While in Floreana, I worked with an international group for the Charles Darwin Foundation.  One morning at breakfast, I asked them what a typical breakfast might be in Brazil, Peru and Ecuador.  I never imagined such variety to such a simple question. 

Everyone had some kind of fruit, some I'd heard of like bananas and oranges and others I couldn't even pronounce like guarana and acerola.  There were things I'd never eat for breakfast (or any other time) like cow stomach.  It didn't matter what kind of sauce it was served with (in this case peanut sauce) or that it was served with potatoes (my favorite food).  The list also included fish, chicken, eggs, nuts, palm tree heart and llapingacho.

Made from potatoes (my favorite food, remember) a llapingacho is a kind of potato pancake.  I loved it even before I had my first bite.  And, as it turned out, we had llapingachos the next day at breakfast.

A typical Andean breakfast food
but also served in Floreana, Galapagos Islands

  5 large potatoes   2 tsp ground achiote
  2 Tbs oil   1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  1/2 cup finely diced onion   salt to taste

Okay, first of all, who knew that all potatoes were not created equal?  I didn´t.  But, in several recipes that I found, it said to use Russet potatoes.  I don´t know if there are Russet potatoes in Ecuador.  I don´t even know what they look like.  But, they have the necessary starch to hold the potato pancake together.  Now you also know.  So boil-em, peal-em, and dice those little Russets!

Over a medium setting, heat the oil.  Then, add the onions and achiote (if you know what it is) and cook for about five minutes until the onions are soft.  Actually, I looked up achiote.  It's used for food coloring. You could use saffron in it's place. It'll make your llapingachos kind of yellow.

Now I read somewhere to grate the potatoes, but that will never happen.  Mash them or, ever better, put them in a food processor.  Mix the potatoes with the onions and then salt to taste.  Cover and set the mixture aside to rest at room temperature for an hour.  I like this in a recipe because it gives me a breather to clean up some of my mess.  However, waiting an hour for this part means I’d never make llapingachos for breakfast.

When the hour is up, roll the potato mixture into twelve little golf balls.  And, now the fun begins with cheese.  However, there is also confusion.  I read that you should use one to two cups of cheese.  In reality, the cheeses I found listed were Mozzerella, queso blanco or muenster cheese.  (I listed the one I'd heard of in the ingredients.)  Whatever you use, make a hole in the middle of each ball and fill it with three tablespoons of cheese.  Be sure the cheese is stuffed in well enough and sealed to prevent it from burning while cooking.

Flatten your golf balls into 3 ½ inch potato patties and let them rest in the refrigerator for at least a half hour. 

For non-chefs like me, the actual cooking part also gets confusing.  One recipe warns to use no oil because oil helps the patties to break apart.  Another said to use oil.  Regardless, set your stove to medium heat and wait a bit.  You want the frying surface nice and hot before the actual cooking starts.  Since they are delicate, only turn them once.  You want nice, crispy, brown llapingachos so about four minutes on each side should do.

Now, if you want to eat your llapingachos like an Ecuadorian, serve them with a fried egg. 

Copyright 2011 and 2012 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.