Paiche “Aji Negro” and Amazonian Roots

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An Amazonian freshwater fish, the paiche is a monster, with some specimens growing to over two meters in length. I have gone to the Amazon myself to catch them. Mild in taste, they are easy to eat and ideal in soups and sautés.

Ingredients

  • 2 fresh paiche, cleaned
  • 4 wild cilantro roots
  • 2 dried aji dulce

For the Roots

  • oz. (100 g) sweet corn root (Calathea allouia)
  • 1⅔ oz. (50 g) ñame (Dioscorea trifida)
  • 1⅔ oz. (50 g) taro root
  • 1⅔ oz. (50 g) coco yam (Colocasia esculenta)
  • 1⅔ oz. (50 g) yuca
  • 1 oz. (30 g) wild yuca starch, roasted
  • 1 oz. (30 g) yuca flour, roasted

For the Broth

  • 2 cups (480 ml) “aji negro,” wild yuca juice
  • 2 cups (480 ml) smoked pork broth
  • 2 fresh charapita pepper, crushed
  • 2 fresh sweet chili pepper, crushed
  • 2 leaves fresh wild cilantro
  • 1 tsp. fresh turmeric

Method

Peel the root vegetables and cut them into equal sizes. Place them in a pot with the “aji negro” and smoked pork broth. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and cook until the roots are tender. Carefully control the doneness of each root—don’t overcook them. Take the roots out as they are cooked and reserve. Reserve the broth.

Coat the cooked yuca with roasted yuca flour. Coat the taro root with the roasted wild yuca starch. Keep both warm.

Slice the sweet corn root paper-thin and arrange the slices on top of the paiche filets in a scale pattern. Season with salt. Cook the paiche in a pan with the wild cilantro roots. Keep warm.

Place the aromatics (charapita pepper, sweet pepper, wild cilantro and fresh turmeric) in a cheese cloth. Just before serving, heat the broth, add the aromatics, and simmer for 1 minute. Take out the aromatics and strain the broth.

Place the ñame, taro root, yuca and coco yam in the center of the plate. Place the paiche next to them. Add the hot broth. Finish with the aji dulce and cilantro root.