The delicious dishes of Cuzco’s cuisine require a diversity of ingredients, not just native products of the area but also ones from around the world, a bit of culture. In any case, each ingredient plays a very important role in the final flavor of the food.
An ingredient that always seems present in Cuzco’s kitchens is peas. They are perhaps the most popular vegetable in the whole world, since they are found in the worlds shared gastronomy.
Pea plants are of a regular size that can reach 1.3 meters high. The plant is a climbing vine and, as a result, can grow among broad bean plants that stand straight. Pea pods are between 5 and 10 centimeters long and usually have from 4 to 10 peas inside. The can be of different colors and sizes depending on the variety.
I remember in my childhood competing with my brothers and sister in shelling the peas and broad beans so our mother could make lunch. I also learned numeracy by counting the peas one by one.
One of the traditional dishes of Cuzco is the uchu of peas. This dish can be a bit heavy. Generally it is eaten after a hard day’s work in the fields such as in the community work parties we call mink’a.
If consists of peas dried in the sun that are then lightly toasted over heat before being soaked in cold water. This process gives them an amazing flavor. Using fresh peas instead of the dried and toasted ones makes the dish much sweeter, but they have less protein, fats, and carbohydrates than the dried ones.
The flavor of the uchu of peas is similar to that of lentils. It has a teasing flavor of something toasted. You can smell it when you toast the peas.
Uchu of Peas
½ kilo dried peas
½ kilo of compis potatoes or similar boiling potatoes
¼ kilo salted, dried beef or simply beef for stewing
2 teaspoons of yellow ají (Peruvian hot pepper)
pepper and cumin
salt to taste
2 cloves garlic
Toast the peas over normal heat, then soak them in cold water for half an hour.
Make a dressing (a base) of minced onion, garlic, cumin, pepper, and ground yellow aji with a little bit of oil. Put on the flame and sautee a few minutes until the onion is softened.
Add two and a half cups of water as well as the chalona (dried beef) and the diced potato.
After ten minutes of cooking add the drained, soaked peas.
Once it returns to a boil add a sprig of huacatay herb and salt to taste. Remember that if you use chalona it has lots of salt in it. As aresult it is best to taste before salting.
Once it is boiling steadily remove the meat and shred it before returning it to the pot.
Cook until the peas have softened.
Serve with rice.
Sometimes people accompany the uchu of peas with huayco potato or boiled potatoes and with a salad made of onion with tomato. This makes a perfect pairing.
We also like to have this dish with the Inca’s drink, chicha, to help us rest after a hard day’s labor so that the next day we can continue onward.