Fanesca! Holy Week Stew in Ecuador
There cannot be a holiday in Ecuador without there being a specific food that goes along with it. For Holy Week, it is an elaborate, rich, creamy soup packed full of grains. This deliciousness is called fanesca. Fanesca can be found in restaurants several weeks before Holy Week, but families get together to prepare it at home on Good Friday. It is a very rich soup, with the primary ingredients being figleaf gourd, squash (zapallo in Spanish), and twelve different kinds of grains to represent each of the disciples. These grains include lupines, fava beans, lentils, peas, and corn. Fanesca also includes milk and salt cod, due to the Catholic tradition of not eating red meat during Holy Week. The cod represents Christ.
In addition to that plethora of ingredients, it is garnished with fried plantains, herbs, hard boiled eggs, and mini empanadas. Families have their own unique recipes. The preparation of this very important dish is labor intensive as many of the grains need to be peeled and shelled beforehand, the cod must be soaked, and many ingredients must be cooked separately before being added to the soup. This makes for a family gathering for the preparation of this Easter delight. Rice pudding is commonly served as dessert following fanesca. This delectable stew is only available at this time of year so Ecuadorians get it while they can!
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