There are many regional dishes in Colombia such as the Bandeja Paisa which is from Medellin, Tamales from Tolima, Arroz coco (coconut rice) from the coast etc. Bogota is no exception and seeing as the capital is a cold and mountainous city, it only makes sense that its most popular dish is a heavy, meaty and starchy soup called Ajiaco. It would be an understatement to say that Ajiaco is one of the most talked about dishes when it comes to Colombian cuisine, next to the Bandeja Paisa. Whenever I start a conversation about Colombian food with a local, they always ask me if I’ve eaten either the Bandeja Paisa or Ajiaco.
Traditionally made with chicken breast and potatoes, Ajiaco is the perfect comfort food to have on a cold night, which is basically every night in Bogota. It’s a simple dish to prepare but very time-consuming so unless you’re dining out, most Colombians only eat Ajiaco on special occasions, especially Christmas.
As, I am far too impatient to wait until the Christmas season for my Ajiaco I spoke to a bunch of locals and consulted a handful of youtube videos to put together this recipe. I’ve probably made this recipe a handful of times and it’s been certified authentic by Colombian palettes. The secret to making a good Ajiaco involves two things; firstly, it needs to have guascas, and second it needs to be very thick. The flavour of the Ajiaco comes from the guascas so while I’ve given a measurement so you have something to work with, don’t be afraid to add more as you see fit. It’s hard to describe the flavour, the best way I can put it is that it’s herb-y, kind of like tea. To get the thick texture, the trick is to add lots of papa criolla, the bigger the better. Again, the measurement is not important, just make sure you add more than the other potatoes.
So without further delay, here’s my take on how to make Ajiaco…..
What you need:
2 Chicken Breast
2 Corn cobs (cut into 2 pieces)
1 L of water
2 Cloves of garlic
1/2 cup of fresh peas
1/2 cup of Guascas
1 pound of papa criolla (Andean yellow potatoes)
1/2 pound of red potatoes (pealed and sliced)
1/2 pound of white potatoes (pealed and sliced)
1 Bay leaf
2-3 sticks of thyme
Salt and pepper
Cooked white rice
How you cook it:
1. In a large pot, put in the chicken, water, scallions, corn, garlic, salt and pepper, bay leaf, thyme and half the portion of guascas and bring to a boil. Cook on medium heat until the chicken is ready. Approximately 45mins -1 hour.
2. While the chicken is cooking, peal and slice the potatoes and leave them in a bowl of water so they don’t turn brown. This is probably the most tedious part of the recipe. (Loon’s suggestion: invite friends over to help you)
3. When the chicken is ready, take it out and set it aside to cool.
4. Meanwhile, while the broth is still cooking, add in first your red and white potatoes. After about 10 minutes, throw in your papa criollas.
5. Add in more guascas and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook the broth for another 15-30 minutes, stirring constantly until you get the right consistency (very thick and creamy).
6. While the broth cooks, using your fingers , shred the chicken into smaller pieces.
7. When the broth is ready, add in the chicken and serve.
8. Add capers and cream to your bowl of ajiaco and serve with white rice and a fresh slice of avocado on the side.
* Unfortunately, as I was entertaining guests the night I made this Ajiaco, I didn’t get a photo of the one I actually made.