This is the true, original recipe for shrimp “Viche”, a superlative seafood soup found only in the Ecuadorian province of Manabi, on the Pacific coast of South America. Although this version uses fresh shrimp, it is also made with crab, fish and mixed seafood. The ingredients are all easily obtainable in most supermarkets, except for the peanut paste. I have been told that unsweetened, organic peanut butter makes a decent substitute, and will undoubtably give it a try when I run out of the packages of paste I brought back from Ecuador run out.
I have been carrying this recipe around in the leather jacket of my Nook ebook reader since I wrote it down, while observing minutely my sister-in-law prepare a full family shrimp viche for 20 on Mother’s Day, 2011. We were in my mother-in-law’s house in Chone, a dusty river-run agricultural city in Manabi, and the place was full of siblings and cousins and significant others. In the morning a gang of us went to the local Sunday open market for the shrimp and fresh vegetables. At about 11 we started to cook.
Since then the recipe, scrawled on an unlined sheet of spiral notebook paper, somehow still unstained, traveled tucked into the Nook, up the coast to Guayaquil, back to Boston for a two-week family emergency, then back to Ecuador for a tour of the provincial beaches, back again to Guayaquil and then Boston, and finally across the Atlantic to London, where I have finally fished it out of its leather-bound nook and set about transcribing it below, for posterity.
Somewhere on this hard drive are the photos I took that day, of the family and the preparation of the viche. Hopefully bu the time anyone reads this, they will be below. Enjoy.
Ingredients (20 servings)
1 medium carrot
1 cup lima beans
2 ears sweet corn
1 cup green beans
4 large stalks green onions
1.5 cups sweet potato (cubed)
1.5 cups white cabbage
2 cups yucca (peeled and boiled)
2 platanos (mature – i.e. yellow – cooking bananas)
4 platanos (immature -i.e. green – cooking bananas) (pre-boil 20 minutes)
1 head garlic
2 lbs fresh shrimp (or crab, fish, clams, etc.)
1 large head purple onion
1 green pepper
black pepper to taste
(Achote paste is a derivative of the achiote trees of tropical regions of the Americas, used to produce a yellow to orange food coloring and also as a flavoring. Its scent is described as “slightly peppery with a hint ofnutmeg” and flavor as “slightly nutty, sweet and peppery”)
1) Boil a large pot of water (the only one we have big enough was a lobster pot). As it heats add the green pepper, purple and green onions, and the garlic, from a garlic press.
2) Mix the boiled green platano with 2 packets of the peanut paste (about 8 tablespoons if using peanut butter) and mush them together by hand. Make round balls about the size of big marbles. Set aside.
3. Add the corn to the pot, cutting each ear into four or five pieces or pucks with kernels attached.
4. Clean and de-vein the shrimp while the pot boils (20 minutes)
5. Scoop the green onions OUT of the pot and discard. Leave the other vegetables in
6. Add the achocha (zucchini as a possible substitute), the sweet potato, and the cabbage
7. Withdraw and set aside 1.5 cups of the broth to mix later with the rest of the peanut paste
8. After another 20 minutes on a low boil, add the mature platano cut in disks, and the yucca, cut in 3 or 4 inch pieces, like fat french fries
9. In a blender, mix the rest of the peanut paste (2-3 packets or 8-12 tablespoons of peanut butter) with the 1.5 cups of broth you separated earlier. Blend until smooth.
10. When pot returns to a boil after step 8, add the balls of green platano you made in step 2, and the shrimp
11. When the pot returns to a boil after step 10, add the rest of the
peanut sauce and broth from the blender
12. Bring to a final full boil for one minute.
13. Season with parsley of cilantro, serve. Enjoy.