beef, leaving their African and indigenous slaves what was left in the kitchen – tripe, potatoes, spearmint and spicy ají. It’s likely the Chinese and Italians added their own twists centuries later, with the additions of turmeric and rice on the side.

You’ll need
⅓ cup vegetable oil
½ cup red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 yellow ají (or other chilli as a
last resort)
1 tsp turmeric
½ tsp cumin
salt and pepper, to taste
1kg seafood (squid, mussels,
prawns; or tripe or chicken),
4 cups fish stock
4 medium potatoes, peeled
and diced
1 cup peas
4 tbs spearmint (or mint),
rice, to serve

Cooking Method
1 Sauté the onion and garlic in the oil until brown.
2 Add the ají, turmeric, cumin and seasoning, and cook for 5 minutes.
3 Add the seafood, stock, potatoes, peas and 3 tablespoons of the spearmint. If using tripe, precook it with milk and water.
4 Simmer until the potatoes are tender.
5 Garnish with spearmint and serve with rice.

Tasting notes
You’re in a Ma and Pa restaurant in Miraflores, Lima, and the first bite of cau cau has the comfort of an Indian curry, but with a simplicity all its own. The radio plays tinny music. The smell of ocean salt is in the air, as always; imagine the journey across the waters that brought this union of flavours to Peru’s capital. The ají amarillo (‘yellow’ chilli) is a tiny powerhouse, punching with spice above its four inches. Its pungent flavour adds depth, so it’s not overbearingly spicy, but plays nicely with the turmeric and cumin. The rice tempers everything. It’s a spicy ride, all washed down with chicha morada, a purple maize drink drunk for millennia before the Spanish landed.

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