Meet cebiche de chocho, Huaraz’s hearty food icon

P erhaps one of the most popular local dishes of Huaraz, yet one which is often overlooked by travellers, is cebiche de chocho. The local Huaracinos refer to it as simply “chocho” and it is consumed frequently as a refreshing anytime meal. This traditional, tasty yet simple dish should be an essential gastronomic experience for all visitors to Huaraz and must not be confused with its well-known cousin, Cebiche de pescado.

The bean

Chocho (or tarwi as it is known in Quechua language) is its principal ingredient, an Andean white legume with a smooth bean shape. Although it is thought to have been domesticated thousands of years ago, historians have written about it for centuries, tracing it back to Pre-Incan civilizations like Nazca (100 to 500 B.C) and Tiahuanaco ( 500 to 1000 A.C) with archaeological discoveries confirming its presence in ancient tombs and pottery. Local farmers now cultivate the ancestral bean in different provinces of the Andean region ranging from the North in Cajamarca to the South in Puno and proudly Huaraz is a city that promotes its consumption through this mouth-watering dish.

Tarwi has a natural bitter taste due to organic chemicals rich in nitrogen called alkaloids and, in order to get rid of them, traditional chocho experts soak the beans in water which after being boiled are finally placed in a mesh that allows water to run through for over a week. Others prefer to boil them for an entire day on a wood burning stove and, once ready, lay them on a fabric sheet in the river banks from where for up to three days the downstream waters should leave no remains of their bitterness.

The dish’s value

The exotic Cebiche de chocho excites our mouths with a subtle yet sharp citrus flavour originating from the beans which have been marinated in lemon juice and spices. The high protein content of the beans (16 gr per 100gr) and additional presence of essential minerals and amino acids like lysine – a compound that increases our calcium absorption – ensures the dish is a healthy and nourishing choice. Its other ingredients, including onions, tomatoes, celery and coriander make up for the perfect healthy mix of greens that sit in great company on our plates with other complements such as sweet potato and Andean toasted corn.

There is still something more about Cebiche de chocho that distinguishes it from the neighbour foodie traditions in the coast and jungle regions in Peru and that is its significance for the community. It is the infallible social gatherer in get togethers: only huaracinos would refuse a cup of coffee to catch up with a dear friend and trade it for a Cebiche de chocho reunion at their favourite chocheria. Being a somewhat social dish, it is often consumed with an alcoholic beverage or a typical “gaseosa”.

Where to eat it

A tasty and well served Cebiche de chocho is available is most parts of Huaraz centre and suburbs, but keeping a good eye on the best whereabouts, will make your experience truly unforgettable. Chocho can be purchased for as little as one sol on the streets near the Central Market Virgen de Fatima and the better chocherias and cebicherias will normally serve a standard portion for around five soles.

¡Buen provecho!

Author: Natalia Perez
Photo: The biggest chocho in the world was prepared in Huaraz

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