The Carapulcra is a Peruvian meat and potato stew that was first prepared by the Incas over 500 years ago. What gives this dish its unique flavor and consistency is its main ingredient, papa seca, or dehydrated potatoes. Slow cooked with hot peppers, peanuts, cloves, cinnamon, anise, pork, and red wine, the result is a stew that is hearty, spicy, and complex — a true mix of Inca, European, and African flavors.
The Incas cultivated hundreds of types of potatoes, and they dehydrated some of them as a preservation technique and to reduce the water weight for ease of transport. The original Carapulcra was also made with Charqui, a dried meat or jerky. But over the centuries, Europeans and Afro-Peruvians added spices and ingredients that transformed the dish into its current incarnation.
Inspired by recipes from Gaston Acurio and Tony Custer, I came up with this version that uses my mom’s secret ingredient — peanut butter. I found the Peruvian papa seca at Evergreen Market in The Mission, and for the wine, I used one of my favorite Syrahs from Napa Valley. A glass of wine with dinner was also a wonderful complement to the smoky, nutty, earthy, and spicy flavors of this ancient Inca stew.
- 1/2 lb. papa seca
- 3 cups water for soaking
- 1 lb. pork shoulder
- 3 tablespoons canola oil
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 red onion
- 1 teaspoon aji amarillo
- 1 teaspoon aji panca
- salt, pepper, and cumin to taste
- 1 tablespoon peanut butter
- 2 cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise
- 4 cups beef stock
- 1/4 cup red wine
- roasted peanuts for garnish
- chopped cilantro for garnish
In addition to the ingredients above, you’ll need a large pot to cook the stew.
- Toast the papa seca in a dry skillet over medium heat, about 5 minutes. Soak in 3 cups of cold water for 30 minutes, strain and set aside.
- Mince the garlic, dice the onion, and chop the cilantro. Clean and cut the pork into 1-inch cubes, season with salt, pepper, and cumin, and set aside.
- Brown the pork in a large pot with 1 tablespoon of canola oil over medium to high heat, about 15 minutes. Work in batches if necessary. Remove the pieces of pork from the pot and set aside.
- In the same pot, make the sofrito by sautéing the garlic, diced onion, aji amarillo, and aji panca with 2 tablespoons canola oil over medium heat. Cook until onions are translucent.
- Add the peanut butter and strained papa seca to the onion sofrito, stir to mix well.
- Add 3 cups of beef stock, the cloves, cinnamon, anise, pieces of pork, and stir all the ingredients.
- Simmer covered until pork is fork tender, about 1 1/2 hours total. Stir occasionally to prevent the stew from sticking to the pot.
- After simmering for 30-40 minutes, add another cup of stock and continue to simmer.
- In the last 10 minutes, add 1/4 cup of red wine and stir to mix well.
- After 1 1/2 hours of simmering or when the stew is the desired consistency, remove from heat and let rest.
- After resting for 30 minutes, remove the cloves, cinnamon stick, and star anise. Reheat if needed and serve warm with a side of steamed rice.
- Garnish with roasted peanuts and chopped cilantro.
The papa seca looks like crystalized pieces of amber, and they will soften after soaking. Keep extra stock handy in case you need to add more as it reduces while simmering.