Customs, Food Culture

The Secret of the Huatia

Making Huatia a traditional dish Made into the Earth, Hebert is Faring up the Oven in Sacsayhuaman (Walter Coraza Morveli)

The huatia is one of the most popular typical dishes within the city of Cusco, and people wait until June every year to prepare it. There are many secrets and forms that people know to make huatia.

Let’s start with the earth first. The reason why huatia is prepared in the month of June is because at this time the rain stopped and the dry season begins; the earth is dry which makes the oven stay hot and not cool easily.

At this time, the dry grass and weeds abound, also called charamosca. They are ideal for the preparation of the huatia. Also clods of earth are a fundamental part of huatia and they abound within the farms and fields that have passed the time of harvest.

In order to make a huatia there are many tasks with which they must be fulfilled precisely. All people must participate for this act. First the secret is that the oven should be assembled by only one person and not many since the consistency will depend on the skill with which the oven is built.

An Oven made of Clods for Huatia (Photo: Arnold Fernandez Coraza)
An Oven made of Clods for Huatia (Photo: Arnold Fernandez Coraza)

It must be built against the wind, for this you take hold of a little earth and toss it in the air to see what the direction of the wind is. In this way the fire always be inside the oven.

The other tasks, such as building the fire, should be done uniformly so that the oven can heat and all the products are added evenly. This task has much to do with the material used to heat the fire, dry weeds and other woods are indicated that are good to burn and that do not expel much smoke.

Another task is to put all the products in the sun, be they potatoes, ocas, sweet potato, or more. This task is done so that the taste is more pleasant. The cooking of the products will depend on how hot the earth clods are. The time varies between 30 minutes and 1 hour. It also depends on how big the oven is and the amount of products that will be put in the oven for our huatia .

A different and delicious smell is emitted even when the huatia is not yet ready. This sign does indicate that we are going down a good path. When the oven is ready, the first thing to do is find a large clod that will serve as a door.

Warming the Huatia
Warming the Huatia

The order of the products is the key for the cooking to be uniform. First put in the potatoes through the door. The door is placed on the oven and you start breaking down the roof on top of them. Now you add the other products such as sweet potatoes, ocas, beans, etc. Then the rest is destroyed covering everything, leaving the clods almost at ground level.

Once this act is done, dirt is thrown on the kiln to cover it. The work ends when there is not a single puff of smoke. Nobody should pour water near the oven since our belief says that cools the oven.

In this way, we will obtain the huatia that we expect with cooked and delicious food.

Huatia Ready to Eat (Walter Coraza Morveli)
Huatia Ready to Eat (Walter Coraza Morveli)
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