Ocopa evolved from ancient Inca messengers’ travel rations. Today, it is a specialty of the city of Arequipa, in the southern tip of Peru. It is very similar to papas a la Huancaina, which is from the Junin city of Huancayo.
- 6medium yellow potatoes
- 1large red onion, rough chop
- 5cloves garlic, halved
- 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1/4cup ají amarillo paste
- 1/2cup huacatay (chopped or puree)
- 8each crackers, crushed (1 oz.)
- 4oz. roasted peanuts
- 8oz. ricotta cheese or queso fresco
- 1-1 1/2cups evaporated milk / as needed
- 1/2tsp. salt (to taste)
- 2large eggs
- lettuce leaves(for garnish)
Huacatay is an herb indigenous to Peru. It has a lemony, herbal flavor that is hard to duplicate. It can be found in Latin American markets, or online. If you can't find it, you can substitute a mixture of mint, basil and parsley to equal ¼ cup. Squeeze a few drops of fresh lemon juice onto the herb mixture.
Ocopa traditionally calls for a sweet cookie or graham-type cracker; however, I find this is too sweet for my taste. I prefer Ritz crackers because they add just a bit of buttery sweetness. My mother in law uses Saltines.
Queso fresco and commercial huacatay (in a jar) can be very salty; do not add salt without tasting first.