What Is Llapingacho?

Kathy Dowling

Llapingacho is a well-known dish originating from Ecuador in South America, which, when translated, means "cheese omelette." The dish is composed of two main components — potato and cheese. The potato is mashed and made into a patty which is then filled with soft cheese. It is mainly made using potato, however, llapingacho can also be made using pancakes. The patties or pancakes stuffed with cheese are cooked until golden brown and are usually served as a side dish or starter.

Llapingacho is served with fried eggs.
Llapingacho is served with fried eggs.

It is no surprise that potato is one of the main ingredients of llapingacho. Potato was first cultivated in South America by the Inca people. While the Inca Empire was inhabiting Ecuador, its people developed ways of preserving the potato and also discovered different techniques for preparing it. The popularity of the dish soon extended past the highlands of Ecuador, and eventually made its way to the provinces in eastern Ecuador and along the Ecuadorian coastline. As the dish spread, people visiting from overseas soon discovered it and, since that time, llapingacho has been cooked in different countries around the world.

Potatoes are a key ingredient in llapingacho.
Potatoes are a key ingredient in llapingacho.

Preparing llapingacho is not difficult if the right ingredients are used. It is important to use potatoes that are starchy, such as russet potatoes, to ensure that they stick together, and cheese that is soft and malleable for a filling. The first task when preparing llapingacho is boiling the potatoes until they are soft and can be mashed. Once seasoned with salt and pepper, sauteed onions are added to the potato mixture, which is then left to cool. Once cooled, it is rolled into balls, and small dents are made in the center and filled with soft cheese. It is also important during preparation to ensure that the cheese is stuffed so that none is exposed during cooking, which may burn.

Traditionally, llapingacho is cooked using a griddle. When placed on a stone or brick slab griddle, the dish is either cooked in a stove or over an open fire until crisp and golden brown. While this may the traditional way of cooking, a more convenient method may be using a frying pan.

The llapingacho is usually served with a fried egg, a pickled tomato salad, sausage, and avocado, and is dressed in salsa de mani or a peanut sauce. It may be eaten as an appetizer and is also eaten for breakfast. Generally, however, it is usually served as a side dish.

The Inca people were the first to cultivate potato.
The Inca people were the first to cultivate potato.

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