What are anticuchos?
Anticuchos de corazón are a specialty from South America. They are skewers of heart and each country adds its own ingredients for its version of the recipe.
In Peru, the country of origin of anticuchos de corazón, they are prepared from chunks of beef heart marinated for several hours, which are then skewered and grilled.
What is the origin of anticuchos?
Although this tradition dates from pre-Columbian times, anticucho as such only became popular during colonial times between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries.
In Peru, anticuchos are found at every street corner throughout the year but its consumption increases in October, during the procession of the Lord of Miracles (Señor de los Milagros), the image of the Christ crucified at Santuario Nazarene in Lima. The image of the crucified Christ has drawn millions of people since 1687 during an extraordinary procession through the streets of Lima where people enjoy anticuchos.
Also, Peru’s Independence Day, which takes place on July 28th, sees a high consumption of anticuchos since it is also BBQ day and there is no BBQ without anticuchos in the country!
The origin of anticuchos dates back to the sixteenth century. The recipe was discovered by the Spanish conquistadors. At the time, the majority of the dishes were prepared with ingredients imported from Europe.
At the time of the Incas, anticuchos were prepared with llama meat cut into pieces, flavored fresh herbs and pepper. Years later, with the arrival of the Spanish, beef replaced llama and garlic became a key ingredient in the recipe.
The contempt of the Spanish from Lima for offal and less noble animal parts made them serve these meats to black slaves.
They cut the beef heart into pieces and marinated them in vinegar and chicha, an Andean beverage made from corn, peanut, cassava or rice to which fruits are added, and that is used in recipes like gallo en chicha. This drink is particularly found in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Colombia. After a long marinade, they used to grill or fry them.
Later, thin sugar cane stalks were used as skewers.
Today, you can find anticuchos everywhere. Restaurants, street food carts or food stalls that are all called anticucheras.
Although anticuchos can be prepared with all types of meat, in Peru, the most popular ones are made with beef heart and usually served with potatoes or bread.
Despite the fact that heart is a muscle, it is still classified in the “red offal” category.
The heart of an ox can weigh up to 5 lb. It should always be very red and firm, free of its fibers and blood clots. Beef heart, like all hearts, is also low in fat and high in protein like meat. Hearts are a great source of iron. Like the majority of offal, heart is a good source of protein, minerals and vitamins. It is also among the foods that are rich in vitamin B12 (anti anemia). All of these benefits are great for people wanting to lose weight.
I loved this anticuchos recipe that I prepared for lunch with friends visiting from abroad. The majority of them were resistant to eating offal, but despite their apprehension, they all came to love those delicious anticuchos de corazón too!
- 2 cloves garlic , minced
- 1 teaspoon ground chili pepper
- ½ cup white vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 1 beef heart , cleaned, trimmed and denervated.
- 3 tablespoons sunflower oil
- 1 chili pepper (and/or red bell pepper), chopped
- Mix all the marinade ingredients.
- Cut the heart into cubes and put them in the marinade. Mix well.
- Marinate for 6 hours, stirring occasionally.
Prepare the skewers of heart and grill them on a BBQ grill, a griddle or over the coals by spraying with a mixture of sunflower oil and chopped chili and/or red bell pepper.
- Turn skewers after about 5 minutes to allow to cook on each side.