What Is Chairo?

Angie Bates

Native to the La Paz region of Bolivia, chairo is a Bolivian stew made with meat and vegetables. Literally meaning "soup," chairo consists of two types of meat and generally uses vegetables native to the Andes regions. Traditionally, this stew was served in clay dishes.

Green peas are a common addition to chairo.
Green peas are a common addition to chairo.

Most often chairo is made with pork, though beef, sometimes with bone, may also be used. The second type of meat included is always a type of sheep meat called chalona. Chalona is dried and salted and is usually soaked prior to using in chairo.

Fresh oregano can be added as a garnish to chairo.
Fresh oregano can be added as a garnish to chairo.

Chuño is another staple ingredient of chairo. A type of potato flour, chuño is often frozen and is always soaked for up to ten hours before use. If the chuño is not sufficiently soaked it can make the stew bitter. Wheat flour is also included in this stew.

In addition to the flour, potatoes and carrots are usually included. Both the potatoes and carrots are cut into strips before cooking. Corn, usually white or a freeze dried corn called mote, is also a frequent addition. Green and white onions, lima beans, parsley, and green peas are usually added to this dish as well.

Chairo is generally well spiced. In addition to salt and black pepper, cumin, cayenne pepper, oregano, and mint leaves all may be added during cooking. Mint and oregano may also be added as a garnish to the finished dish.

When making chairo, the meat is boiled in water or broth for about an hour before anything else is added. Sometimes the vegetables may be fried with the spices in oil before their inclusion in the stew pot. Most often, however, many of the vegetables and spices are placed directly into the stew pot after the meat is boiled. The mixture is allowed to cook before the chuño is added. Finally, the corn and the flour are included.

The whole mixture is boiled together a final time before serving. Chairo is not an exceptionally thick stew. Since it is boiled so long, much of the water included with the meat evaporates during cooking. For this reason, water often needs to be added at least once during cooking to keep the chairo from becoming too thick.

Once the chairo is finished cooking, it is poured into bowls and garnished. In addition to mint and oregano, parsley or green onion may also be added as garnish. Though it is not traditional, shredded or grated cheese may be sprinkled on top as well.

Mint leaves may be added to chairo.
Mint leaves may be added to chairo.

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