Bone Soup: Sancocho de chancho - Loja's weekend treat

A bowl of Bone Soup: Sancocho de chancho in Loja Ecuador

Just a short drive from Loja is a soup so good that it is a treat for many Lojano families.

Visitors and newcomers to the province of Loja, Ecuador, are most often advised to make a culinary pilgrimage to one of the restaurants preparing cuy, or guinea pig. There are a number of places to please the tourist with this little spit-roasted delicacy, but this is not the fare that a native Lojano will typically go out for. On the weekend, for those who hunger for comfort food, all roads lead south of  Loja to the town of Landangui, a northeastern neighborhood of Malacatos.

Hardly more than four corners and a bus stop, the sugarcane-growing little hamlet teems with families and friends on the weekend there to enjoy Sancocho de chancho, a simple pork bone soup. Made with prosaic ingredients like cubed pork and bones, onions, salt, garlic, lots of cumin, and water, is it difficult to imagine what all the fuss is about? Well, Lojanos have known for a long time what foodies are just now beginning to discuss: the restorative powers of nutrient-rich bone broth. This addicting soup will cure what ails you whether it is fatigue from a long hard work week or a night of drinking.

Sancocho, from the Spanish verb sancochar "to parboil," is served in one form or another, from the Carribean to Peru. The soup can have any type of fish, fowl, or meat available in the region. What they all have in common is that they are brothy soups served as a main course instead of a starter. In the Andes of Southern Ecuador, the Sancocho that will come to you steaming hot in Landangui, seemingly moments after you order it in one of the simple open-air restaurants, will be made with the flavor king: chancho (pork). It will be accompanied by a wedge of bitter orange to squeeze over top and a side of the locally popular tomate de arbol (tree tomato) salsa as a condiment. If you want to go all-in with the meal, contemplate adding delicious fritada (more pork!), mote con chicharon (big fluffy hominy with, yes, more pork), viscera stew (of pork), and plantains. This extravaganza of pig meat is a true insider experience of Loja. We give Sancocho de chancho in Landagui our highest recommendation.


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