Guatemalan Food: Sancocho from 7 Caldos

Rudy Giron: Guatemalan gastronomy &emdash; Guatemalan Food: Sancocho

If you have follow the daily updates from AntiguaDailyPhto you may know that I enjoy taking the most innocent and harmless photograph and turn it into a deep thought provoking post. Today’s photograph of sancocho is no exception. Here is a simple photo of caldo de res y gallina criolla, beef and hen stock-stew, taken at 7 Caldos, my new favourite restaurant in La Antigua Guatemala. That’s right that’s what Sanchocho is, a simple caldo de res y gallina criolla (domestic fowl).

Thanks to the contributions of Erin and Manolo, loyal and long time readers and contributors, we are about to dive in to the history of sancocho and criollo. Don’t ever say talk about food is a superficial; well at least not in Guatemala. Enjoy!

Erin on the history of Sancocho: 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!

Manolo on the history of Criollo: 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…

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