This recipe for Peruvian fish chowder has been in my family for well over thirty-five years. Around that time my brother married a lovely young woman from Lima, Peru, and was bringing her home to meet the family.
I can well imagine my mother scrambling around trying to figure out what type of food Peruvians ate. I laugh thinking mom no doubt freaked out when she read Peruvians eat guinea pigs as a delicacy! Well, that would never do, so she must have been immensely relieved when she found this fish chowder recipe.
My mom’s hand written recipe has been passed down to me and she would be pleased to know how popular it has become over the years with family and friends. I did make some changes to her recipe by adding a few extra ingredients that I thought complimented it.
What makes this Peruvian fish chowder so unique? Well, believe it or not, it is the unexpected addition of cream cheese! I can’t imagine cream cheese being a staple in Peru, so a Latin American cheese such as queso fresco was perhaps originally added to the chowder. The cream cheese, when mixed with a bit of cream gives the chowder richness, yet it’s subtle enough to let the other ingredients stand out.
Simply put, this chowder is delicious, very satisfying and packs a punch of flavour! Here on the West Coast, it’s the ideal time to make it because we are right in the middle of the fresh fish season, yet in reality, it’s perfect for any season including the winter when your fish will probably be frozen fillets.
Yams, cilantro, jalapenos, as well as tomatoes and corn also contribute to it’s being unusual. If you have fresh corn, by all means, use it, however, frozen corn kernels work fine here. I also threw in a few tomatillos as I have an abundance growing in my garden :).
Corn bread is wonderful with Peruvian fish chowder, as well as a fresh side dish of bell peppers and avocados drizzled with this vibrant Peruvian Green Sauce.
This chowder is perfect for a beautiful luncheon or weekend supper, and much cheaper than the cost of a plane ticket to Lima! Don’t forget the margaritas or maybe because it’s Peruvian I should say Pisco Sours!
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (I used 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 coconut oil)
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1- 28 Fl.oz( 796ml) can of diced tomatoes or 1 pound tomatoes peeled, chopped
- 2 teaspoons chilli powder
- 2 teaspoons salt or more to taste (original recipe says 1 tablespoon)
- pepper to taste
- ¼ teaspoon red chilli flakes
- 1 jalapeno diced and seeds removed if too hot
- 1or 2 small red chillis (optional)
- 2 green onions chopped
- 4 tomatillos chopped (optional)
- 1 medium yam, peeled, cut into ½ inch dice
- 1 potato, peeled cut into ½ inch dice
- 1 cup corn kernels
- ½ cup cream (I used heavy cream)
- 1 cup milk
- 1½ -2 cups water (add last ½ cup of water toward the end if it needs it)
- 2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1½ pounds white fish fillets
- fresh cilantro sprigs
- 1 lime
- In a heavy saucepan, heat the oil and add the garlic and onion. Cook on low until the onion is slightly golden but not browned.
- Add the tomatoes, chilli powder, salt,
pepperand red pepper flakes. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add the water, yam, and potato. Cover for 10 minutes and cook on medium low heat until the yam and potato are tender, but not mushy.
- In a bowl, make a smooth paste with the cream cheese and ¼ cup of cream, beating with a fork or whisk until smooth. Add the other ¼ cream to paste. Stir this mixture along with 1 cup of milk into the soup and stir until cream cheese is mostly blended through. Add the corn, tomatillos if using, jalapeno, green onions, and red chilli. Bring to a simmer.
- Cut the fish fillets into 6 pieces. Place into the soup,
coverand cook for 4-6 minutes or until the fish is opaque inside.
- Serve with fresh cilantro and a sprinkle of lime juice.