Peruvian Shrimp Chowder: Chupe de Camarones
Back when I wrote up my recipe for Peruvian Cilantro Chicken Soup, I mentioned how much I loved Peruvian food and I vowed to share more with you all. So before it gets to be summer, let’s make one last creamy soup. It’s full of everything in the world that is delicious. Cream, cheese, shellfish, chiles, and it’s even topped off with an egg. Soak that in. An egg. Atop creamy soup. I’ll wait.
Hey, it’s also said to be an aphrodisiac soup, so this is some serious provocative stuff. Get your creamy, sexy soup makin’ self ready.
I’m just gonna get to it and order (yes, order) you guys to buy some Peruvian chile pastes. Trust me, once you start using them you will be like, “Omgosh Sarah, why didn’t you tell us about this??” Uhm, I just did so take it easy. They look innocuous and, quite frankly, unnecessary, but those Peruvian chiles are unlike any other chiles I’ve ever tasted. The flavor they add to this soup can’t be replaced. I’m serious. Don’t even ask me to give you subs. They are easily found at Asian/International/Latin grocery stores and are super cheap. And, of course, there is always good ole Amazon. A little goes a long way with these pastes so they will last you awhile. They also last well in the fridge, but if you get weird about that they can also be frozen for future use.
The first paste is ají amarillo. (Buy some here.) The most popular pepper paste in all of Peruvian cooking, it’s a golden orange paste with a medium-hot spice level. Every time I go to a Peruvian restaurant, they whip out the most delicious sauces and this chile paste is a big reason why they are so yummy. You might have tried it in one of Peru’s most famous potato dishes: Papas a la Huancaina. It’s also used in another popular Peruvian dish, anticuchos, which is the most delicious heart you will ever eat. Ají amarillo has a bright fruity-ish flavor. I’ve used it in salsas (ají-pinapple salsa is a great combo), ceviches, any permutation of a potato you can think of, rice, marinades, roast chicken, etc.
The second is ají panca. (Buy some here.) This is a rusty red paste. An absolute must when making Peruvian style roast chicken. Despite its appearance, it tastes like fresh bright chiles, not a muted or cooked flavor. It’s a mild heat level. It tastes faintly smoky and has a berry-like flavor. We are talking almost blueberry flavor. A bit citrusy. It’s so weird and comforting and awesome. It’s vaguely similar to chipotles, but they are not a good replacement at all.
I like to make this soup with homemade shrimp broth, but a good fish broth will also work. I prefer buying my shrimp head-on with the shell. As I use them up, I keep a baggie in my freezer and fill it with shrimpie bits. It’s quite morbid yet utterly delicious. I’m sure you get both of those feelings simultaneously as often as I do. I fill my pot or pressure cooker with their bodies and toss in a good amount of aromatic vegetable scraps. It makes a great fast stock. When I have lots of heads, I also like to give them a whirl in the blender to get every ounce of goodness out. Brain mush is delectable. I have a recipe up for a Lemongrass Shrimp Broth; it’s a good post to peruse for my basic method. The shrimp broth I used for this recipe had shrimp heads/shells, fennel fronds, celery bits, scallions, cilantro and parsley stems, meyer lemon rind, leek tops and roots, and onion skins.
While spinach isn’t a traditional chupe ingredient, I like to add it in to help me get my leafy greens in. So it’s optional, but suggested. Don’t you want to get your veg in? Gosh.
The egg bit is up to you, when I’m feeling lazy I just drop the eggs in the broth, without stirring, and let them poach instead of frying them. Hardboiled eggs also work.
Oh, and before I forget. Please don’t use feta in place of queso fresco. If you are unable to find it, use farmers’ cheese, sometimes labeled fresh cheese.
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1.5 cups roughly chopped onion, from 1 medium onion
- pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon of finely chopped garlic, from 3 large cloves
- 1 teaspoon powdered cumin
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 4 cups shrimp broth
- 1 cup crushed tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon ají amarillo paste
- 1 tablespoon ají panca paste
- 3.5 cups of cubed yukon potatoes, from 2 large potatoes
- 1 pound of cleaned shrimp
- 1 cup of peas
- 1 large handful of spinach
- handful of roughly chopped cilantro
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- salt to taste, you will need to add a lot so don't freak out
- 4 fried eggs, one for each bowl*
- 4 oz of queso fresco crumbled and divided on each bowl
- On medium high, heat fats in a heavy bottom pot. Add chopped onion and pinch of salt and sauté until translucent and soft, about 10 minutes. Lower heat as necessary to avoid browning the onions. Add chopped garlic and sauté for an additional 3 minutes on medium heat. Then lower head and add cumin and oregano and cook about 2 more minutes.
- Add shrimp broth, crushed tomatoes, and Peruvian chile pastes. Bring soup to a boil, then lower heat to lowest setting. Add cubed potatoes and let cook covered until tender, about 20 minutes.
- Once potatoes cooked through, add shrimp, spinach, and cilantro and cook until shrimp turn bright red, about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and slowly pour in heavy cream. Stir. Now is when you should taste and adjust. Adding enough salt is necessary to achieve a great flavor, so if it tastes a bit flat, add more. Also, adjust the spice level with more of the chile pastes if desired.
- Ladle chowder into bowls and garnish with fried egg and crumbled queso fresco, serve immediately.
- *If you prefer to skip frying the egg separately you can add them directly to the pot and let them poach undisturbed for 3-4 minutes before adding the shrimp. Hard boiled eggs are another option to frying.