Chilcano made from fish is one of the most well-known and famous soups in Peru. In the Imperial City, Cusco it tends to be made from the heads and backbones of fish and is served with canchitas, that is toasted corn. Canchitas are a typical accompaniment for traditional soups in the highlands.
This concentrated fish soup is known by all the population of the city as a soup that can raise the dead, especially after you have spent a night partying with drinks and more drinks. Cusqueños enjoy the tart and spicy flavor of the soup. Many prefer to eat it before midday, as a breakfast, snack, or simply as a treat before lunch.
You can find a great variety of cevicherías in Cusco throughout the city including its markets, streets, and rural neighborhoods. Now there are also carts that transit through commercial zones offering chilcano and ceviche on the run. Of course, in each cevichería the taste and style is different.
The Cevichería Katy is one of the most popular. It is located on the Avenue Los Incas, a parallel street to the Av. de la Cultura by the UNSAAC university. There clients who wish to try a good chilcano make lines to wait their turn to try it.
From when you enter this large space you can see all the tables filled with people enjoying their chilcano. They empty as the line moves forward. The three vendors, caseras, who work there are always active. One cleans the tables and gathers up dishes while another washes the dishes and Katy serves up the soup without delay.
Once inside the cevichería, the line advances to the door where Katy serves the ceviche and chilcano. People wait while conversing or playing with their cell phones, keeping their money at hand to pay. At the long table where Katy works, you can see the medium sized, white basin where the ceviche sits and is mixed with onion. Next to it are two plastic containers which have the canchitas, camotes (sweet potatoes) and lettuce. On the floor you see three big pots. In one is kept the fried rice, arroz chaufa, while in the other the fish heads and spines cook. In this cevichería the chilcano runs 3 to 5 soles and the ceviche is 7 to 10 soles a dish.
Katy has her own way of putting together a bowl of chilcano that is not the common one in Cusco but much loved by university students. She first puts fried rice in the bowl, then the canchitas, followed by the ceviche and onion, and finally she pours the soup on top. While the corn floats, you can still see the mountain of other ingredients in the soup. The soup is hot, colorful, and abundant.
The flavor of Katy’s chilcano is very good. You taste the lime juice in the small portions of fish, as well as the onion and the concentrated broth. It is a delight.
Katy’s is special because of the service as well as the wonderful flavor. In other cevicherías, clients enter and then sit to wait to be served by the waiters. Here you must make a line and only when served seek a table where you can enjoy your chilcano.