Recipe for making Peru’s adobo arequipeño at home
Adobo arequipeño, also known as adobo de chanco, is a traditional dish from Arequipa, Peru. Cooked overnight, adobo arequipeño is a popular hangover cure and Sunday brunch dish at Arequipa’s local picanterías, or “spicy shops.”
Though eating adobo arequipeño on bleary-eyed Sunday morning in Peru is an experience not to be missed, this recipe for making it at home is surprisingly straightforward and spicily satisfying.
Though typical of Peruvian cuisine, Arequipa’s adobo is quite different from the other adobos in the world. The arequipeño dish is a soupy pork stew, slow-simmered with chicha de jora, spicy rocoto pepper, aji panca, garlic, onions, oregano, cumin, and other herbs and spices.
Each picantería keeps its exact recipe secret, known only to the women who tend the clay cauldrons that hold the steaming stew. So, while I researched many adobo recipes online, this recipe is simply my best attempt to recreate the flavors of my choice for the best adobo in Arequipa, dished out by Elsita’s picantería.
Is this close to the classic adobo recipe? Is my technique “right”? It’s probably right “ish.” What I do know is that this recipe for adobo arequipeño is true to my taste memories, even if you might quibble with my approach. I’ve seen recipes that use paprika, cinnamon, or cloves, so right and wrong is just a matter of which picantería you’ve pledged your allegiance to.
About the more unusual ingredients in adobo arequipeño
Chicha de jora is a traditional alcoholic brew made from corn. My chicha de jora was made by my friend Scott Mansfield, a globe-trotting winemaker, brewer, and author of Strong Waters: A Simple Guide to Making Beer, Wine, Cider and Other Spirited Beverages at Home. If you can’t bribe a friend into making you a batch of chicha, substitute either a medium-light beer or a not-too-sweet, not-too-dry white wine — or a mix of both. I’d also throw a de-kerneled corn cob into the stew pot. Or, use Scott’s recipe to brew your own chicha!
Aji panca is a sweet, slightly smoky pepper, usually available dried or as a pre-made jarred sauce, which is what I used. If you can’t find aji panca in either form, you might try substituting chile colorado or another mild, smoky pepper, though the results will be different (but probably still tasty). Simply remove the stems and seeds from the dried peppers, rehydrate them, and blend into a paste.
Rue, also known as ruda, is a slightly funky smelling medicinal herb. If you live near a Latino or Eastern European grocer, they’ll probably sell packets of dried rue. If rue is hard to find, just leave it out.
Here is my offering for a receta de adobo arequipeño that you can make at home.
Adobo arequipeño recipe
Cooking time: 2 hours, not including time to marinate overnight
2 pounds pork (such as pork shoulder)
1 pound pork bones (optional, but extra tasty)
1.5 liters chicha de jora, unsweetened
1/2 cup aji panca sauce
1 medium red onion, blended into a liquid
1 Tbsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp white vinegar
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp salt
2 allspice cloves
1 bay leaf
1 spring rue
2 medium red onion, sliced into large wedges
Trim the pork of excess fat and cut meat into 2-inch chunks. Put pork into a large pot and cover with marinade ingredients, stirring to combine and coat. Cover pot, place in refrigerator, and marinate several hours and preferably overnight.
Wrap the herb bundle ingredients in cheesecloth. Add the bundle to the meat and cover. Bring meat and marinade to a boil over medium-high heat, then immediately reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for one hour.
After one hour, add the red onion slices. Cover and simmer for another 30-45 minutes until onion is cooked and the pork is very tender.
Remove the herb bundle and pork bones. Serve in bowls and pass a basket of crusty rolls.