When traveling in Peru, there is no meal more traditional than Pachamanca. Don’t miss a chance to feast and celebrate the blessings of the Pachamama!
Pachamanca is a Peruvian specialty that dates back to Inca times. Today it is mostly prepared in the Andes, though it can be found all across Peru. The Incas used to eat it mostly in February and March to celebrate the harvest, though it was also prepared for other celebrations and social events throughout the year.
The ingredients included in feast may vary depending on the region of Peru, but no matter where you are, the cooking of pachamanca is a way of honoring Pachamama, the earth goddess or mother earth. In that way, the tradition of pachamanca is deeply rooted in Andean cultures even today. To celebrate the harvest and give thanks to Pachamama for blessing the earth, the food is returned to the earth to be cooked and the participants of the celebration eat from the earth.
The preparation starts by digging a large hole in the ground. The large hole serves as the cooking pit and is called a huatia. Next you will need to heat stones over an open fire. When selecting the stones, it is important that only volcanic stones are used since they can withstand intense heat without breaking. When the stones are hot enough, they are removed from the fire and used to line the inside of the hole and built up in a small pyramid shape. In this way, they help to create an underground oven.
To cook pachamanca, you must be very patient, as it takes at least three hours for everything to be thoroughly cooked. However, the steps for cooking are very simple and the ingredients should be added according to three traditional layers.
1. The First Layer
The toughest ingredients that take the longest time to cook – such as potatoes, sweet potatoes and other root vegetables – should be placed at the very bottom of the oven and be interspersed with more hot rocks.
2. The Second Layer
On top of the potatoes you should place the meat. Beforehand the meat should be marinated, heavily seasoned and wrapped in banana leaves. Lamb is the most traditional meat to be cooked for pachamanca, but it is also common to cook beef, pork, alpaca, cuy (guinea pig) or chicken in this way. As you fill the hole, be sure to intersperse the layers of food with more hot rocks, thus ensuring that everything is cooked through properly.
3. The Third Layer
The third layer is reserved for choclo (corn), humitas and beans and should be interspersed with even more hot rocks.
Finally, once the huatia is full, the top should be covered over with greenery and damp sacks. Approximately 2-4 hours later, the huatia can be uncovered and the food transferred to wooden bowls and served on blankets. When the food is ready, the celebration begins and the delicious mixture is consumed with drinks and traditional music.