Huancaina, the classic Peruvian sauce
Papa a la Huancaina is a Peruvian staple, with the piquant cheesy sauce served over slabs of steamed potatoes.
The sauce can also be used for pasta. Fettuccini a la Huancaina with ossobuco is one of the heartiest Italo-Peruvian dishes.
Spicy, creamy, sweet or acidic, with ingredients from the jungle, mountains and coast, Peruvian sauces are as varied as any other aspect of our national cuisine. But if there is a single sauce that truly represents the country, and is frequently and enthusiastically consumed by Peruvians of all classes, then it is Salsa Huancaina, from the picturesque town of Huancayo, in the central Peruvian Andes. Thick, cheesy and peppery, Huancaina is typically served poured over slabs of steamed potatoes and garnished with half a boiled egg, a black olive and a sprig of lettuce, to make an enticing starter, one that any visitor to Peru should try at least once.
Huancaina is made by first frying diced red onion and garlic with the sauce’s signature ingredient, ají amarrillo, or Peruvian yellow chilies, before then blended them with soft white Andean cheese and saltine crackers and a dash of key lime juice. Another similar sauce, Ocopa, from Peru’s third city of Arequipa, uses peanuts and huacatay, an Andean herb known in English as black mint, to give a sweeter layer of flavor, and is also served over steamed potato slices. Yet, Peruvians also love to use Huancaina to add intensity to all kinds of other dishes; in particular it can be used as a dipping sauce for sliced carrots, sticks of celery and, above all, tiny boiled potatoes served with cocktail sticks.
Huancaina also makes a perfect pasta sauce, and is arguably the most original creation of Italo-Peruvian fusion. Lima’s top restaurants often pair Fettucini a la Huancaina with ossobuco, the Milanese dish of cross-cut veal shanks, braised with white wine and vegetables. This dish is another we recommend you try, but only if you are feeling really hungry, perhaps after a long day of Andean hiking. And with a good bottle of red wine, of course.
To try Papa a la Huancaina, Ocopa or Italo-Peruvian fusion as part of your unique, individually tailored itinerary, contact the Peru Empire Company at firstname.lastname@example.org or on +51-1-700-5100 or, if you are in the US, 347-713-7030/34.