Traditional Food

Lawa de Maíz, a Cuzco Tradition

Lawa Soup in Cusco (Photo: Walter Coraza Morveli)

A thick soup called lawa de maiz is one of the most traditional dishes that we have in the city of Cuzco, Peru. Made from corn, this product which comes down to us from ancestral times, the dish has taken on an impressive value to Cuzqueños because of its nutritional value and because it is made from a basic product of our diet.

The name of this delicious dish comes from our mother language, Quechua. It is sara lawa, sara for corn and lawa for the kind of thick soup. In the Spanish of Cuzco we just give it the hybrid name of lawa de maíz, or in many cases crema de maíz.

One must understand that the lawa cannot be compared to pre-made. It takes work but is worth every moment of the effort.

To make a good lawa, the corn must be dried in the sun for enough days so that it can be ground into a meal. Once dry, you can store corn for a very long time. From Inca times, at least, we have kept this product in our homes and you can find proof of that in the chronicles and museums.

Since corn can be stored, you can make up a lawa de maíz at any time. The taste of the soup will vary according to the ingredients you use. In some cases people add cheese, in others, egg, etc.

While you can eat this soup either hot or warm, you should never eat it cold. There is a particular way to eat the very thick soup. You start from the top, sliding you spoon over the surface to lift some of the gruel into it. As it cools you eat it.
Why must the soup be eaten in such a specific way?

The reason is that if you stir the soup, then it will separate and, of course, its flavor will change. This customary way of eating the soup has been taught us since we were children. In this way we know how to eat it and follow tradition.

You can have this soup as a single dish, or as a first course of a several course meal like we often eat. You can follow it with a main dish of stuffed rocotos, or some other Andean dish. People who live where corn is raised and harvested, and nearby places, are those who most consume this delicious dish.

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