DrinksFood & DrinksTraditional Food

The Pleasures of Corn in Cuzco

With every storm that drops rain farmers anxiously look to see if the crops they have sewn are developing to the fullest with the magical waters from the sky.

In the city’s markets they are already selling corn. They bring it from Pisac, Coya, and from other provinces of Cuzco. From this delicious crop they make many wonderful foods that sustain Cuzco, such as choclo con queso, corn on the cob with cheese, the beverage chicha, the lagua de maiz, a thick corn gruel, tamales, and finally mote (reconstituted grains of corn eaten with meals).

The caseras, the vendors, work from early in the morning with lots of vigor to sell their choclo con queso, corn on the cob with cheese. They first have to find a place where there are no problems that would impede them from selling. They generally tend to situate themselves on the city’s avenues. There they set up some burners , whether of carbon or gas, and place a pot in which they cook the fresh corn. To the side they have the slices of cheese on top of a receptacle ready to please clients. The cost of each choclo with its slice of cheese is two soles, less than 1$.

Chicha, Choclo con Queso, Mote, and Corn
Chicha, Choclo con Queso, Mote, and Corn (Photo: Walter Coraza Morvlei)

Chicha is a drink which was the preferred one of our ancestors. They would drink it at any hour. A pitcher of chicha could always be found on the table. It is made from ground corn. Today many people continue to drink this excellent beverage. But now you can only get it after 2 pm. It is found in the picanterías. As the day goes on, the owners of the chicherías and picanterías add a certain quantity of cañazo, distilled cane alcohol, which gives it a stronger flavor, so that people might get drunk more quickly.

The corn lagua, or corn soup, is a unique preparation. Its main ingredient is corn, although people also add carrots, and potatoes, as well as green fava beans. It is very nutritious and delicious. Most people only enjoy this dish at home because it is not prepared much in restaurants or in the markets.

Chicha, Choclo con Queso, Mote, and Tamales
Tamales in Cuzco (Photo: Walter Coraza Morveli)

To make mote, this important side dish found often on tables, you first have to dry the corn. As the season wears on and the rains disappear, you will see corn drying on many roofs and in patios throughout the city. Though it accompanies most dishes, a popular one is fish with mote (pescado con mote).

Finally, from our corn people make our typical tamales. For this they use the husks of the corn. Tamales are sold on many of the avenues of Cuzco. They are super inexpensive, since they cost only one sol, about 0.40$US.

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