Guatemalan Cuisine: Sancocho

Guatemalan Cuisine: Sancocho

First of all, I am going to request the help of my dear epistolary friends Erin and Manolo for this entry. Erin can help explain how this meal is prepared and perhaps some background information about gallina criolla and tips. Manolo can really explain in full detail the implications of Criollo and La patria del criollo.

As some of you know, I can take the most innocent and harmless photograph and turn it into a deep thought provoking image. Take today’s photo as an example, a simple photo of caldo de res y gallina criolla, beef and hen stock-stew. That’s right that’s what Sancocho is, a simple caldo de res y gallina criolla (domestic fowl). If Erin and Monolo come through, we will end up with a thought provoking entry for sure.

Let’s wait and see… Come on guys we’re waiting. 😉

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  • According to what I remember from social studies in elementary (and the later education and readings) criollo was a person whose parents (or parents parents) where from Spain, but who was born in the New World. Some sort of “pure laine” Spanish descendant but who probably had never lived in the Iberic peninsula. These socio-economic-ethnic group was the one behind the independence of Guatemala. Not the indigenous groups, not the mestizos (mixed race: Spanish-indigenous and different mixes). Thus, Guatemala is the country imagined by the criollos. People who felt superior to the “local natives” but who were treated as second-class by the crown.

    Criollo, nowadays, is probably a state of being (unconscious I believe), an attitude of ownership (our land, our indigenous peoples, our volcanoes) but also of shame and guilt…

  • Erin

    Oh my, this was absolutely personal and tempting…
    As far as I know, sancocho is actually the Caribbean name for the Guatemalan cocido that was introduced to Latin America during the colonial times, being the genesis, the cocido madrileño.
    The variations that we find throughout Latin America are related with the available and/or popular ingredients in every place, which means that in one country, we can see more than one version.
    The sancocho, as it is known in Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and Dominican Republic, contains several types of meat, including beef, pork, goat, chicken. As for the vegetables, these versions may include corn on the cob, green plantain, and several types of roots (also called viandas in the Caribbean countries), such as malanga, cassava, ñame, yam, potato, turnip, and carrot. If you are on a low carbs diet, don’t even try it!
    The traditional Guatemalan caldo de gallina criolla, where “criolla” means “home-raised”. Be careful, because the use of “farm-raised” hens could be considered capital sin! Anyway, this is a simple, yet succulent and delicious fiesta-day dish. In addition to the hen, all you need is: celery, carrot, onion, garlic, bay leaf, flat leaf parsley, salt and black peppercorns (please don’t use artificial seasonings, they are not just bad for your health, but also modify the real flavor of the real food).
    The vegetables are optional and usually they are a combination of: big chunks of corn on the cob, carrot, güicoy (yellow pumpkin), güisquil (chayote, pataste), and wedges of cabbage. If you add vegetables, don’t overcook them, otherwise, the stock won’t be light and clear as it is supposed to be. The traditional way to serve the caldo de gallina is pouring the stock alone in a bowl with vegetables and white rice as side dish. It can be garnished with fresh chopped parsley, hard boiled egg yolks (to simulate those that sometimes are found inside the hens), and a wedge of lime.
    The Guatemalan sancocho version in today’s mouth watering picture, is probably the result of our new global world. It looks so appetizing that I am sure I will create my own version.
    ¡Buen provecho!

  • Erick

    I had never heard the word “Sanchocho” or “Sancocho” (not sure which one it is) before. For some reason the chicken leg in the picture weirds me out a little bit.

    This is probably a dumb question, but I’ll ask anyways: Is caldo de pollo and caldo de gallina pretty much the same thing? I mean, it should taste almost the same, or no?

    Manolo, your excerpt was really informative. I had never looked into the distinction between a criollo and a mestizo, so this was a good read.

  • Cristina

    I think the reason that the chicken leg wierded Erick out was because gallina criolla should be yellower. This coloring is obtained by feeding chickens “flor de muerto”. In fact, farm raised chickens are given an extract of flor de muerto in their feed, to give them a nicer color. Pollo refers to younger chicken, while gallinas are usually hens that are kept for egg laying, and at the end of their useful life, are arranged in a delicioso caldo de gallina, mejor si lleva cilantro y hierbabuena, especialmente si se tiene catarro o goma.

    • Erick

      Cristina, that’s good info. Speaking of gomas, I could’ve used one of those caldos last weekend.

  • dg

    I checked with my mother to see if she was familiar with “sancocho.” She told me that it was a word used by grandmothers to refer to a caldo made in a hurry using whatever was available. In my family, our caldo de gallina would not have cabbage, corn on the cob or guicoy. I actually think I would be shocked if I saw anything but carrots and guisquil in it. The garnishments served alongside the caldo are crema, lime, julienned mint, chile cobanero, and chile chiltepe.

  • Erin

    dg is right, the traditional Guatemala-style “caldo de gallina” does not have vegetables and that is why I mentioned that these are optional. To cook the hen and improve the flavor of the resulting stock, a “mirepoix” base (onion+celery+carrot), the kitchen’s holy trinity, is the best option.
    Additionally, in Guatemala the word sancocho and its infinitive, sancochar”, is often used to refer to something that is partially cooked, almost as a synonymous of “blanche”.
    Cristina, thanks for the information. I didn’t know the yellow color origin.

  • Thanks everyone and especially to @Manolo, @Erin, @Cristina and @dg for providing such insightful and great information. You guys are the best!

  • Carlos E. Morales

    Con todo respeto, en Guatemala lo conocemos mas comunmente como caldo. Ya sea caldo de pollo o de res, pero es caldo. Segun tengo entendido, sancocho le llaman los puertoriqueños.