Chupe de camarones, a beloved Peruvian soup
Once upon a time, I hated seafood. My father used to say to me that it wasn't possible that I was his child if I didn't love seafood, as my father is from a coastal city of Peru called Chimbote. Like my father, I also grew up in a coastal town in New England, Boston, and so I grew to like the flavor of lobster (barely), crab cakes (yum!) and clam chowder but could barely swallow the clams. Perhaps it was the texture of certain things, and certainly the smells of certain things (how could my mother eat anchovies out of a can?), but it would take time for me to develop my palate before I could really appreciate most seafood. In my 20s, while living in the Bay Area of California, I tasted my first Chupe de camarones, a Peruvian shrimp chowder, at the suggestion of the waiter in a restaurant I had only just discovered. It changed the way I experienced Peruvian food, and seafood, forever. I never turned back after that! I love seafood now!
The word chupe is derived from the Quechua word "chupi," which
means "soup." While there were were certainly soups before the Spanish and other Europeans came to South America, certain ingredients that characterize this style of chupe only came after the introduction of Old World ingredients: milk, eggs, onions, and rice. The other main ingredients that lend their distinctive tastes are native spicy peppers, corn, potatoes, fresh shrimp, and huacatay (Peruvian black mint). This is a classic blending of indigenous and European cuisines -- a colonial dish that demonstrates Peru's rich history. The first mention of this soup historically is the 19th century but its popularity did not gain momentum and find itself on restaurant menus until the 1950s and 60s (La Republica). Today, you would be hard-pressed to not find it on a menu, in Lima or in Boston. It is the queen of Peruvian soups. And for good reason: it is bursting with layers of flavor, warming to belly, and filled with varying and complimentary textures. Recipes vary from Peru, and you can absolutely play with what you add to the soup, as some ingredients are easier to find in the U.S. as those that might be more traditional.
This soup is was one of my dad's favorites, so I made a huge pot of it recently and we all lived on it for almost a week. You can eat it with a nice big hunk of bread so you clean the bowl and not miss one last taste OR you can be like us and simply tip your bowl up to your lips and drink it to the very last drop. You won't be disappointed!
Note: I substituted some ingredients in my recipe but will note the traditional ingredients as well.
Chupe de camarones - Serves 8
10 cups water
2 pounds shrimp (cleaned)
1/4-1/2 cup extra virgen olive oil
1 medium red onion, finely diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon aji panca paste
1 teaspoon aji amarillo paste
1 tomato, peeled, de-seeded and finely chopped (optional)
1/4-1/2 cup huacatay (optional)
1/2 cup white rice
2 cups red potato (traditionally: Peruvian yellow potato), cubed, skin on
1 cup squash or pumpkin, cubed (optional)
2 ears of sweet corn (traditionally: choclo), sliced in rounds
1 cup green peas (traditionally: broad beans or habas)
3-4 ounces queso fresco (farmers cheese), cubed
1 cup evaporated milk
5 eggs (room temperature)
Salt and pepper to taste
Begin water to a boil in a large stock pot (heavy bottom so not to scorch soup) and cook shrimp for 2-3 minutes. Remove from water and set aside to cool. Strain water and reserve for soup broth.
Once shrimp has cooled, remove shells and place into a blender. Set shrimp aside.
In the stock, add oil and saute onion until translucent. Then add garlic, aji panca, aji amarillo, tomato and huacatay for 5 minutes.
While sauteing base sauce, add 2 cups of shrimp broth to the blender and puree the shells for 2-3 minutes.
Add shrimp stock to the stock pot on top of the saute. Stir well. Also, strain the puree from the blender and add this to the stock (this intensifies the flavor).
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Add rice, potatoes, peas and corn and let cook for 15 minutes.
Add shrimp back into the pot.
Add milk and queso fresco. Let simmer for 2 more minutes. Adjust seasoning if needed.
Crack eggs directly into the soup, one a time, trying not to puncture the yolk. Once eggs have cooked, turn off the heat.
Serve immediately. Buen provecho, amig@s!
Note 1: If pureeing the shrimp shells seems like too much, you can skip that part, but it really does intensify the flavor!
Note 2: You can absolutely reheat this soup, though the shrimp will become more tough and the other ingredients will start to break apart if kept for too long. It will still taste great after a few days, but it certainly won't look as pretty!
Lunch for Daddy on Day 2, below. :)