Vegan Llapingachos, a mi estilo!
I love potatoes. As a Peruvian American I sometimes think that potatoes are running through my veins. I enjoy them in any possible way they can be prepared, but my favorite? Mashed and stuffed with...well, whatever your creative mind can come up with! Today I want to share a version that I find easy to make and full of flavor: the Ecuadorian llapingacho. Traditionally, it is filled with cheese and served as an accompaniment to roasted pork, but today I will share my vegan version, stuffed with mushrooms and red peppers.
While we can find wild potatoes all over the Americas, the genetic traces of all these potato varieties trace back to one single origin, the area around Lake Titicaca in Southern Peru and Northern Bolivia. Potatoes first became domesticated there between 8-10,000 years ago.
There is an ancient Mochica (pre-Incan civilization) myth about how God gifted the potato to people of the Puna, the highlands. They were given to help them gain strength to protect themselves against oppressive invaders (the growers of quinoa, no less!) who would have forever kept them under their control. Ultimately, the potato gave them the strength needed to defeat those invaders, as the story goes. Years later, the potato was then expertly cultivated by the Inca, where they perfected preservation techniques by drying and freeze-drying potatoes so they could be stored for 10+ years, thereby establishing their food security. Today, the potato is the fourth largest crop in the world and is grown on every continent except Antartica. The Food Agricultural Organization (FAO) even deemed 2008 the International Year of the Potato, saying, "Planting tubers remains the most important activity of the farming year near Lake Titicaca, where the potato is known as Mama Jatha, or mother of growth. The potato remains the seed of Andean society." Out of the 5,000 varieties that exist worldwide, 3,000 of them are found in the Andean region alone.
Specifically, this dish's origin is attributed to the Salasaca people of the province of Tungurahua, in the central highlands of Ecuador. Today, this dish is eaten throughout the country from the highlands to the big cities. There are two ways people like to eat this traditional side dish, with a curtido (pickled tomato and onions) on top, or with a salsa de maní. When I asked my friend Mari about this dish, she recalled her mother making these potato pancakes always with the peanut sauce. In the photos below you'll see I added the Peruvian sarsa criolla (pickeled onion and spicy peppers) instead of the curtido. Watever floats your boat! I am certainly not serving up anything traditional today, but my own way of playing with this dish. A mi estilo!
So, yes, I love the potato. This is not the first stuffed potato recipe I've shared and it will not be the last! The Peruvian stuffed potato, the papa rellena, is not too different from the Ecuadorian llapingacho in concept but what makes the Ecuadorian version different is this salsa de maní, or peanut sauce, that tops it (I have linked another prolific food blogger for that recipe). The peanut also originates from South America and Peruvians also put peanut sauces on potatoes so I knew this was going to be delicious the first time I tried it. Whether you want to eat these little babies with meat, fill them with cheese, they are just simple and delicious and packed with good nutrients too. Shoot us a comment if you decide to try them! Buen provecho, amig@s!
Mushroom Stuffed Llapingacho (Potato Pancakes)
Yield: 8 pancakes, 8 servings
You can use leftover plain mashed potatoes or freshly mashed for this dish.
5 medium sized firm potatoes (yields about 3 cups), boiled, peeled and mashed
1 egg, beaten (optional) (if trying to keep vegan, omit)
¼ cup nutritional yeast or grated parmesan cheese (optional, or use egg)
½ cup cornmeal (yellow or white)
¼ cup cornmeal for dusting the potato patties (yellow or white)
3-4 tablespoons green onions or ramps, chopped
1/2 pound portabella mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 small white onion, diced
½ large red pepper, diced
1 tablespoon fresh sage, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon parsley, roughly chopped
¼ cup vegetable stock
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons avocado or sunflower oil for frying
Place potatoes in a pot and cover with water. Add a bit of salt. Boil potatoes for about 30 minutes, or until a fork or knife easily passes through without resistance.
While the potatoes are cooking, heat one tablespoon of oil in a large pan.
When oil is hot, add diced onion and saute until translucent.
Add chopped mushrooms and red peppers and saute for 3 minutes. Add sage and vegetable stock. Allow to cook for about 15 minutes, or until liquid has evaporated.
Continue to cook vegetable mix for another 3-5 minutes, until browned. Add parsley and salt, to taste. Turn off the heat and allow to cool.
Peel and mash the potatoes. Allow to cool.
Combine cooled down mashed potatoes with egg, ½ cup cornmeal, nutritional yeast or parmesan cheese, green onion, and 1 teaspoon salt. If the mixture is too dry, add one more egg and if it is too wet, add more cornmeal. To keep it vegan, simply omit egg.
Take about 2-3 tablespoons of potato dough and flatten into a disk, place 1-2 spoonfuls of mushroom filling and begin folding the mashed potato over to form a seal and cover the filling. Add a bit more to the top, if needed. Flatten to form into a disk. Disks should be between 2-3 inches around, when flattened.
Once all the potato pancakes are assembled, place parchment paper on the counter with the remainder of the cornmeal. Lightly dust the cakes with the cornmeal on each side and set aside.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large pan.
Place pancakes in the pan at medium to medium-high heat. Fry on each side for about 4-5 minutes until they turn golden in color. You may need to add a bit more oil as needed.
Vegan llapingachos and other side dishes
Note: Above are some suggestions of how to serve this dish. These are traditionally eaten as a side dish but can also be eaten as the star of the show, as seen here. Eat along with roasted meats. Throw a fried egg on top, some chorizo on the side, and some avocado for breakfast. Add a side salad and some sausage for lunch. Throw some pickled onions and jalapeños on top for a great snack. The options are limitless!