Customs, Food Culture, Ingredients, Recipes, Traditional Food

From Generation to Generation Cuzco’s Torrejas Bring People Together

Crispy Torrejas

As June approaches, you will hear many of the people of Cuzco start talking about one of the most famous typical dishes known in our region, chiriuchu. That name belongs to Quechua, the language of the Incas, and it means “cold food”.

It requires many ingredients, such as our famous guinea pig, delicious white cheese, a bit of corn toasted in lard, a hen raised at home, a piece of chalona, and torrejas (omelets) made of corn flour, squash, and other ingredients. These are what most call attention as Corpus Christi comes. Corpus Christi is one of the most important religious feasts in Cuzco going back to shortly after the Spanish invasion. In many ways it maintains a historical continuity with the ancient Inti Raymi celebration of the Incas and moves the entire city.

The symbolic food served this day is our chiriuchu. Vendors fill the streets by San Francisco where, as the processions pass, people can sit and serve themselves this chiriuchu and by eating participate in Cuzco’s fiesta.

The torreja is indispensable for this day and dish. In the stands the torrejas are piled up like hills, one ontop of another, to make a mountain. The size of the serving is what draws attention followed by its exquisite flavor.

Chiriuchu in a Food Fair
Chiriuchu in a Food Fair

Some people may ask why the  size of the torreja matters. Besides drawing attention the size suggests another value, the importance of sharing the food among a family or among friends. Even though sometimes smaller torrejas are made in order to emphasize individual portions, the traditional torreja is large. As a result, it moves attention to the way that individual servings are part of something larger, a family, group of friends, or some other group. The splitting of the torreja into parts shows how people come together to make something larger.

One ingredient that makes the torreja large is corn flour. My sister-in-law, Martha, tells me that since she was a little girl torrejas have been made in her family. Her mother and her grandmother before her would make torrejas for family feasts or for larger groups of people when they had a festive responsibility. They would especially make them in abundance for the feast of Corpus Christi.

Martha says her mother would make the delicious terrejas to share in the family on festive days. Martha and her sisters learned to make them as a result and can maintain this tradition alive that they carry from their ancestors.

I have had the chance to try the delicious torrejas made by Martha. They are really incredible. With only thinking about them I now want to go eat some.

During its long history, Cuzco inherits a great variety of dishes, with their own particular flavors, meanings, and uses, that have developed over thousands of years  They have been transmitted from generation to generation, and from parents to children. There may always be some variation or innovation in the ingredients with the passage of time, but the flavor is what dominates until the end of time.

Torrejas for Chiriuchu

12 (persons)

Ingredients

1 kilo flour
½ kilo corn flour
5 eggs
1 pckg. Royal (baking powder)
50 grams Chinese onions (green onions)
½ kilo squash flesh (a hubbard or similar variety similar to the zapallo of Cuzco)
2 Cups boiled water – salt to taste
Torrejas a Delicious Treat in Cuzco
Torrejas a Delicious Treat in Cuzco

Preparation

Bring the squash to a boil and cook until it can be mashed.

In a bowl place the flour and  mix it well with two cups of water.

Add the five eggs and continue stirring the mixture. Then add the mashed squash and continue stirring.

Add the sliced Chinese onions with the salt and taste to make sure the level of seasoning is right.

Then fry over low heat (making about three or four torrejas) and enjoy these delicious corn cakes made with patience and a dash of love.

A Casera Selling Chiriuchu
A Casera Selling Chiriuchu
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