More Peruvian than a potato: A causa history

 

Peru has over 4000 potato varieties, from round and small to others with almost no uniform shape. There are potatoes of almost every color you can think of, including red, orange and purple, among others. With this broad potato menu, it’s easy to imagine that you would most likely find potatoes in Peruvian daily meals, and you wouldn’t be wrong. Boiled, fried, mashed, dried and recooked (in Carapulcra) varieties exist, and   even in an ancient form of freeze dried ones (chuño). Personally, I love them, and lately a lot of attention has been directed to promote these native papitas (potatoes), not only for those who want to try exotic and unusual kinds of foods, but also for those seeking potential health benefits due to the natural colors that they possess (antioxidants). They are mainly commercialized as snacks (chips), as gastronomy raw materials or/and exported goods as well.

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Different potato varieties being sold (starting from around $ 0.5 per kg.) at the mercado of San Pedro – Cuzco city.  Photo credits: Thani food & life

 

I wanted to start writing my first official blog post to introduce, for those who don’t know it yet, a Peruvian dish known as Causa.   This is one of my favorite dishes from my hometown and one I certainly enjoy preparing from scratch (there are people that prepare it with instant mashed potatoes, but I personally find this method not good for lack of a better word – #nopasanada). The main ingredient is of course, mashed potatoes. Although it can be done with different varieties, I like to prepare it with what is known in Peru as the Yellow Potato variety (Papa Amarilla). You may be thinking, but almost all potatoes are kind of yellow aren’t they? They are indeed, but this one, named as I previously mentioned, is certainly the queen of the potatoes.  It crumbles very easily, so it basically melts in your mouth. Papa Amarilla also has a buttery flavor, which makes it the best option for mashed potatoes and its attractive color just invites you to try it.

There are two other main ingredients that make the causa “a causa” and they are the Peruvian yellow pepper and limes (known in Peru as lemons). The Peruvian yellow pepper (Aji Amarillo) can be founded as a paste in many countries.   It has a particular flavor and the perfect spiciness level to give many other dishes distinct notes, and could be considered one of the key elements of all Peruvian cuisine. It’s also used in other traditional dishes, such as Aji de Gallina (Peruvian hen stew), papa a la huancaina (Huancaina sauce dipped potatoes) and  lomo saltado (Peruvian stir fried beef), among so many others.

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This is a homemade rolled style causa I did back in Peru. Photo credits: Thani food & life

Peruvian limes are extremely sour, making them the perfect equilibrium element. Providing freshness whenever they’re used, they are more famous for being part of other two Peruvian favorites: Ceviche and Pisco Sour. In causa, they balance the yellow pepper’s pungency and hotness and combine with the glorious flavor of the yellow potato, ending up the perfect complement to this delicious dish.

Causa’s origin goes back to around 1988, at a time when Peru and Chile were at war. It’s said that the brave Peruvian wives and women that stayed at home, wanting to figure out a way to help the soldiers that were defending our country. So, they collected different kinds of ingredients, mostly donated by those who wanted to willingly help the heroic army. And so, they came up with this plate, which they sold in the streets, yelling loudly: For the cause! (Por la causa!). And that’s how this historic dish got its name #porlacausa.

In Peru, you don’t only use causa to talk about food. As a matter of fact, it’s a word used every day. It also means friend, a close one, like brother or sister. In the street talk can be used to call someone you don’t know (usually for men, but also for women at times). In this sense, it’s a colloquial word, so be careful next time you use it! #ashipecausa

I’ll write in the next post how can you prepare this incredible treat! I’ll also include some recommendations in case you can’t find all the required ingredients.

Until then, Thanks for stopping by! I hope you liked this post 😀

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See you next time! Hasta luego causa!

 

 

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