If you happen to grab a bite in Peru’s Amazonian region and come across plates of yellowish balls served all around you, don’t panic! It’s nothing out of the ordinary, just one of the most wonderful dishes Peruvian cuisine ever invented. Served in every village, town and city in the jungle, tacacho is part of a strong gastronomic tradition that still remains a secret to the rest of the world. Although Peru has been enjoying a culinary boom for the past few years, its Amazonian region hasn’t gathered much international attention. However, it’s a solid gastronomic identity simply craving to be discovered.
So, you might be wondering what’s so special about big yellow balls of food, anyway? Tacacho is made up of mashed, boiled plantains, locally known as bellacos. These are usually green and much larger than the yellow bananas sold in supermarkets. The flavor of tacacho is unique, not too sweet, with a smooth, firm, and dry texture. It’s a good idea to accompany your tacacho with a glass of the Amazon’s exotic fruits. My pick would be quito-quito, whose taste resembles a mixture of apple and orange juice, but if you’re more of a citrus fruits lover then go for camu-camu – it contains 50 times more vitamin C than an orange or lemon.
It’s a funny word, tacacho, isn’t it? Rumor has it that it’s actually derived from the quechua expression “taka-chu” which means “what has been smashed”. Ring any bells? Quechua has been spoken since the time of the Incas and is still spoken today in Andean communities. It is a popular belief that tacacho preparation dates back to long ago. Nowadays, Amazonians love to serve it with cecina (dried and salty pork meat) or freshly harvested regional vegetables. Simply fabulous! So, if you’re spending some time in Tarapoto, Iquitos, Oxapampa, or any other place in the Peruvian jungle, don’t hesitate to try a dish of tacacho – it will definitely give you a taste of the Amazonian vibe.
– 2 green plantains (preferably bellacos)
– Pork fat
– Small-sized pieces of cooked pork (optional)
Peel the plantains. Boil or grill them until soft enough to mash. Mix with a bit of pork fat to make the pieces stick together. Add salt and the cooked pieces of pork. Continue mixing. The texture should allow you to make balls the size of baseballs with your bare hands. Serve with cecina or vegetables.
A travel writer in the making, Marissa Duthurburu studies tourism and management at UPC in Lima, Peru. She enjoys traveling around the world and keeping journals during every trip. Her work has appeared on livinginperu.com.