Pachamanca; the Peruvian Barbecue Tour
As of 2003 Pachamanca became a natural cultural heritage. This was to help preserve an ancient tradition that has existed for over 8 thousand years. A tradition that stemmed from the art of cooking using underground ovens. Ovens which can still be found in both the central part of the Andes and the coast. It’s a special dish that has been prepared by a number of communities in the Andes of Peru, including some parts of Ecuador. You are unlikely to find this dish in restaurants and is only prepared during special occasions.
What is Pachamanca?
Pachamanca is a Quechua (indigenous language of Peru) word that directly translates to Pacha ¨earth¨ and Mancha ¨pot¨. It’s a traditional mixed dish made from hot stones underground and it originates back to the Inca Empire. This type of cooking has had a major ceremonial significance to the people of Peru for many generations. It’s a ritual that’s regularly performed in the highland regions. The ritual is meant to give back to Pachamama (mother earth) by cooking the food in the earth (underground) and later when the food is ready, express gratitude for what Pachamama has provided.
How to prepare Pachamanca?
From my observation, the process is pretty strenuous and needs a bit of man power. Firstly, they heat the stones using firewood for approximately 4 hours. After the stones are deemed hot enough, all the ingredients are placed underground and covered with the scorching hot stones and topped with thatch and other items to preserve the heat. The cooking/baking process takes just over an hour. The moving of extremely hot stones is a task that needs skill, speed and endurance. The stones need to be moved on top of the food at great speeds. If you consider how hot these stones are, this task is certainly not for the faint hearted. However, this process has such spiritual significance to the people preparing it, the love and care that goes into it is pretty clear.
What type of ingredients should you expect in a Pachamanca?
First and foremost are the potatoes. As you might have heard, there are over 4000 varieties of potatoes in Peru and they tend to make up a majority of the local dishes. Typical potatoes used are the Yucca, the sweet potato, oka, papa peruanita and the common white potato among others. Other ingredients may include: pineapple, fava beans, plantains and a variety of meats like chicken, beef, pork, llama, alpaca, all depending on your taste and preference. Lastly, they add herbs and spices to taste.
The final product is absolutely delicious. You get the opportunity to participate in an ancient sacred ritual of the Incas. It also serves as a great reminder to us all to stay thankful for everything we have in our lives, small or big. For the Americans this would be like having Thanksgiving as many times a year as you feel is needed.