Aguadito de pollo, a family favorite
When I think of this Peruvian chicken soup, I always think of my little sister Courtney and her wife. Not only is my sister insanely good at making this soup but it has also become one of her wife's favorite Peruvian dishes. You can almost always count on a nice, hot bowl of it whenever you visit their home during the cooler times of the year. It is something I always look forward to as it is such a treat and you cannot help but feel the love in each sip.
This soup is deeply flavored and layered with many ingredients but the most prominent taste and color come from the cilantro. It is made hearty by adding choclo (Peruvian corn), potatoes, rice, carrots, and peas. It is made more flavorful still, and spicy, by adding a touch of aji amarillo (Peruvian pepper) and sweet red peppers.
The name aguadito de pollo actually translates to "little chicken water/soup," which sounds really funny in English but in Peru simply saying "aguadito" always refers to this style of soup. It is Peruvian comfort food at its best. This dish came about during colonial times after the Spanish introduced many new ingredients to the region, including cilantro and rice. These two ingredients alone make this soup different and distinctive from traditional, indigenous Andean fare. According to comidasperuanas.net, this soup was once a staple offered at the end of the jaranas (parties with music and dancing) of Lima, where guests who partied well into the wee hours of the morning, would partake of this warming and fragrant soup to cap of the end of their visit before heading home to sleep it all off. Today, this soup is known as an excellent cure for hang-overs or simply just a comfort food in any home in the city and beyond.
I have to admit that one of my favorite flavors in the culinary world is that of cilantro. It, then, makes so much sense that this, too, is one of my favorite Peruvian dishes, along with seco de res as it also uses a lot of that magical herb. So, mis amig@s, I hope you enjoy my simple version of aguadito de pollo...and know that you can use whatever protein you'd like - especially seafood! Buen provecho!
Aguadito de pollo - Serves 4
2 pounds chicken thighs (4 pieces, bone-in or boneless. I prefer bone-in for added depth of flavor)
4 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup dark beer (optional, not used in this preparation)
1 medium red onion, diced small
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups cilantro (leaves, and some stems are fine)
3 tablespoons aji amarillo paste
1/4 cup water
12-14 baby potatoes (I used yellow and kept skin on for nutrients). halved
1/2 cup choclo, kernels (or in rounds on the cob, kernels used for this recipe)
1 cup carrots, cubed
1/2 red pepper, sliced or cubed
1/2 cup white rice
1/2 cup peas
Salt and pepper to taste
Season raw chicken with salt and pepper then sear in a bit of vegetable oil.
While chicken is browning, dice onion.
Removed seared chicken from pot and let rest on a plate. Add diced onion to pot and cook until translucent.
While cooking onion, in a food processor or blender, puree cilantro, aji amarillo, and water together.
Add garlic to onion and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add cilantro puree to pot and cook for 2 minutes.
Add chicken back into pot with chicken stock, carrots, corn, red peppers, and potatoes. Add salt, to taste. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes.
Add rice to pot and cook another 15 minutes.
Add peas to pot and cook for another 5 minutes.
While delicious served right away, it tastes even better the next day!
NOTE: Another version of this soup is Aguadito de mariscos where instead of chicken you add clams, shrimp, mussels, and scallops. Did your mouth just water? MINE DID!!