Papa a la Huancaina Background
Papa a la Huancaina is a Peruvian dish from, you guessed it, the Huancaina region of Peru. Traditionally, you make it by slicing yellow potatoes and boiling them. Then, add a creamy mixture of queso fresco (a fresh white cheese) and aji amarillo (a special Peruvian pepper paste) on top of the potatoes. Usually, you garnish with slices of hard boiled egg and black olives and served on top of a bed of lettuce.
So, for the non Peruvians I’ll break this down a little more. Potatoes with a slightly spicy cheesy sauce. Reminds me of poutine, a Canadian favorite. Many people claim that poutine is the perfect drunk food. What if I deep fried my potatoes as well? Is a deep fried papa a la Huancaina better than the traditional version? I decided to try both and tell you myself.
Aji Amarillo Paste
I won’t rehash how to make the pepper paste. If you would like to make a homemade version, I gave a full breakdown in my lomo saltado recipe. You can also buy it premade in some grocery stores. However, we will make one change. This time, we are adding cheese. What kind of cheese should you use? I went with gouda, but feel free to use any white cheese you desire. Queso fresco is the most traditional.
The ratio of cheese to sauce is up to you. Test how hot your pepper paste is before deciding how much to use. I used a 1 to 1 ratio, 1 cup of cheese and 1 cup of pepper paste. However, my pepper paste was quite mild. If you want to spice it up a little, you can add some hot sauce at the end as a garnish. Visually, it makes the dish pop, especially because everything else looks a very light shade of green or yellow.
Anyway, I mixed my sauce in the blender and poured over the top. You can also do it over the stove if you prefer. Add about 1/2 cup of evaporated milk to the blender first to help it blend the cheese. Add more milk if your pepper paste is too hot. As always, make sure to taste your sauce and change it til you are satisfied.
Traditional Papa a la Huancaina
I gotta say, the hardest part of this dish is just making the sauce. Everything else is incredibly easy. If you are doing traditional, slice your potatoes. For small potatoes, I recommend slicing it lengthwise so they will be bigger. Don’t make them super thin either. Otherwise, they will fall apart. For this much sauce, 6 potatoes should do it. First, boil the potatoes for about 12 minutes, or until you can stick a fork through them easily. Meanwhile, hard boil 3 eggs in another pot. Those should take about 7 minutes. Shell them and slice into quarters or slices, whichever appeals to you more.
If you have a big piece of lettuce, you can use that as the plate. I used cabbage for my deep fried version! If not, a plate works too. Put your hot potatoes on your serving platter of choice. Pour the Huancaina sauce over the top, covering all the potatoes. Then, add olive slices, fresh parsley, green onion if you got it, and some hot sauce if desired. Also, a little salt and pepper. Dress with your eggs on the perimeter of the plate. Bam, there is the true Peruvian version!
Deep Fried Papa a la Huancaina
Alright, I did my duty and gave you the legit version. Now, I get to be crazy. My thought process was that cheese fries are delicious, so would deep frying the potatoes make this even more delicious? The only difference between this and the above version is you fry the potatoes in a pot of oil instead of boiling them. For about 10 minutes. Or until golden brown. I would recommend a high temperature, so we can get a crispier skin. Take them out of the pot once you feel they are looking good.
Next, make sure to salt them liberally after they come out. Fried food is so much better with salt. Then, follow the dressing instructions from before. In my case, I forgot to add the eggs so forgive me for that. And the green onion, I was really winging it!
So, the moment you’ve been waiting for. Which version is better? Honestly, I think they are both delicious in their own right. The traditional version is perfect as a picnic food, as it is frequently eaten cold. The fried version must be eaten hot, but it is without a doubt the superior drunk food. Just do all your frying before your drinking! Also, if you want chicken wings for your Super Bowl party instead, I’ve got you covered.
Papa a la Huancaina
- 1 large pot
- 1 blender
- 1 small pot
- 8 oz gouda cheese
- 1 cup aji amarillo paste if mild, if spicy, use half that
- ½ cup evaporated milk
- 6 golden potatoes
- 3 eggs
- ¼ cup black olives sliced
- 2 green onions
- 1 tsp fresh parsley for garnish
- 1 tsp hot sauce drizzled
- Pour the evaporated milk into the blender. Cube the cheese into smaller chunks. Add several at a time. Blend them until they combine with the milk. Repeat until you run out of cheese. Can add more milk if blender is not working well.
- Add the aji amarillo paste. Blend until thoroughly combined. Taste and add salt if desired.
- Cut your potatoes into slices. Boil them (or deep fry them) for 12 minutes, or until you can stick a fork through them easily.
- While potatoes boil, hard boil 3 eggs. Boil a small pot of water, add eggs, boil for 7 minutes.
- Shell the eggs, cut into slices or quarters, depending on preference.
- Chop parsley finely. Chop green onion. Take potatoes out of water and plate them. Use 2 plates if there is too much.
- Pour the sauce over the top. Drizzle hot sauce over the sauce if desired. Sprinkle olives, green onion, and parsley on top. Dress the plate with eggs around the perimeter. Add salt and pepper if desired.