What Is Ajiaco?

A. Leverkuhn

Ajiaco is a type of Colombian soup that prominently features various kinds of potatoes, as well as a variety of other ingredients. Some of the other top ingredients in this dish include chicken, local herbs, and local varieties of corn. There are other types of ajiaco that are widely cooked in other Latin American food societies, but according to many cooks familiar with world cuisine, the Colombian type predominates.

Chicken ajiaco ingredients may include local Colombian herbs for extra flavor.
Chicken ajiaco ingredients may include local Colombian herbs for extra flavor.

As a general soup, this dish comes in several varieties. Among the most popular ones, ajiaco bogotan is commonly acknowledged by expert chefs as the most common one. This type of soup is also called ajiaco santafereno. It includes the above ingredients, along with a local herb called guascas.

Various types of potatoes feature prominently in Ajiaco soup.
Various types of potatoes feature prominently in Ajiaco soup.

In the bogotan and some similar versions of this dish, cooks boil the whole chicken in stock, along with the potatoes, corn and other ingredients. During the cooking process, the cook often takes the whole chicken pieces out of the soup, then removes the skin, bones and other undesirable parts. The cook can then cut up these pieces into smaller pieces and put them back in the pot to continue cooking.

One cooking note for ajiaco regards types of corn that may be used. Some sweet corn varieties are tender, and don’t require a lot of cooking. Harder corns that are traditionally used in this dish might require a longer cooking time, and should be cooked for the entire duration of the boiling. Cutting the kernels from the ear early can help with this process.

Some cooks supplement the flavors of this dish by adding spices and herbs. Salt and pepper may be added, and a cook may also add dried pepper flakes or other powdered spices. Some green herbs like bay leaves and cilantro may also be added, although many cooks like to offer a cilantro and onion mix on the side. Other side dishes for ajiaco include rice or slices of avocado.

This ethnic food is a familiar comfort food in its area of origin, but in contemporary cooking, cooks might adopt it as part of an international or cosmopolitan menu meant to showcase the tastes of the region. Ajiaco might also be used in "fusion" cooking that combines traditional flavors with new and innovative presentations. Look for this dish in restaurants that feature elements of Latin American cuisine worldwide.

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