Ahhh….the last of my stash of huacatay (pronounced wah-kah-tie). This is the dried form of the herb I brought back from Peru and luckily still retains some of that signature flavor. I usually avoid buying spices in plastic like this because the plastic has a tendency to “breathe” and basically that translates into deterioration of the aroma and flavor of the spice before you even bring it home…but desperate times call for desperate measures, and I just had to bring this herb home.
Huacatay is a staple herb in Peruvian cooking – it’s from the Andes (the word is in the local quechua language) and is used in signature dishes out there like pachamanca (an underground bbq of sorts). It’s often ground to a paste before it’s used – mixed with fresh cheese and milk for a sauce for potatoes or with peanuts and chilies. I actually watched a woman make an old school version of the peanut / chile / huacatay paste with a super cool mortar and pestle and have it on video! And whenever I figure out how to edit it all, I’ll share it with you.
What does this herb taste like is the million dollar question? To me….it honestly tastes like mint mixed with bubblegum flavor and is often mistakenly referred to as black mint. I know! That doesn’t sound particularly appetizing, but I swear it is nothing short of alluring in a dish. I literally couldn’t get enough of its unique flavor while I was there. I’m sure the other question is where can I get it? THAT, I am still working on – I’ve seen the paste in specialty stores but not yet the dried form (forget fresh). I’m sure the some of the Latin stores carry it and will update when I find out!