AMALIA’S KITCHEN Guatemalan Cuisine
Discover the Succulent Loroco.
text & photos by chef and author Amalia Moreno-Damgaard. (AmaliaLLC.com)
There are many luscious edible flowers in Guatemala, but loroco is at the top of the list.
This delicate, flavorful and aromatic flower bud is native to Guatemala and neighboring El Salvador. It is used in tamales, stews, empanadas (baked or fried pockets made with a variety of doughs and fillings) and many other dishes. Loroco is available frozen or pickled. Fresh is always best, but for cooking, you can use frozen loroco too.
Flavor-wise, loroco has a very distinctive taste, unlike anything you may have eaten before, so it is hard to compare it to other flavors — but it is likely that you will develop an affinity for it when you try it for the first time. In cooking, half of a cup of flower buds might be enough to flavor one cup of sauce, and more for other preparations.
This tasty ingredient has the power of turning your ordinary chicken dish into a gourmet delight because not only is it fresh and tasty, but it also looks good on the plate (see picture and recipe on following page).
Pollo en crema y lorocos (chicken in cream and loroco sauce), is a nostalgic dish for me as it also is a favorite and classic dish from Oriente, the central-eastern region of Guatemala where I spent a great deal of my childhood living with my grandmother. The dish tasted so good there, because it was made with pollo de patio (backyard chicken).
It is common in rural Guatemala to still see homes that grow vegetables and fruits, and chickens and ducks and other small animals to be killed the day of cooking or for a special occasion. The difference in flavor has to do with the chicken’s lifestyle; it roams around freely and eats a home-based diet.
In tamales and empanadas, loroco can go a long way as when combined with masa (fresh corn dough), it can be mashed to stretch the flavor and spread bits of the flower bud throughout the final product. For a flavor twist, loroco and requesón (Guatemalan-style ricotta cheese) make a killer combination, as the two flavors complement each other nicely enhancing the overall tastiness of the dish.
So next time you make tamales or empanadas, start with the basic dough and combine it or stuff it with the cheese and loroco mixture. You’ll be in for a treat!
In Guatemala, loroco is widely available fresh in season at open-air markets and supermarkets. In the United States, loroco is available in Latin markets frozen or in jars; however, check first with your local Latin or Hispanic market to see if they carry it fresh.
POLLO EN CREMA Y LOROCO
Chicken with Loroco Flower Buds and Cream Sauce
Pollo en crema y lorocos is a delectable dish from Oriente in eastern Guatemala. Loroco is the flower bud of a plant native to Central America. It is delicate, aromatic, has a strong flowery-earthy flavor, and holds up well during cooking. Loroco is best when eaten fresh. Alternatively, use frozen buds. Loroco is great in stews, and when mixed with Guatemalan-style ricotta cheese, it makes an excellent filling for empanadas de loroco y requesón.
Serves 4 to 6 people
4 to 6 skinless chicken thighs, visible fat removed
1 1/2 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken stock
2 corn tortillas, torn into small pieces
1/2 cup julienned yellow onion
2 minced garlic cloves
3/4 cup julienned red bell pepper
1/2 cup small-diced roma tomatoes
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup frozen loroco flower buds, thawed and
1/2 cup fresh Guatemalan crema (or Latino table
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground white pepper
1/2 cup minced red bell pepper, sautéed
In a medium pot, cook the chicken in the stock with the tortilla pieces for 20 to 30 minutes.
Transfer the chicken to a dish and keep it warm. Mash the tortillas and stock until they are well incorporated. Set aside.
In a medium skillet, sauté the onion, garlic, pepper and tomatoes in the butter for 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the loroco and sauté 1 minute. Add the cream and the thickened stock. Season the mixture with salt and pepper. Return the chicken to the skillet and spoon the sauce over the chicken.
Simmer covered for 5 to 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings, if needed.
Serve the dish garnished with minced red peppers.