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Cancha, also known as toasted chuple corn or Andean Popcorn, is a snack dish from Andean countries, especially popular in Peru and Ecuador. It is essentially a type of toasted corn prepared using a special variety of large kernelled corn called maiz chulpe. These corn do not pop like popcorn, instead they swell and get slightly puffy like corn nuts. The Cancha recipe is the most basic and essential part of Peruvian cooking style. In fact, some chefs go to the extent of calling this dish the fistful bread of Andes. Though, preparing cancha at home is very easy, they are also available pre-packed in several Latin markets and online Hispanic stores.

History of Cancha Recipe:

Cancha is one of the few Peruvian dishes that are reminiscent of the Indigenous cooking and eating styles of native Peruvians. According to Sergio Zapata Acha, a famed linguist and gastronomist, the Peruvian word for the dish comes from Quechua-cancha, which means toasted corn in the native dialect. This dish according to several historians was the staple in the diets of the native tribes of Andes. In fact, in certain tribes, the clay pot used for preparing the dish was considered sacred. According to Juan Ruiz de Arce o Albequerque, a 26th century historian, the people from Piura did not know bread making, instead they ate toasted corn as if it were bread. Also, according to certain records, the cancha recipe was one of the first recipes taught to young girls in the Andean regions. Today, most Peruvian and Ecuadorian table spreads are graced with the presence of bread and salty cancha – the two essences of Andes, bread signifying the Spanish influence and the toasted corn focusing at the native Andean roots.

Ingredients used in Toasted Corn Recipes:

Cancha is one of the most simple and basic dishes from Andes. The cancha recipe calls for very few ingredients, which include chuple corn, any shortening, and salt. Traditionally lard is used as the fat for toasting the chuple corns; however, regular cooking oil, butter, or even cooking spray can be used for preparing this dish. Chuple corn is a special variety of corn that is essential for preparing this dish. These corns are different from the regular corn in the sense that they do not burst open and pop like popcorns. Instead they puff up and attain a corn nut like texture during the cooking process. Cancha cannot be prepared with regular corns. The chuple corns are easily available in most Latino grocery stores and online stores. In case, you do not find chuple corns, plain Corn nuts can be used as a good enough substitute.

Methods of Preparing Cancha Recipe:

Cancha is prepared by toasting chuple corn in a shortening. Traditionally the toasting was done in clay pot especially prepared for preparing the corn snack. Large yellow corn kernels and ground salt were added to hot lard and toasted until the grain turned golden brown. The corn was continuously stirred to prevent burning. Though, the cancha recipe remains the same in essence, there are several developments in terms of the shortening used and the vessel used. Cancha, today, is usually prepared in an open pan instead of the clay pot and several recipes call for oil or even cooking spray instead for lard. Serving Toasted Corn Cancha is one of the most popular snacks or munchies in the Andean regions. It is often served at parties and restaurants as something to nibble on before and/or during the meal. It is often added as a topping to ceviche (the signature dish of Peru) to give a delectable textural contrast to the dish. In fact, in several Andean households, young girls learn the cancha recipe as a part of the ceviche preparing process. In the Northern coast of Peru, Shambar (a type of soup) is usually served along with a bowlful of toasted corn. Cancha is also famous as a party food and often munched along with pisco sours, chicha, or beer.

Nutritional Facts about Andean Popcorns:

Cancha is one of the most fiber rich snacks and appetizers. Each serving of the dish can give you up to 2gm that’s 8% dietary fibers. Depending upon the type of fat used in preparing the cancha recipe, the dish provides upto 120 Kcals per serving, making it a low fat alternative to the several party snacks. Moreover, this dish is a good source of vitamins, minerals, and proteins. Thus, cancha is a highly recommended snack in the diets of people wanting to reduce or maintain weight.

Popular Commercial Chuple Corn Products:

Cancha Serrana – is a popular Microwave Andean popcorn product from Flavor Pops. Huascaran Cancha – is a popular pre-packed Andean toasted corn product from Dona Amelia. Related Dishes The popular American snack – Corn nuts (also known as corn bits or American toasted corn) are believed to be new age version of cancha corns. The only difference seems to be the type of corn used in the preparation of the 2 dishes. While Chuple corn is used from preparing cancha recipe, most Corn nuts are prepared using pre soaked Cusco corn. Trivia Famed linguist Fidelis del Solar has mentioned cancha in one of his poems about Andes. Here is the translated version of the poem: “Long live chicha (a popular fermented drink) which lifts up Darkened spirts, And long live the wide-mouth chomba (vessel used to drink chicha), And also long live cancha, That is bread eaten by the fistful."