Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Latin American cooking

The long sought-after achiote (annatto)
I've been craving ecuadorian food lately.  Fortunately, I have a few cookbooks of amazing ecuadorian recipes.  Locro de papas (drool), empanadas de viento (slobber), llapingachos (aaaah)...

The mood was upon me.  I began my quest to sooth my palate.  Unfortunately, although I have the cookbooks, I lack a few ingredients.  Specifically, I lack achiote.  Achiote, or annatto, as it is called in English, has a slight taste and a lot of color.  Locro de papas and llapingachos just aren't the same without their reddish orange color.  Trust me.  I made them both.

No matter.  I can find it, right?  I googled.  Yup.  This should be easily solvable.  Most people say look in the mexican section of the stores.  Mexican section?  Well, that should be easy.  So, I went to the store.

Nope.  Not there.  Store number 2... not there.

Store 573...still no annatto.  Does this even exist on the continent?  Did I make it up?

Well, apparently it's a staple in mexican cooking as well as in ecuadorian cooking.  I have my trusty mexican friends, I can ask them!  Brilliant!

So off I go to ask my friends.  Finally, I'll have a breakthrough!  Mexican friend number one:

Me:  Hey, have you heard of achiote?

Friend:  Uhm, what?

Me:  Achiote.

Friend:  What's that?

Me:  They use it in mexican and ecuadorian cooking...it's red.

Friend:  Oh.

Me:  Do you know where to buy it?  Maybe...?  Probably not...?

Friend:  No, not really...

Alright.  She doesn't know.  Strike out one.  This shouldn't be that hard.  Really.  I decide to email a friend in Ecuador.

Me:  (summarized because I wrote in Spanish)  I'm looking for choice to make llapingachos and loco de papas.  But I can't find it anywhere!  Maybe online?  I dunno.  Can you help me out?

The response:  Well, it comes from such and such a plant.  We usually buy it in powder or paste.  Maybe you can look at the grocery store?

Gaaaah!  This isn't helping.

Fast forward a month and I'm in a specialty and organic store, perusing loose leaf tea.  Side note:  Tropical Breeze and Sunset in Seattle are well worth their price.  So is Market Spice.  Back on track, I happen to notice they have bulk spices.  Hmmm....the wheels in my head start turning. Maybe, just maybe, since they specialize in the hard to find, they have what I'm looking for.

I edge my way down the aisle.  I scan the rows.  No achiote.  My eyes almost miss the Annatto Seed label.  Boom!  Yes!  Sold!

Two days later, at work, I finally see Friend 2 who's been sick on the days she typically comes to help me.  Does she know what achiote is?

Me:   Have you heard of achote?

Friend:  Achote, si, it's a green plant...

Me:  Uh, this stuff (showing the seeds)

Friend:  Oh!  Achiote.  Si, si, lo usamos to cook.

Me:  Where do you find it?

Friend:  Just at the store, by the sauces.  But it usually comes as a little block of paste.

Gah.  I still haven't seen it at the store.  At least she knew what it was and where to find it.  If I luck out, she can just buy the next installment of it for me.

1 comment:

  1. I would think the first place you should look would be a "mexican store" say, La Michoacana I know for a fact they have it because that is where I buy it... when I make Puerco Pibil. I also get my Banana leaves there. Paste is easier because the seeds are very hard.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...