What are llapingachos ?
Llapingachos are mashed potato pancakes or croquettes stuffed with cheese that are typical of Ecuador. They are usually prepared with onion, oil and ground achiote.
What are the llapingachos served with?
These croquettes sometimes accompany patacónes (also known as patacónes pisao or tostónes), that consists of green plantain, which are flattened then fried.
Llapingachos also serve as garnish for grilled pork or dishes of cuy meat, a giant variety of guinea pig that is bred only for its meat. In Ipiales, on the border between Ecuador and Colombia, it is served with fritada (fried pork). They can also be served with chorizo, fried eggs, roast beef or as featured here with peanut sauce, fried eggs and raw vegetables.
Peanut sauce is called salsa mani. Traditionally, it consists of fresh roasted peanuts but can be replaced with peanut butter for faster preparation. It is prepared with milk, onion, achiote, cumin and coriander. Some add chili for a kick. For a more dense texture, you can also add chopped hard boiled eggs.
The raw vegetables come in the form of lettuce leaves, slices of avocado and curtido, a kind of pickled relish made from seasonal vegetables (usually tomatoes and onions but can also be made with cabbage or carrots for example). This preparation is usually pickled with vinegar and can contain spices. This condiment is very fresh and often accompanies meats and grilled fish but it also goes very well with llapingachos.
You can also add a very light spicy sauce called aji criollo. This oil-free sauce (unlike other continental sauces such as chimichurri sauce or salsa criolla) is prepared with ajies peppers, coriander, garlic, lime juice and onions. You can add water to thin it.
How to make llapingachos
Once cooked and mashed, the potatoes are flattened in the shape of croquettes or patties, or as in northern Italy can be formed into gnocchi. These various preparations are only preliminary steps because they have to be cooked again in water or oil. The egg or the starch naturally contained in the potato will be sufficient to maintain the shape of the patty.
Once the croquette is shaped, it can be stuffed with cheese like here or with salpicon, a mixture of vegetables, fruits, fish or meat, that are finely chopped and bound with a sauce. The cheese used in the llapingachos recipe is quesillo, also known as queso Oaxaca (Oaxaca cheese). This cheese is close to the Monterey Jack but has a more stringy texture like mozzarella. The stretched-curd method is also called pasta filata. This Italian technique spread to Mexico thanks to the Dominican monks and spread to the rest of Latin America after that. The cheese is pulled in long ribbons before being rolled to obtain a ball. This cheese is found in quesadillas and Mexican empanadas. Once stuffed with cheese, the croquette is closed on itself and grilled on both sides until golden brown.
What is the origin of llapingachos?
The origin of llapingachos is typically Ecuadorian. They come more specifically from the central Andean region of the country in the Tungurahua province. You can also find these potato croquettes similar to arepas in southern Colombia.
Llapingachos are naturally part of the great tradition of croquettes made from vegetables or crushed cereals. This cake is then fried in hot oil or animal fat such as lard. What makes llapingachos special is its grated cheese filling, which will melt on heating, and is reminiscent of the croquettes or cromesqui found in Europe, with the difference that cromesqui are dipped in a batter and that the croquette is usually breaded in a mixture of flour, egg and bread crumbs whereas llapingachos are fried as is.
- 5 large potatoes
- 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
- 2 scallions , finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground achiote
- 5 oz. quesillo (or mozzarella), grated
- Vegetable oil (for frying)
- Salsa mani (peanut sauce)
- Curtido (pickled tomatoes and onions)
- Sliced avocado
- Lettuce leaves
- Fried eggs
- Aji criollo (spicy sauce)
- Boil the potatoes (with the skin) until they are tender.
- While the potatoes are cooking, heat the oil over medium-high heat to make a refrito.
- Add the scallions and achiote, mix well and sauté until scallions are tender, about 5 minutes.
- Drain the potatoes and peel them.
- In a large salad bowl, mash the potatoes with a potato masher, then add the onion refrito.
- Season with salt.
- Cover the dough and let stand at room temperature for 1h30.
- Mix the dough well.
- Form small balls the size of a golf ball.
- Make a hole in the middle of each ball and fill it with grated cheese.
- After stuffing them with cheese, shape each ball into thick patties and let them rest in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
- Using a brush, lightly grease a hot griddle or pan and cook the patties on both sides until they are golden brown, taking care to turn gently as they can be fragile.
- Serve hot with fried egg, peanut sauce, curtido, avocado slices and hot sauce.