I have yet to visit Peru – but never say never! I look forward to making the trip someday, but in the meantime, I do enjoy learning to put together traditional Peruvian dishes as well as putting my own twist on them. One of my favorites is salsa a la Huancaína, which is a Peruvian dish inspired by its namesake town of Huancayo, Peru, and it is so delicious that I make it every chance I get.
For accompaniments to the sauce, traditionally, potatoes are used, but in this instance, I was craving the sweet crunchiness of fried yucca root. If you’ve never had salsa a la Huancaína, then you are in for a real treat. The sauce is creamy, rich, and spicy – and the best part is that you can put it on literally anything: yes, boiled potatoes or crispy yucca, but also pasta, chicken, or rice; you can use it as a dip for homemade potato chips or crunchy vegetables or…I’ll stop here. You get the idea.
Case in point: Last night’s dinner was steak and potatoes smothered in salsa a la Huancaína; tonight’s, brown rice penne – you guessed it – smothered in salsa a la Huancaína.
Pssst…you didn’t hear this from me, but this sauce is incredible on crunchy Cheetos. My dirty little secret.
Click here if you would like to see some truly breathtaking photos of the city of Huancayo.
You can order this sauce as part of one dish or another at pretty much any Peruvian restaurant, but it is super easy to make at home. All you need is a few ingredients and a blender and you’ve got yourself a universally yummy sauce.
What you will need:
Yucca root. You can find this in the produce section of the grocery store, near the potatoes. It looks like this:
Canola oil, for frying the yucca.
Aji amarillo. This yellow pepper is the heart and soul of the sauce, so it’s essential. The pepper pretty much only grows in Peru, but you can find it in paste form at many Latin markets. Or you can get the peppers themselves marinated in jars (make sure you scrape out the seeds and pull off the skins – and wear gloves!):
Feta cheese. I think that technically queso fresco is supposed to be used, but I find that using it leaves my sauce kinda grainy, and I much prefer the brininess of the Feta. The amount you use is totally up to you; I like my sauce pretty cheesy, so I use about 4 ounces or so.
Saltines. Just trust me.
Hard-boiled eggs. This is optional, in my opinion. I’m pretty sure that traditionally, boiled eggs are halved and served on top of the dish, but if I remember to boil them, I blend one right up into the sauce.
Evaporated milk. Usually found either in the baking aisle or with the Hershey’s syrups in the grocery store. One can will do the trick – although you might want to stock up so you can make this sauce again soon.
Black pepper and garlic to taste.
First, put a large pot of salted water on to boil. While that is heating up, you will have to cut the skins off of the yucca and then cut the root into long, fat French-fry-like shapes.
Once you’ve accomplished that, put the pieces of yucca into the water to boil. The yucca is done when it is soft but not falling apart.
When the yucca is finished boiling, spread it out on a baking sheet and put it in the fridge to cool.
Once the yucca is cooled, it’s time to fry it. You can use a deep fryer or just heat some oil in a frying pan on the stovetop – just keep an eye on it so it doesn’t get hot enough to easily burn the food.
Fry the yucca until it is golden brown and crispy on all sides and set the pieces on a cooling rack, dusting lightly with salt.
To make the sauce, combine the whole can of evaporated milk, 1-2 Tbsp of aji amarillo (you can add more to taste, but start small because it is spicy), 2-4 ounces of Feta cheese, and about a dozen or so saltine crackers in your blender. Add black pepper and garlic to taste, as well as a hard-boiled egg, if you prefer. This sauce is meant to be served either cold or room-temp, so once it is combined it’s ready to eat! Dip it or pour it – it doesn’t matter how you eat the sauce; what’s important is that you thoroughly enjoy it!
Please feel free to spam me with all the different foods you like to eat this sauce with!