Food & DrinksRecipesTraditional Food

Chairo Soup Fills You with Energy and Tradition

The pleasure of the rains departs and the dry season arrives. In it all the farmers now see its time to begin the harvest of their fields’ products. The season begins in which Cuzco will enjoy abundant Andean crops:  including potatoes, corn, broad beans, and more.

People are happy to see that all their hard work in the fields has paid off and they now can eat food from them as well as have some to sell in the markets. In the homes, the children are happy as they wait for the meals their mothers will make them from the harvests, such as lunch of lisas, lunch of chaquepa, lunch of moron wheat, lunch of chairo and many more. They each are very nutritious and fill the children and adults with the energy they need to be able to carry out their daily labors. Agricultural work is hard for all.

The typical lunch of chairo in Cuzco is the dish that contains more Andean ingredients than almost any other. It uses fava beans, wheat, chuño (or freeze-dried potatoes), potatoes, spinach, squash, carrots, corn, tripe, and finally a sprig of fresh oregano. From these ingredients comes a good lunch in a single dish, a rich soup, that is filled with all variety of vitamins and proteins.

Chuno (Freeze dried potatoes - around 3cm wide)
Chuno (Freeze dried potatoes – around 3cm wide) Photo: Alonzo Riley

While common in Cuzco’s homes there are only a few places that prepare this meal. It is not easily found. Even in the markets they only make it occasionally. Nevertheless, our caseras, the market women, are those who tell us we should eat this hardy soup filled with proteins. They even tell us the real way to make it so that we can make it at home with all the products they sell. They say it is easy.

Outside of Cuzco’s homes, the most recommended place to enjoy this incredible lunch is found on Choquechaca street. Its name is Quinta Eulalia. There you can enjoy this meal and chase it down with a delicious cold chicha morada.

All the necessary ingredients are found in the city’s wholesale markets. The caseras sell them at an economical price and also give out tips on their preparation so that you will be able to make this typical Cuzco meal if you wish.

To write this note, I asked my mom about chairo. She said that some years ago, when she was a girl, they only ate the products of local fields. This dish was the most important because it contain the largest amount of nutrients. They would often make it for lunch and for special occasions, as well as for family Sundays. It was my grandfather’s favorite lunch.

Fresh White Corn
Fresh White Corn (Photo: Alonzo Riley)

For his birthdays my grandmother would honor him by making this dish. Then they would celebrate with some large glasses of chicha. At night, the party would come to its peak when my grandmother would kill some guinea pigs and prepare a marvelous conejada or guinea pig meal. Now satisfied with having spent a day filled with joy they would go to sleep contented.



_ potatoes
_ green fava beans
_ wheat
_ chuño
_ tripe
_ spinach
_ zapallo squash
_ carrots
_ 1 sprig of oregano
_ onions
_ garlic
_ cumin
_ mote (hominy corn)
_ salt

Fava Beans and Carrots
Fava Beans and Carrots (Photo: Alonzo Riley)

First of all you make what we call a dressing by sauteing minced garlic and diced onion with a dash of cumin. Once the dressing is ready you add to it boiled water and then add the well washed tripe as well as the wheat. Boil these for an hour.

Once the time has passed you remove the tripe and slice them into rounds. Then you add the vegetables cut into small rectangles and the potatoes cut into fourths.

When the potatoes are almost cooked you add the chuño. It should have been well soaked in water and then broken into bits. Stir the soup while it boils for about five minutes more. Then you add the sliced tripe, the minced oregano, and the boiled mote as well as salt to taste.

The chairo is now served in big bowls along with a piece of bread.

Foreigner Enjoying a Chairo Soup
Foreigner Enjoying a Chairo Soup (Photo: Wayra)
Translator’s note:

Chuño is a freeze dried potato that can be obtained in Peruvian stores in the United States or through online Latin and Peruvian stores. You can also use white chuño called moraya, although its flavor is different.

The wheat called for is called wheat berries in the US, or just grains of husked wheat.

The aapallo squash is similar to a hubbard.

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