The Chugchucara

– Sam Wotipka

Latacunga is a small agricultural town of about 50,000 people in the Cotopaxi province of Ecuador with a hopping Saturday market and a heart-stopping local specialty dish called “Chugchucara.” After a three and a half hour train ride from Quito, I arrived in Latacunga this Saturday with an empty stomach and five dollars of Ecuadorian and US currency.

About three blocks from the train station I found what I was looking for and embarked on one of the most peculiar and artery-clogging culinary experiences of my life. A chugchucara consists of mote (hominy), chicharrĂ³n (fried pork skin), potatoes, fried bananas, fritada (fried pork), tostado (toasted corn), popcorn, and cheese enfanadas.

I consist of about 135 pounds of skin and bones… It was quite a battle. Ultimately, I emerged victorious, although not without the aid of a few Pilsners. Healthy or delicious, perhaps not. A unique culture experience, certainly.

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