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Causa in Cusco, Peru

Lisa Swan updates us from Cusco, Peru.

I am not one of those girls that enjoys ¨roughing it¨per se, so after several days of packing out, visiting Machu Picchu, eating so-so food in grimy tourist traps, I was willing to shell out a few extra dollars for a good meal in a comfortable restaurant in a great location. Sam, as always, was along for the ride, and we even managed to convince a few of our new travel buddies to join us, Dave and Ben. We decided to take our friend, Elisa’s, recommendation to heart once more and spring for a great meal at InkaGrill on the Plaza de Armas in Cusco.

Walking in, we were immediate greeted with the comforts of any modern and elegant dinning experience (real table cloths and napkins, not to mention a stellar bathroom!). The menu had every type of Peruvo-Andean delicacy possible from alpaca steak to cuy, from ceviche to boiled potatoes. We all decided to order to our hearts content. Sam headed straight for the alpaca steak, which he thought was good, if not a bit tough. On the flip side, I decided to order the vegetable risotto, feeling starved for greens and pasta. We all also agreed to split an appetizer of Causa, a Peruvian speciality with one of the strangest combination of ingredients we have discovered yet.

Causa is a molded dish, constructed from layers of Peruvian yellow mashed potatoes, avocado, shrimp, diced tomatoes and onion, and (of course) lemony aji. The potatoes are pressed into a bowl that has been lined with plastic. Thin slices of avocado, onions, and whole medium shrimp are added to the center with a final layer of potatoes to complete the dome. The dish is served cold and is richly delicious. The potatoes add a creamy texture that complements the richness of the shrimp and avocado. The drizzle of aji provides a much needed blast of acid that helps round out the dish and prevents it from becoming overwhelming. The onion adds a bit of crunch and a sharp bit, which adds interest to an unusual pairing of ingredients. All together simply superb. Dave and Ben were impressed by the Causa, and sufficely to say, the dish was completed clean in approximately two minutes.

Peruvian Causa

1.5 cup mashed yellow potato
4 lemons juiced (yields)
1tbsp canola oil
1 cup chopped hard boiled eggs
1 cup shrimp, tuna or other shellfish
2 avocados (haas)
½ cup of diced tomatoes, no seeds and drained
½ cup of dice sweet onion
6 tbsp mayonnaise
Aji Amarillo (optional, see note)


Boil pealed mashed potatoes for approximately fifteen minutes (until tender). Drain and let them cool a bit, add salt and pepper to taste, canola oil and half of the lemon juice, then mash until a fine consistency. Put half of the mashed potatoes in a container (preferably elongated, covered with plastic wrap to unmold it easily). Season the mayo with salt, pepper and some lemon juice (leaving some for the avocados). In the dish, add a layer of chopped eggs, onion, and tomatoes. Then add a layer of sliced avocados sprinkled with salt, pepper, and some lemon juice (to prevent oxidation), and then a layer of shrimp or other protein. Finally, cover the dish with the other half of the mashed potatoes. Unmold by flipping the dish and loosening the plastic. Top with the seasoned aji (mayonnaise).

Note: In Peru, boiled “yellow” potatoes are used, but if you want you may use a mix of red potato and Idaho potato. Additionally, the mayonnaise is sometimes substituted for “aji Amarillo,” which adds spice and can be found in any Latin store.