Potato has its roots in Peru since it was first cultivated by Inca Indians around 8000 B.C. to 5000 B.C. Since they originated in Peru, it plays a significant role in Peruvian staple diet. There are around 4000 varieties of potato in Peru and there are thousands of dishes prepared from this tuber. Among those their very own dish is Papa rellena.
Papa rellena is the most exciting Peruvian dish loved by everyone. It is an easy to make croquette. With ground beef filling at the center and mashed potatoes as an outer sheath, Papa rellena truly makes a sumptuous dish. The word “papa” stands for “potato” in English while “rellena” means “stuffed”, thus the dish name stands for “stuffed potatoes.” What makes Papa rellena an interesting dish in Peru is its history and how it came into being.
This golden-brown fried dish dates back to 1879 when Peruvian soldiers were involved in the War of the Pacific. The Peruvian soldiers had to march through long distances to fight the Chilean soldiers. In order to avoid intermittent stops for food preparation and circumvent Chilean soldiers, Peruvian soldiers had to carry pre-cooked food that could last for long durations. Unfortunately, soldiers in those times were not equipped with preservative cans to ensure a longer shelf life.
Some wise army men introduced a new way of storing their beef. Chopped and cooked beef seasoned with appropriate spices was well-placed in moulds made from dough prepared with cooked potatoes. The potato mould was then sealed and fried to give it firmness. These fried dishes were then wrapped in kerchiefs and pulled out whenever they felt starved.
Papa rellena gradually became refined after the war when the dish was introduced in the domestic life of the soldiers. The recipe was re-worked with aptness due to the availability of proper utensils and ingredients at home. The beef core was subsequently added with cooked eggs, raisins, olives, and fine herbs. And egg white and flour was added to potato dough to give it more defined and even shape.
Ever since papa rellena has evolved, different cooks have experimented with it to make it more succulent. Today, it is best enjoyed with white rice, onion Creole sauce and corianders soaked in lime juice.
Image Source: “Peru PapasRellenas2” by Håkan Svensson (Xauxa). – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Peru_PapasRellenas2.jpg#/media/File:Peru_PapasRellenas2.jpg