By Emma Livingston, Co-Editor
This recipe, and the story behind it, was related to me by our Peruvian classmate, Jorge Cespedes (MBA ’16, Peru). I hope you enjoy the story as much as I enjoyed eating the Causa.
During the War of the Pacific (1879-1883), when Peru lost its southernmost province of Tarapacá to Chile, the women of Peru decided to band together and do their part to aid the Peruvian army. They had the brilliant idea to raise money by creating a new dish out of the limited ingredients available at the time that could be sold as street food. A dish whose main ingredient was based in Peru’s ancestral roots, cultivated for tens of thousands of years in the southern regions of the country: the original Peruvian potato!
The new dish had no name and no brand awareness. To sell it, the women would stand in the streets, waving the Peruvian flag and shouting, “Por la causa! Por la causa!” Which translates in English to: “For the cause!” Over time, the expression was shortened to simply: “Causa,” which is the name the dish still goes by to this day. The dish has evolved into an emblem of the gastronomic cultural capital of Latin America: Lima, Peru.
While Peru lost the War of the Pacific, it won a major victory in the country’s ongoing culture war with Chile: Causa Limeña, in one form or another, is now one of the favorite dishes consumed by their Chilean enemies.
6 limes from the region of Tambogrande in the north of Peru (or lime juice in a bottle, if you prefer)
2 ajies amarillos (yellow Peruvian chilies) from Chillón Valley in the Peruvian capital (or 1/2 Mexican yellow chili you can find in an Arizona supermarket + 1 yellow bell pepper for volume…BE SURE TO USE ONLY 1/2 of 1 MEXICAN CHILI!!! These chilies are much spicier than Peruvian chilies)
1 can of tuna from Cabo Blanco in the Pacific Ocean (or a cheap “Great Value” can of tuna from Walmart)
½ of a medium size red onion from Mantaro Valley (or any other red onion)
4 boiled quail eggs (or 2 chicken eggs)
2 TBS cream from the Valley of Huaral, north of Lima (or find a cow and milk her)
2 TBS of Alasena Peruvian Mayonnaise by Chef Gaston Acurio (or mayonnaise of your preference)
Salt and pepper to taste
Mashed Potato Mix
- Place potatoes in simmering water for 45 minutes (use fork to verify when they are done)
- Peel and mash the potatoes (discard the skin)
- Cut the limes and squeeze lime juice onto the mashed potatoes
- Use a blender to mix the peppers with 1 TBS cream
- Pour pepper/milk blend onto the potatoes
- Add remaining cream and use your hands to mix mashed potatoes thoroughly
- Dice the red onion
- Mix the onion with the tuna and mayonnaise
- Add salt and pepper
Put it all together:
- For best visual effect, use ramekins to shape each individual causa. Alternatively, one large causa can be prepared in a casserole dish. Final product has three layers:
- Bottom layer of mashed potatoes
- Middle layer of tuna mix
- Top layer of mashed potatoes
- Arrange boiled eggs and olives on top of the concoction so it looks something like this:
Leftover causa can be refrigerated and eaten cold for up to a week