Aji de Gallina

Aji de Gallina is a spicy stew made with hen and aji that is a source of some controversy in my family – I like to use aji mirasol, the way it is made in Lima, but my mother and my aunts insist the proper way is with aji panca, the way they learned from my grandmother.

The dish can be traced back to Incan times, when a type of bird called hualpa was cooked then shredded and served with aji sauce. Later, French chefs fleeing the French Revolution put their imprint on Aji de Gallina, and the dish also became known as Spicy Peruvian Chicken Fricassee. Many of these chefs worked for wealthy Criollo families (a social class of people born in the New World with pure Spanish ancestry), bringing their recipes and techniques with them. This fusion of Peruvian tradition and French cooking can be seen in Aji de Gallina as well as Parihuela, also known as Peruvian Bouillabaisse.

My mom and my aunts learned from my grandmother to cook it with aji panca (aji colorado), which gives the chicken a red tint. They say this is the traditional – and correct –  way, but I love to make it with aji mirasol, and the resulting yellow color is what is most commonly found in Lima. Traditionally the dish is made with non-laying hens, but today most people use chicken, and there are also other variations, for example using seafood and shellfish instead of chicken.

Aji de Gallina is one of my favorite dishes and so easy to prepare. Try it with both aji mirasol and aji panca let me know what you think. Provecho!

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