Traditional Food

Traditional Winter Dish: Frozen Potato With Cheese

Papa Helada (Frozen Potatoes) with Cheese in Cuzco

The frozen potato with cheese is a typical dish that is only eaten in the winter months in Cusco. These are: May, June and July, months in which the temperature drops to minus 10 degrees Celsius and is coldest in the places located at higher altitude.

To prepare this delicious dish, follow the steps below.

You take the potatoes to the high peaks because the frost falls more strongly there. Starting at 5 o’clock in the afternoon, you put the potatoes on a flat surface, preferably on straw, covering them with more straw. Then, you wet them down so that when the frost falls the potato “cooks” with the strong cold. It even freezes the straw and the ground.

The next morning, very early, the frozen potatoes will be collected in a basket and taken for sale in the markets of the city or, if they are to be consumed in the house, they are exposed to the sun so that it thaws the potatoes and releases the water that they let out during the frost and is easy to peel.

Potato Frozen for Sale in the Market
Potato Frozen for Sale in the Market

The people of the city look forward to these months to enjoy this delicious dish. As soon as they feel that it is freezing, they look for the ladies in the markets who come down from the communities carrying their frozen potatoes to sell or exchange for some other product just as was done in the Inca era, what we call barter. This is because they live in higher places where the cold is stronger and the potato freezes better.

This frozen potato is sold by lots, each mound costs 2 to 3 soles and contains 10 to 12 potatoes.

In order to prepare them, the ice-cold potato is first soaked in water, after about 10 minutes, when completely thawed it is peeled, then inside a pot, you place straw or reeds and on top, the potato. A little water is added, just so that with the steam the potato cooks well. On top of the potatoes layers of cheese are placed, so that it gives a special flavor to them. Keep it on flame for only 10 minutes, turn off the heat, let it cool and serve.

Some women do business with this typical dish. They carry hot frozen potatoes with cheese in large pots, wrapped in blankets so they do not get cold. They set up on street corners and the plate is sold at 3 soles and they are like 5 potatoes with cheese, accompanied by a salad of lettuce with tomato, and aji, hot sauce.

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