Bolivia is our first South American country. We have never been to South America (or Central America), so a lot of research had to be done. Bolivia is a landlocked country, and its cuisine seems heavily focused on meat and vegetables (corn in particular). Some websites had some not-so-nice things to say about the cuisine – it was heavy, chewy meat, bland, etc. But then again, some of the Google image searches returned photos of some gorgeous food!
At first, we considered cooking salteñas, because we love empanadas and we’ve cooked them plenty of times before. But then, that would be playing it a bit safe. So we ventured out on a limb and cooked mondongo chuquisaqueño, which is basically fried pork belly in a savoury sauce made from dried chillies, served with a side of boiled potatoes and hominy stew.
We used this Youtube video as a starting point, tweaking and adjusting as we went along. The video is entirely in Spanish and there is no written version, so we just guessed as to the ingredients and quantities. In the end, the dish turned out rather well.
We used a mix of ancho and mulatto chillies, and white hominy instead of yellow, because that’s what was in our pantry. We roasted the pork belly whole at 150 degrees Celcius for 1h15m, before chopping into squares and deep frying it. The recipe only calls for browning it in a pan before frying, but we wanted to make sure that it wasn’t chewy and fatty. The oven trick helped!
We also added some brown malt vinegar and sugar to the chilli sauce to give it more depth and flavour – otherwise, it’s literally just blended up dried chillies. They themselves have a wonderful savoury and smoky aroma, but for a sauce, we thought it was way too one dimensional!
The side of ‘corn mash’ was made by frying garlic and roasted pig skin with aji amarillo (yellow pepper paste – you can buy from The Spice Wagon in Morley), then adding the canned hominy and some homemade chicken stock and salt. The corn takes a surprising amount of time to tenderise (about 1 hour).
Our verdict? 2.5/5
Would we cook it again? Props not.