Video Short: Ají Negro : New Worlder
>In Peru’s Northern Amazon, a few hours upriver from the city of Iquitos, the Bora village of Pucaurquillo was looking for a way to bring income into their community. They performed dances and made handicrafts but the tourists never came. Only when a Lima chef, Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, came to the village and saw them making an ancestral recipe called ají negro, a fermented sauce made from yuca, did things start to translate. To make this sauce, villagers harvest yuca brava (Manihot esculenta), the poisonous form of manioc with green leaves, which cannot be eaten. After washing and peeling it, the women of Pucaurquillo soak the yuca in water for several days. The pulp is then pressed through a thatched sieve and the resulting extract is left for several hours until the starch separates and is removed. Other ingredients like chile peppers, ants, and macambo seeds may be added.
>Ají negro had no commercial value until Schiaffino began buying it for his restaurants (Amaz and Malabar). The income they receive from it has completely transformed their economy. He uses it like a table spice or a hot sauce, as well as in sauces, stews with fish or meat, to marinate proteins, and in saltados (stir-frys). It’s an ancestral umami bomb. Other chefs in Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia have taken notice and have begun sourcing ají negro from other Amazonian communities. In Bogotá, chef Eduardo Martinez uses it in a dish with smoked chicken and yuca. This nearly forgotten recipe has given indigenous communities a way to preserve their culture. Check it out, below.
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