One of my favorite dishes from when I visited Bolivia is Papas a la Huancaina or potatoes in peanut sauce. This dish is an amazing combination of flavors that can be served as a main dish (plato fuerte) or side dish.
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Differences Between Bolivian & Peruvian Papas A La Huancaina
Later on as I tried different Latin foods, I came across a Peruvian dish also called Papas a la Huancaina. There are similarities between the two dishes but major differences too. Bolivian Papas a La Huancaina is made with peanut base sauce while the Peruvian version is made with soda crackers and evaporated milk sauce. In both cases the sauce is poured over boiled potatoes and decorated with eggs, lettuce and olives. The Peruvian version is served as a cold appetizer while the Bolivian version is served when the sauce is still warm. In Bolivia, papas a la huancaina is mainly served as a main dish. Both countries can have a varying degree of spiciness in the sauce.
In Bolivia, they use spicy yellow chilis to make the sauce spicy. I’m always hesitant on what type of peppers to buy. There seems to be a large variety of peppers in the market and I never know before hand how spicy they are. Instead of the peppers, I use an Aji Amarillo paste to spice the sauce up. I usually can find the paste in the International Foods section of my grocery store. Be careful with how spicy the aji is and how spicy you want your meal to be. In similar recipes, I usually use just half the recommended spice and then add as needed little by little. Here’s an example of some brands of Aji Amarillo found in US markets.
Cooking Peanuts for Huancaina Sauce
If you’ve been following my blog for few weeks, you might have seen another Bolivian recipe that uses peanuts – Sopa de Mani. Check it out for tips on how to pick peanuts and how to cook them for sauce or soup. I basically pick roasted peanuts, shelled and peeled which makes the cooking time so much shorter. Technically you don’t need to boil the roasted peanuts. However, I still do boil them for about 20-30 minutes. I do have some digestion issues and sometimes the sauce can feel heavy, but by boiling them beforehand it helps and I never have had an issue since.
The basics of presenting this dish is that you lay lettuce on a shallow plate, then put the boiled potatoes in the middle. Pour the warm huancaina sauce on top of the potatoes. Then you slice the boiled eggs, decorate the plate as desired with them. Then add tomatoes, black olives and parsley on top. Feel free to arrange ingredients to your liking.
Bolivian Papas A La Huancaina Recipe Notes
The secret to a good Papas A La Huancaina is preparing a good huancaina sauce. Follow tips above on what peanuts to use for the sauce.
- When boiling potatoes, be careful not to overdo it. They need to be soft enough so you can pierce them with a fork but not so soft as you can mash them.
- Aji amarillo paste adds spiciness to the sauce. I love a spicy huancaina sauce. If serving only to adults, I tend to make the sauce more spicy. But if cooking for a big group with kids, then I tend to make a smaller platter for the kids with no spice or make the overall sauce less spicy. Feel free to play around on how spicy you want the sauce depending on the circumstances.
- Also, keep in mind that different brands and chilis have varying degrees of spiciness so taste the paste before using it.
- Potatoes tend to absorb a bit of the sauce so make huancaina sauce not too thick since few minutes after serving it can get even thicker. I like to make the sauce pretty fluid and it sets pretty well after a few minutes.
- Queso fresco – add slices of queso fresco in the platter as decoration or if your guests don’t mind, add the cheese to the sauce itself. It makes the sauce delicious.
- To be fair, I think I do add a lot more parsley and olives to my version of the recipe than what they traditionally do in Bolivia,
Bolivian Potatoes in Peanut Sauce – Papas a la Huancaina
- 1 cup roasted peanuts
- 1 small lettuce head you won’t need the whole thing
- 6 boiled eggs sliced in half or quarters
- 18 honey gold potatoes I usually calculate about 3 potatoes per person if they’re small, or 2 medium size potatoes per person if you use a different type.
- 0.5 cup black olives I used pitted kalamata olives
- 8 ozs queso fresco cubed or sliced
- 2 tbsp olive oil i prefer olive oil but the original recipe uses vegetable oil
- 1 tsp aji amarillo paste
- 2 tbsp parsley
- 2 tomatoes sliced
- 0.5 tsp minced garlic
- 0.5 tsp salt go slow on salt since roasted peanuts have some salt. Add salt as desired but check so you don’t overdo it.
- Boil eggs, potatoes and peanuts separately. Peel potatoes and prepare the eggs as desired once they are cooled off.
- Use a blender to blend the boiled peanuts with 2 cups of water. Blend really well until the paste is really smooth. Add aji amarillo and salt. Blend a bit longer.
- Saute garlic in olive oil (or oil of your choice)
- Add the peanut mix to the sauteed garlic and mix well, lower the temperature and let the sauce simmer. If you like the sauce thicker let simmer for a longer period of time. Alternatively, for a thinner sauce add some hot water or milk to achieve desired consistency.
- Add cheese to sauce or slice queso fresco to decorate the platter later.
- Place washed, dried lettuce on a shallow plate or platter. Place the boiled, peeled potatoes on top. Usually I don't cut at all baby gold poatoes, while medium size potatoes I slice them in half.
- Pour sauce over potatoes. Continue decorating the rest of the plate with sliced eggs, tomatoes and olives. Sprinkle with chopped parsley as decoration.
- I just wanted to clarify the cooking time. It might vary slightly, but I tend to boil ingredients for 20 minutes. Let cool for another 20 minutes. During cooling time, I set up lettuce, platter and slice tomatoes & olives. Towards the end of those 20 minutes, I start rinsing the potatoes and peeling them, arranging them in platter too. Same with eggs. Then prepare the sauce and pour over. Finally decorate with olives, tomatoes and parsley.
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Other Bolivian Recipes
If you would like to check out few more of my Bolivian recipes see below links: