Chuchuca, Cusin-Style

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Cusin is an emblematic place of one of Ecuador’s most magical regions. Near San Pablo Lake and Otavalo, it boasts beautiful gardens, a fascinating history and the chance to taste a true find for corn lover: chuchuca. Chef Marco Yánez, an Imbabura native, proudly takes us around the hotel’s organic garden, telling us its secrets.

In the province of Imbabura, even soup tastes like corn! Chuchuca is little known, but it should be an icon of this corn-filled province. By definition, according to Luis Cordero’s Spanish-Quechua dictionary, it is “immature corn that is stored dry after being cooked or toasted and then ground to make a dish also called chuchuca.”

There are few places in the world affected by the sun’s rays like Imbabura. They hit the land directly. Picking a cob in its most tender state is also a chuchuca secret. It is then grinding after being sun-dried and the result are those mounds of golden crystals that catch your eye in the markets. Once it is boiled, the chuchuca acquires a rice-like texture (Jesuit Mario Cicala even described it as the country’s rice in 1771), but during cooking it produces an intense corn-flavored broth.

Chef Marco Yánez prepares a delicate dish that begins with onion, garlic and salt cooked in oil. The pork stock is supplemented with potatoes and cabbage. It is a picture of the Imbabura home, an ancient family recipe that survives in rural areas of this province. Cusin is still one of the few places where this delicious tradition is exposed to the general public. Don’t miss out!

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