Sometimes in touring through the many files and friends we have on Facebook and through many blogs, we come across some interesting recipes and foods. A dear friend of ours, Bonnie Nees from Billings, MT recently went to Quito, Ecuador to visit an exchange student she sponsored several years ago. René Zambrado is this young mans name and he is such a kind and delightful person. He graduated from Facultad de Jursiprudencia at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Ecuador in 2010 with a degree in law. Bonnie posted many photos of her trip, but one in particular “struck my fancy”. Food! And in particular, Humitas. AKA, Ecuadorian tamales. (Left-Click any of these photos to see them enlarged.)
Bonnie and René Zambrado
So, just what are Ecuadorian Humitas? Good question. It seems as though there are as many recipes as there are families in Ecuador – everyone seems to have their own recipe. Like stew recipes in our Homeland. Let’s check with Wikipedia, first. “Humita (from Quechua humita) is a Native American dish from pre-Hispanic times, and a traditional food in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru, although their origin is unclear. In Argentina, Chile, Ecuador and Peru they are known as humitas, in Bolivia as humintas, in Brazil as pamonha, and in Venezuela as hallaquitas. It consists of masa harina and corn, slowly steamed or boiled in a pot of water…As in Chile, Ecuadorian humitas are prepared with fresh ground corn with onions, eggs and spices that vary from region to region, and also by each family’s tradition. The dough is wrapped in a corn husk, but is steamed rather than baked or boiled. Ecuadorian humitas may also contain cheese. This dish is so traditional in Ecuador that they have developed special pots just for cooking humitas. Ecuadorian humitas can be salty or sweet.”
And just what does “humitas” mean. Humitas literally means “little steamed things”
Humitas in the kitchen
It seems as though you remove the kernels of corn from the cob, saving some of the “milk” as it aids in digestion according to some, and grind it in a food grinder to a “lumpy” consistency. (Maybe a food processor if a grinder is not available?) “…Depending on whether you’re in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela or the Caribbean, they’re known as humitas, humintas, tamales, tamalli, tamalitos verdes, chapanas, bollos, choclotanda, chumales, cachapas, chapanas, chiguiles, envueltos de mazorca, ayacas, hallacas, juanes, pamonhas. The filling can be sweet or savory, made with fresh or dried corn, plantains or potatoes, wrapped corn husks, banana leaves or parchment paper, steamed or baked, served as a snack, side dish, casserole or heavy stew…Lighter than the pork and chicken filled tamales… these [are] made of fresh corn pureed with scallions then blended with egg yolks, milk, cheese, and a little brandy. The filling is wrapped in corn husks and steamed then topped with ají criollo, a hot pepper sauce. Most recipes tell you that the water content of North American corn is too high in water and too low in starch. [Some people] solve this problem by adding cornmeal to get the right consistency.” [hungrysofia.com] Some recipes call for steaming the humitas and not to boil or bake. Traditionally, I think from what I have read, steaming is the way to go.
René enjoys some humitas
Now I suppose you would like a recipe. Ecuador Humitas Recipe. These are about as traditional as I could find. Don’t forget to grind the corn and don’t leave the kernels whole. The recipe link posted here also has the (a) recipe for the sauce, ají criollo, which can be hot and spicy, but doesn’t need to be. Experiment. Maybe I will be lucky enough to get René’s recipe.