What do you get when you cross an ancient civilization with a conquistador and a French aristocrat’s chef?
A mouth-watering, cheesy, peppery chicken stew also known as Aji de Gallina!
While not a sexy ceviche or a sinful paella, aji de gallina—a stew made of finely shredded chicken smothered in a creamy, nutty, cheesy sauce and served with a generous portion of rice and boiled potatoes—is a perfect winter comfort food.
Aji de gallina is a classic in Peruvian cuisine. It’s available at nearly every Peruvian restaurant in the States (believe me, I’ve been to several) and nearly every traditional restaurant in Lima. It’s one of those staple dishes that if you talk to a Peruvian, they’ll tell you they are searching for aji de gallina as good as their grandmothers. Last April Chicago Tribune Reporter, Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz approached about our aji de gallina. We were flattered to hear that our aji de gallina ended her hunt for aji de gallina comparable to that which she ate as a child:
On the hunt for a pot-licking-worthy aji de gallina comparable to that which I ate growing up — an admittedly subjective search based on my childhood memories —I finally found at 4 Suyos, a new eatery in Logan Square. The finely shredded chicken practically disappeared into the decadent sauce of Parmesan cheese, aji amarillo, walnuts and pecans, served in the traditional manner over white rice and boiled potatoes with black olives and a boiled egg. -Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz
Her memories of and search for the dish is a testament to its power.
So, where did this dish get its power? There are several theories out there, but one I hear a lot—and is pretty interesting—is the story of three cultures coming together to create culinary magic. The story begins with an Incan dish made with a game bird called the “hualpa” that was spiced with Peruvian hot pepper. Skip to 1528 when the Spaniards brought controversy, conquest, and cheese to Peru. Fast forward again to 1799 when the French Revolution dealt a huge blow to the country’s aristocracy. Their chefs quickly fled to countries like Peru to find work where they shredded up the spicy chicken, mixed in the cheese and nuts, and made history!
There’s no doubt that the wonderfully delicious and historic Aji de gallina will comfort you through the cold, dark Chicago winter…until it’s time again to lounge on the 4 Suyos patio spooning ceviche and sipping maracuya!