Posted by: robertkittilson | November 25, 2009

Midweek Snack: Cancha

Welcome to the Midweek Snack, a weekly feature in which Jessie and I will explore Peruvian cuisine. Each week this might take the form of a restaurant review, a featured regional dish, an interview with a local chef, or a recipe. From time to time we’ll also write broader pieces, which we’ll call “Peruvian Cuisine 101.”

In today’s episode: “Cancha

Cancha, pronounced (Cahn-cha) and Canchitas (Cahn-chi-tas) are the tasty Peruvian treats received before lunch and dinner in most Peruvian restaurants, especially in Huanchaco. (P.S. they go great with a frozen [cold] beer).

Warning! Do not make the mistake of calling it Concha or Conchitas for this is a reference to the female anatomy and will no doubt bring you a few laughs and perhaps a slap in the face.

At my first introduction to these nuggets of goodness I would devour them instantly, making Jessie fight for the last few and hide them from my frothing mouth. Then I discovered you can just ask for more. It even happened that at a few restaurants we made a lunch out of Canchitas and a few beers…each. Maybe you’ve had some similar lunches at a Mexican restaurant enjoying Chips, Salsa and few Margeritas? No? I don’t believe you… I digress. Anyway, like most GREAT food I come across, I need to learn how to make it for myself. So, I did.

There seems to be many types of Cancha, but at the local market we found only two: Cancha Serrano, with little bits of red skin still attached, and Maiz Paucho, a harder version which we see at most restaurants. Good luck finding this anywhere else other than Peru, but if you are here, this is how you do it.

First, you must purchase it. You might try stealing it, but the authorities will track you down like Hansel and Gretel, for bits of corn will be streaming from your pockets. Second, you must cook it. Oil, not butter, is the way to go because you need to use high heat. Pour enough oil in a pan (one that has a lid) to cover the amount of Cancha you will be using. Be generous. In the past I have used a small amount of oil like you might use for popcorn, but this technique will burn the Conchitas (although I still ate ’em). Once the oil is heated to popping temperature (a.k.a. really hot) dump the Cancha in and begin the shaking. Don’t stop shaking until the popping slows, then cut the heat and drain the excess oil. Dry the Canchitas and add a plentiful helping of salt. Mix and serve.

Viola! You now have Canchitas and god willing a full belly in a few minutes time. Don’t forget the beer and someone to help you eat them. If you ruin them, don’t worry, just head down to a pub near the beach, grab a chair and a beer, and enjoy their Canchitas while you watch the waves.

Salud, Roberto


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