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Locro de Papa (Potato Soup)

12/05/2009

In the month or so before I left for Ecuador last February I started panicking that I had made the wrong decision–why was I even going abroad? Why Ecuador? What if I forgot my Spanish? What if there was nothing I could eat there? Where would my protein come from?! To help allay my fears, I did what any young person living in the 21st century would do: I googled Ecuador, trying to pick up some tidbit that would put me at ease.

I didn’t really find much of anything. I focused my searches on food, mostly, because, clearly, that was the most important issue to resolve. The search was not very reassuring until I found this potato soup recipe. What could be bad about a country that serves its potato soup with a chunk of avocado and fresh cheese?

When I first got to Ecuador, I cataloged every meal that I ate. It lasted about two weeks, three tops. I remember being mildly disappointed that locro de papa wasn’t served at every lunch, until I realized how many other delicious soups there were. During my first month there, my host mother made a different soup for lunch every single day.

In Ecuador, lunch is the main meal and usually consists of a primero, first course–soup–and segundo, second course–some kind of combination of meat, seafood, and rice or potato. Such a meal can be purchased in a restaurant for no more than $2 in many places. Most typical Ecuadorian restaurants have menus but don’t use them–each day they serve something different, but they serve only that. As a vegetarian (that’s how I dealt with keeping Kosher), that was challenging. I once went to a restaurant with some Ecuadorian friends and the owner offered to make me eggs with rice since I couldn’t eat the soup or the main dish. A friend commented that I was getting service like I would at home rather than at a restaurant, which struck me as the exact opposite of my experiences in the United States where at home you eat what is made for you and in a restaurant you can ask for whatever you want.

Locro de papa (literally stew of potato) remains a fond reminder of my blind jump into a new country where at least I knew they ate one tasty dish. The potato is native to the Andes, so this dish is most commonly served in the sierra region of the country–the Ecuadorian Highlands. I got my recipe from a bilingual cookbook I purchased while in Ecuador, The Ecuador Cookbook: Traditional Vegetarian and Seafood Recipes/La cocina ecuatorinana: recetas tradicionales vegetarianas y de mariscos by Chrsti Buchanan and César Franco.

Locro de Papa (Potato Soup)

Serves four

1 pound potatoes, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons oil
1/4 cup chopped green onion (I use scallion when I can’t find green onion)
1 potato, peeled and cubed
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
4-8 iceberg lettuce leaves, washed (I don’t include this, but it is a distinguishing feature of the soup)
1/3 pound fresh, white cheese (Queso Fresco, farmers, and mozzarella all work, though Queso Fresco is most similar)
1 ripe avocado

Sauté diced potatoes with oil and onion. When onion is browned, add water until potatoes are just covered. Add one more cup of water and bring to a boil. Stir in cubed potato. Reduce heat. Simmer and stir until cubed potato is tender and diced potatoes are dissolved, about 20 minutes. (Both times that I have made this soup, I was very skeptical that the potatoes would “dissolve”–but they did! No pureeing necessary for this soup, you just need a little patience while stirring.)

Meanwhile, line deep soup bowls with lettuce leaves. Slice cheese into four thick pieces and place one piece into each bowl. Cheese can also be add crumbled. Quarter and peel the avocado.

Add milk and salt to pot once potatoes are done. Stir in one direction until the locro almost boils. Remove from heat and spoon immediately into bowls so the cheese melts. Crown each soup with a slice of avocado. Serve and enjoy!

(For those concerned about lactose intolerance, this soup is also delicious using soy milk and without the cheese.)

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. 12/05/2009 12:17 PM

    this sounds great!
    check out my food blog and tell me what you think:
    http://thegodscake.wordpress.com

    Michael

  2. kruleintentions permalink
    12/06/2009 11:04 AM

    latke soup!

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