We’re kind of shortcut cooks. Any recipe that calls for long-simmering or overnight refrigeration gets bypassed for one described as the “cheater version”. I’m not so sure there’s a cheat to a food experience as elaborate as Peruvian pachamanca.
What is pachamanca? You can think of it like Peru’s prodigious take on BBQ. Translating to “earth oven”, pachamanca is a method of cooking that relies on stones and fire rather than more modern techniques.
The basics of any pachamanca recipe are whatever meats, potatoes, vegetables (or perhaps cuy) that you happen to have lying around. The ingredients are then marinated for 2+ hours in a dressing of chili paste, vinegar, garlic, and Andean herbs while the stones pre-heat. Once the stones have been brought up to temperature, the food is buried amongst them, covered in banana leaves, and left to cook for about 2 hours.
More than 5 people, 4+ hours, and a heap of river stones are required to properly build a pachamanca. Even more impressive is the slaughter and harvest to adequately fill one. To put it simply, the Andean dish is a hell of a lot of work. It is traditionally reserved for weddings and other extravagant occasions, but we were lucky to experience one for ourselves while staying in Cusco.
A Food Experience in the Sacred Valley
We had our first Peruvian pachamanca experience in the Amaru Village as part of our Workaway with pie experiences.To start, the stones were piled atop a dug-out fire pit, and left to heat for 2 hours. Once they were been sufficiently warmed, the pile was deconstructed and rebuilt in the hole.Between the stones went raw meats like pork ribs and guinea pig (the guys below), a tremendous range of potatoes, corn on the cob, huge fava beans, and a heap of other locally available foods. Our group was collectively relieved when we realized the family sheep was for sheering and not lunch.
The pit was then covered by a thick layer of reeds, a plastic tarp, and plenty of dirt to keep it weighed down.
The timeline was a bit different for this particular pachamanca, and after about 30 minutes (and too many hours since breakfast) a decadent smoke filled the air. In what appeared to be total frenzy, the group dismantled the pachamanca with the same urgency in which it was built.
The locally grown potatoes and recently-slaughtered meats were quickly flung from fire pit, to bowl, to kitchen, to table, which is as close to farm to table as food can really get these days.
Looks pretty good, huh?
Are you interested in experiencing Peruvian Pachamanca for yourself?
Location: The Amaru Village outside of Pisaq, Sacred Valley, Peru
Other Details: This food experience needs to be booked in advance. We spent the month with Katherine and Frederic of pie experiences, and they can offer amazing insight or bespoke tours for the rest of your time in Peru!
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