Friday, August 1, 2008



I had this dish for the first time just earlier this year, and my immediate reaction was, "where have you been all my life?" Generally, I think soup is OK, but when I'm hungry it isn't the first thing that comes to my mind. When I think of this wonderment, though, my mouth waters. It's one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten. It's billed as a soup, but it's really more of a thick chowder.

I learned of it purely by chance from Frank and Rick, our haircut guys. One of Frank's daughters-in-law, a relative newcomer to the family, is from Peru and an excellent cook. She is making it her business to introduce her new American clan to the culinary specialties of her country. At haircut time, the four of us generally just blab away, laughing a lot, at nothing very important. Like just about everything else we talk about, Frank mentioned this soup purely in passing, on his way to something else, but I stopped him. "Shrimp soup? Peruvian?" This I had to learn about. When I got them to land on this subject for a minute or two, Frank and Rick went on and on about how good it was. They left, and I headed straight to google. I came up with this recipe and passed it by Frank, who in turn showed it to his daughter-in-law. Bingo. This is exactly the way she makes it. (Oh. She leaves out the cheese. I don't know why. Believe me, make it with the cheese.)

NOTES: Aji panca, aji amarillo and queso fresco can be found at Hispanic markets and at well-stocked supermarkets. In the supermarket, look for the pastes in glass jars in the foreign foods section. Even though they are "chili pastes," they pack very little heat, so fear not if you don't like spicy food. Again, in the supermarket, the cheese will be in the specialty dairy case. If you can't find queso fresco, American cream cheese is a reasonable facsimile, though richer. Unless you make this dish constantly (you may!), or prepare Latin American cuisine regularly, the pastes will last you a very long time. Refrigerate them after using.

2 lbs. shrimp with shells (and heads, if possible, for stock)
4 cups water (more if necessary)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon aji panca chili paste (can substitute tomato paste if necessary)
1 teaspoon aji amarillo chili paste
1 cup peas either fresh or frozen
1/4 cup long-grain white rice
1-2 ear of corn, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
1 lb russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1 cup evaporated milk
1/2 lb. queso fresco (mexican farmer cheese), cut into small dice
1 tablespoon fresh oregano chopped
3 eggs
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Remove heads and shells from shrimp, and refrigerate the shrimp. Make a shrimp stock by putting shells and heads in a medium saucepan with water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 15 minutes.

While shells are simmering, heat the olive oil in a large flameproof casserole over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring. Stir in the aji panca (or tomato paste) and aji amarillo pastes. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking, stirring often, for 10 minutes, or until onion is softened.

Purée shrimp shells and cooking liquid. Strain mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl and reserve the liquid (discard solids). Measure out the liquid and add enough water to make 4 cups.

Add shrimp broth to onion mixture and bring to a boil. Stir in peas, rice and corn chunks. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add potatoes and salt. Continue cooking until potatoes and rice are just tender (approx 10 minutes more). Add shrimp, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until shrimp is just cooked through, about 4 minutes (shrimp should be pink). Add evaporated milk and cheese, stir until cheese melts. Taste for seasoning, add salt and pepper if needed.

With the soup at a low simmer, crack the eggs into it, spacing them so they remain separate. Simmer until eggs are firm.

Leave pot on burner but turn off heat. Stir in cilantro, cover pot and allow flavors to mingle before serving.


Peewit said...

aargh! posting a recipe where there is no hope of getting the authentic ingredients in the UK! This sounds delicious and if my wife wasn't a seafood hater I'd try it tomorrow. (I'll have to wait for a dinner party where she will eat it under protest!)

Earlier this year my christmas present was a cookery course from the Prue Leith school of cooking (You may not have heard of Prue Leith but she was a fairly famous TV/Michelin starred chef over here)I got to cook an Asian Prawn soup which was delicious. The following week my daughter made garlic Prawns so I used the shells to make a stock which I have frozen waiting for the next opportunity to use it

Ralph said...

Sorry, Peewit!!! I'd never given thought to the fact that you aren't as close to Mexico as we are! Guess there's no demand for these things near you....

Hold on to that stock so you can use it when the time comes. This dish truly is worth the wait. Your wife might even like it!

Anonymous said...

You gotta be kidding me. You think we all are gourmet cooks. It would take me a trip to Orlando to find these ingredients. Jeeeeesh.

WE had your fried chicken recipe again last night, I added half a teaspoon of sage. Very good!

Ralph said...

Z&M, I know all the Hispanics who live right in your area don't go all the way to Orlando to get the things they need for a taste of home. I swear I didn't go to a Latin market to get this stuff. Even the small Giant on Columbia Pike near us has a Hispanic section. If you're ever moved to try this soup, check out the local store. Find a local tienda you have to. Peewit in England I can understand. Florida? C'mon! I just know they're there.

The sage sounds fantastic. Substitute for the thyme--or add it. I'll try that next time.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to try the recipe, it reads delicious. But ask Steve, who lived here, nothing has changed in third world Brevard. We get our Thai and Korean food stuff from Winter Park or off Red Bud Trail in Orlando. Not kidding!!!

Anonymous said...

I wish I was back home to shop at Safeway International. WOW. Thanks for the memory. Ralph, side note, I'm writing this and a feral kitten just jumped up on the outside window sill. WHERE'S MY CAMERA!!!!

Ralph said...

Kitten: how cool! Wish you did have the camera!

Nan said...

Oh my! This soup sounds and looks absolutely delicious! I can almost smell and taste it. Wow!

Ralph said...

Glad you checked in, Nan! I just read--or tried to read--your last post about closing down for a while. Couldn't read any more than the first paragraph because the IE problem you speak of forbids it. Of all the blogs I check daily, yours is the only one affected by this. Why you?! I've used Firefox at home and I think I will reinstall it, for this reason. Guess I'll have to wait till I get home to read why you're leaving us....

PS Oh, the soup! Unbelievably delicious! I hope you can find those chili pastes Peewit and Z&M are giving me grief about!

Anonymous said...

I beg your pardon. Are you whining? For crying out loud. I'm not complaining, I enjoy your blog, your recipes but hey, some of us are in the boons. We choose to live "country". And love it. So I'll hold this recipe till I can find a way to get to town. Maybe just wait till you make it when I visit you up in DC/Arlington whenever.

Ralph said...

Z&M: be sure and let us know when you're planning your trip. Got any dates yet?

Whining? No. Giving you a hard time!

Dancing Shoes said...

Oh my. I'm going to have to try this! And despite our blistering hot weather here in Texas, I believe I'll make it this weekend!

Looks fabulous!!

Ralph said...

Dancing Shoes, you won't regret it! It's hot here, too (I doubt as bad as Texas), but heck, in air conditioning everything tastes good, right?

Dancing Shoes said...