Growing up I only liked three things: potatoes, cheese and my abuelita’s cooking. Almost every day after school my abuelita (AKA Mima) would have some sort of starchy snack waiting for me — patacones, tajadas, you name it. But one dish that always held my heart was llapingachos. Otherwise known as Ecuadorian potato pancakes, this soft yet crispy, warm and cheesy delight continues to be my go-to comfort food. Packed with stringy mozzarella cheese, chives and paprika, this uncomplicated recipe is the perfect side dish to any meal. My abuelita also loved topping her llapingachos with Ecuadorian curtido – onion, tomato and lime salsa.
A little backstory: llapingachos originate from Ambato, Ecuador. The name comes from the Quechua word “llapina” which means to crush and mash. The Quechua people are an indigenous community residing in the Andes from Colombia all the way to Chile and Argentina. After Spain’s colonization of Latin America, much of the history of Indigenous peoples were homogenized into mainstream Latin culture. I believe it’s important to know where our food comes from so not to lose the rich history. So while some may call this recipe Ecuadorian potato pancakes, I will always know them as llapingachos.
Related: Saffron Tres Leches Cake With Coffee-Infused Dulce de Leche
Llapingachos (Ecuadorian Potato Pancakes)
Peel and dice russet potatoes into small cubes . Boil for 10-15 minutes or tender. Set aside to cool slightly.
In a small bowl, combine onions and 1 pinch salt with ice water. Allow for onions to rest for 5 minutes. Drain ice water and add tomatoes, cilantro, oil, lime and salt to taste to the bowl of onions. Toss until thoroughly mixed, then place in the fridge to rest until ready to serve.
For the llapingachos: in a large bowl, combine potatoes, chives, paprika and salt to taste. Mash until most potato chunks are smooth. Roll the potato mixture into large balls, pressing your thumb in the centre. Add grated mozzarella, and fold over potato mixture to enclose cheese.
In a medium frying pan over medium-high heat, drizzle oil and add llapingachos. Fry on each side for 3-5 minutes or until golden brown.
Plate llapingachos immediately with curtido on top or on the side. Serve alongside a fried egg, sausages and/or fresh avocado.