The American tourists insisted I must try their new discovery – a “fantastic” soup that the waiter had recommended the previous day. Little did they appreciate that, if there is one dish that represents the Ecuadorian Andes, it is the hearty cheese and potato soup in question, locro de papa.
No meal in the highlands is complete without some form of soup or broth. And in the Andes, the home of the potato, locro is the soup of choice for millions of serranos (highlanders).
The first mention of locro (or logro) by the Spanish conquistadors was in 1564, by a governor of Quito, Salazar
de Villasante. He described it as a water-based broth containing plenty of ají (hot peppers).
The name is believed to come from the Quichua word lugru, derived from the verb lugrana – to make soup.
The most common locro recipe in the highlands is based on potatoes, with fresh cheese and avocado added at serving. But you can also find locro with beef, pork, chicken and guinea pig, as well as with vegetables such as cabbage and pumpkin. In the highlands north of Quito, around Guayllabamba, you could even try yaguarlocro, which incorporates pig’s blood (yahuar means blood in Quichua).
There are many recipes: you can argue whether the potatoes should be sliced or smashed, whether any milk or cream should be added or not. But at the end of the day, all I know is that, after a bracing walk or ride in the highlands, just about any locro tastes like pure ambrosia.