Pachamanca it's been part of Peru culture for centuries now, dating back to pre-Hispanic times.
Its name comes from Quechua language: "Pacha", earth, and "Manca", cooking pot, which could be translated as "earth oven".
Widely used in times of the Incas, Pachamanca is very related to ritual.
More than a method of cooking it's a celebration in and of itself, a source of fertility and life.
It's basically a dish buried under the ground and cooked over hot stones for about 2-3 hours.
Cooking Pachamanca is a way of rendering homage to Pachamama (mother earth, earth goddess), at the center of Inca's cosmogony, together with Apu Inti (sun god). Products return to earth to be cooked and participants to the banquet will eat directly from it.
Incas used to eat it during February and March, to celebrate the harvest as well as other community celebrations.
It's both a way of worshiping nature combined with social events, very rooted in Andean cultures even today.
Pachamanca stars by digging a hole in the ground and heating stones - stacked like a pyramid - with firewood.
Stones need to be of volcanic origin, as regular stones would explode when heated to such a degree, thus an experienced cook is needed to select them beforehand.
Once heated, the cooking process starts by placing ingredients according to their cooking time, intermixed with the heated stones.
First come the potatoes and sweet potatoes.
The second layer is reserved for marinated meats (beef, pork, lamb, guinea pig or chicken), followed by more heated stones and another layer of herbs (marmakilla, paico, chili pepper leaves, etc).
The last and final layer is kept for corn, sweet cheese, humitas and cooked beans.
After placing more heated stones, men would cover the whole cooking pit (huatia) with damp sacks and add 4 to 6 inches of soil above it, to prevent steam and smoke from escaping.
Approximately two hours later, this delicious blend is ready to be eaten.
Men would uncover the huatia and place the food on wooden bowls or on blankets and the celebration starts, usually accompanied with drinks and music.
Let's see how Pachamanca begins through this video...(narrated in Spanish)
Pachamanca is still widely eaten in Peru today, even though ingredients may vary from one region to the next.
Ayacucho is considered to be the place where its preparation remains fine tuned to ancient times and traditions.
Peruvian cuisine is famous all over the world, it's vast and varied, but to eat Pachamanca will transport you to the core of Andean cultures, at the very center of Inca civilization...