When you head to Panama, you’ll absolutely need to try a dish called Sancocho which is basically a chicken soup. While the ingredients for this dish are simple, consisting of chicken, starchy vegetables, and herbs, it’s an especially comforting meal. Attributed as a cure-all of sorts able fix what ails you from hangovers to the common cold, Sancocho is considered Panama’s national dish.
While many countries have versions of Sancocho, Panama’s version is unique in that it makes use of a little known herb called culantro. This isn’t to be mistaken for cilantro…though they are related. Culantro lends the soup a very strong flavor. In fact, most Panamanians would agree that it is the flavor of Panama. However, if you are unable to find culantro, substitute cilantro. Just be sure to use the stems and leaves in your soup.
If you’re a fan of soups, you’ll love this one. It’s more of a light stew and really hits the spot. I’m certain it will be a delicious dinner on a cold winter’s night in the North. It’s simple ingredients and easy cooking process makes it the perfect meal for even the most novice of home chefs. So give Sancocho a try and bring the flavorof Panama into your home.
Ingredients for Panamanian Sancocho
- 1 Whole chicken cut into pieces
- 3 teaspoons of salt
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 4 tablespoons of culantro or cilantro, minced (use stems and leaves if using cilantro)
- 2 tablespoons of dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons of olive oil
- 4 cups of water or chicken stock
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 pounds of starchy vegetable such as yucca, potato, green plantains, or even yam, peeled and chopped. Yucca is preferred.
Preparing Panamanian Sancocho
- In a small bowl, mix the salt, garlic, 3 tablespoons of culantro or cilantro, oregano, and olive oil together. Rub this mixture all over your chicken. Let chicken marinate for 10-20 minutes.
- Do not rinse your chicken. Ever. Some recipes call for rinsing chicken but this is extremely unsanitary and spreads germs all over your kitchen.
- Heat a heavy pot or Dutch Oven over medium heat. Place your chicken into the pot, cover and allow to sweat for approximately 8 minutes.
- Add the water or chicken stock, onion, and 1 tablespoon of culantro or cilantro to the pot. Make sure the chicken is covered with stock or water. Bring to a boil then lower hear to a simmer.
- Allow the soup to simmer for medium low heat for approximately 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and soft.
- Raise the heat to medium and add the root vegetables. Bring the pot to a gentle simmer. Cook until the yucca is cooked through, approximately 15-20 minutes.
- Alternatively, you can keep the heat at medium low and simmer for 1 hour.
- Season with more salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve the soup with rice on the side. Add the rice to the soup when you are about to eat it.
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