SancochoVisiting Panama I was somewhat dismayed by the disjunction between the country's larder and the apparent cusine. There were dozens of varieties of fish and fresh vegetables in abundance but finding a restaurant featuring authentic Panamanian cuisine was a bit of a trick.
It seems the recent boom times have played against the country's rich culinary heritage. Typically, Panamanian food is cooked in homes and street restaurants. In the very modern urban metropolis Panama City is becoming, that's seen as a bit beneath the growing number of glitterati who are seeking out high end restaurants boasting European dishes.
Anyhow, it is my belief that Panamanian cusine is doing just fine under the radar and recipes like this from my friend The Cooking Diva, seem to bear that out. This recipe comes from the cookbook Recetas de Mi Tierra and was contributed by Lucricia Edith Gomez.
Sancocho is a classic chicken soup. It is very similar to Caldo de Gallina in Peru. As such, it is best cooked with an old laying hen than a young frying bird. The tough meats will break down nicely and there is a much richer flavor to reward the time invested. In fact that's where the name comes from, the Spanish verb sancochar, which means to parboil.
According to the Cooking Diva, what makes this version uniquely Panamanian is the use of culantro which she defines as, "is a strong flavored, aromatic herb native from Mexico and Central, and South America. It is cultivated widely all over the world, and it is used extensively in Latin American and Asian cooking." It is not cilantro or corriander. And it isn't found commonly in US cooking.
Panamanian cooks also use a tuber known as ñame which is has a brown skin that looks much like a russet potato. The Cooking Diva said using the more readily available yucca should work fine.
Season the chicken with the cilantro, oregano and salt.
Put a heavy pot over a medium flame and add the seasoned chicken. Allow to cook long enough to sweat and brown a bit.
Add the water, onion and hot pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the chicken softens, about one hour.
Add the yucca and allow to boil until the tubers soften.
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