I don’t even know where to begin with this blog post. I am so used to being the teacher, but on that rare occasion, I am quietly sitting(on the edge of my seat) and ready to learn! I was blessed and fortunate enough to be able to spend the holidays with my family in Texas this past year. My sister in law Janet is a whiz in the kitchen and much like me, when it comes to trying new cuisines, we get very excited. As if it was not thrilling enough just to be in Austin, where there are countless of wonderful places to enjoy some good food. And not just the typical Mexican or Tex Mex, not there is anything wrong with that, but you can find pretty much any type of cuisine you would be craving. So imagine how excited I was when Janet tells me that during my visit, we would be enjoying some authentic Bolivian food. Even better still, that it would be prepared by her long time friend Joanne. Joanne and her husband Chris are Bolivian and share the same passion as I do, which is to share the foods we grew up with. So, armed with my camera and an empty stomach, we were off to Joanne’s! All I knew is that Janet told me it was spicy! Lol! Thanks to my sister in law Janet Lynn Mendez for her wonderful photography.
Pan Marraqueta, a Bolivian crusty bread served with the Fricasé. Many outside of Bolivia have tried to re-produce the exact texture, but have failed. Joanne and Chris explained to us that it is believed that because of the altitude of the region in which it is prepared, it is difficult for just anyone to achieve that same finish.
Aji in a powder form. From Joanne’s pantry she required both the red and yellow to prepare the Fricasé. Aji (aah-hee) is a pepper popular in many Latin American dishes. It comes is red, orange and yellow colors most often. In larger Hispanic communities, it can be found fresh or sometimes in a paste form. The aji pepper has a sweet and spicy note to it, much like a habanero, but not as spicy as a habanero. Her Mom brings the aji, along with many other ingredients, straight from Bolivia. I can only imagine the sense of joy and comfort this brings to her and her family.
The highlands, in Bolivia, have more potatoes so you have the various varieties like the chuño or tunta and the large grain white choclo or corn while in the lowlands it is more centered on rice plantains and yucca. Choclo is somewhat similar to hominy except it is not treated with lye or dried and is creamier when cooked. The picture above are the dehydrated potatoes used in Bolivian recipes.
Batan, a Bolivian-style mortar and pestle. Much like the Mexican molcajete and just as heavy! This batan belonged to Joanne’s great grandmother. The many cooking stories it could tell and with the smoothest, most polished surface I have ever seen.
Yeah, a little envious that they were still enjoying tomatoes from their garden, lol! Only in the south. Tasty!
The first dish Joanne shared with us was a dish named Fricasé. Janet had mentioned to me how it was almost the same as Mexican pozole, minus all of the garnishes. But, unlike the pozole, the fricase is flavored with aji in a powder form, where the pozole is typically prepared with a red chile sauce. So with Joanne’s blessing and many helpful tips, I was all set to prepare my version of Fricasé . Because I thought this recipe to be extra special, I shared my version of the recipe with the Hispanic Kitchen. I wanted as many viewers as possible to be able to enjoy this wonderful adaptation of Joanne’s family recipe. If you click onto the picture, you can see the full recipe for Fricasé.
The picture directly above was my adaptation of Joanne’s recipe using some different chile powders and yellow aji paste instead of the hard to find aji powders.
Here we are in Joanne’s kitchen getting ready to sit down and enjoy the Fricase! It was so tasty!!! Joanne suggested the maiz pozolero, a Mexican-style hominy used for pozole or menudo.
For me, a match made in heaven. Warm, spicy soup with hearty pieces of meat and crusty bread for dunking!
Directly quoting Joanne, here is a little more insight on Bolivian foods. “Fricasé is usually served on the weekends and on special occasions like around 2 am at a New Years party. Because it is rich and spicy I consider it a dish to help those who may have partied a little too much . My moms family is from La Paz Bolivia and Christians family is also. It is served in the altiplano the highlands of Bolivia because it is cold. While it was originated in that area you can probably still get it in other parts of the country. But usually people in the warmer lowlands don’t eat as much hot and spicy on a regular basis. There are also differences due to the abundance of certain foods per region. The highlands have more potatoes so you have the the various varieties like the chuño or tunta and the large grain white choclo or corn while in the lowlands it is more centered on rice plantains and yucca.”
Anybody that follows my blog knows how much I love empanadas. Both sweet and savory and to get the chance to learn yet another new recipe, I am all for that! Because not only did Joanne share her family’s recipe for Fricase de Puerco, but how about some authentic Saltenas? Saltenas are a Bolivian-style savory and sometimes sweet empanada. But this will be for a future blog post coming very soon. Here a picture of the tasty and delicious saltenas that Joanne prepared for us on this same evening.