Papas Criollas (Tiny Yellow Potatoes)

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Papas Criollas (tiny yellow potatoes) - Andrea Meyers

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One of my fondest food memories is of the tiny round potatoes known as papas criollas from Colombia. The Colombian papas criollas grow wild in the Andes highlands and have a thin, tender skin and a buttery yellow interior that yields an amazing flavor. They are a favorite for soups such as Ajiaco or served as appetizers or sides either roasted, fried, mashed, boiled, or skewered and grilled. Here in the United States you can buy them frozen in some stores or in jars from various online grocers (see Where to Buy below). I have searched for years but still have not found frozen, canned, or fresh papas criollas in any of our local Hispanic or international grocery stores.

If you’ve ever had a memory of food so strong that you still dream of it 15 years later, you’ll understand my excitement when I spotted tiny yellow potatoes in Trader Joe’s last week. Small potatoes have been in vogue for a few years, but the little yellow Dutch creamers in our area stores are bigger than papas criollas and I’ve never been quite happy with them. When I saw these petite gems my heart went pitter patter and I jumped with glee and clapped. In Trader Joe’s. Yes, people stared.

These tasty little potatoes are only 1-inch in diameter, a perfect bite size. Michael was thrilled that I found them and assumed I was going to make Ajiaco, but I shocked him when I announced that I planned to fry these. I don’t like to fry, it always makes a big splattery mess leaving me with a big cleanup, but the memory of crispy fried papas is burned in my brain and I wanted to share that experience with my family without buying plane tickets to Bogotá.

My next step is to test the papas in Ajiaco. If they are a true match, they will break up and dissolve into the soup, and then I will set up some space to grow my own papas criollas. What a dream come true.

Just for fun: If you want to experience papas criollas the way I first did years ago, listen to Clasicos de la Provincia by Carlos Vives while eating. For something instrumental, The Rumba Foundation by Jesse Cook offers some great Colombian-inspired sounds that will give you rumba fever.

FRIED PAPAS CRIOLLAS

Andrea Meyers - Fried Papas Criollas

Makes 1 pound, serves 2 to 4.

Equipment

steamer basket
large heavy bottom pot with lid
cast iron pot or frying appliance
splatter screen
plate or platter lined with paper towels

Ingredients

1 pound (~450 g) papas criollas or similar tiny yellow potato (about 1-inch in diameter)
cooking oil (I use canola.)
sea salt

Preparation

1. STEAM OR PARBOIL: Pour water into bottom of large pot and insert the steamer basket. Add the potatoes, cover, and bring to a boil. Steam the potatoes for about 4 to 5 minutes, then drain and pat dry. If you don’t have a steamer basket, you can parboil the potatoes. Add enough water to cover the potatoes, bring to a boil, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and dry.

2. FRY: While cooking the potatoes, add oil to the cast iron pot or frying appliance. There should be enough oil for the potatoes to float, but it doesn’t need to be very deep. Add potatoes, about 10 to 15 at a time. They will probably bubble and splatter, so keep a screen handy. Some of the potato skins may burst open, and that’s ok, the skin will be particularly crispy. Fry for about 2 to 3 minutes, then remove and drain well on the plate lined with paper towels. Allow to cool for a minute or two. Salt generously and serve.

Where to Buy Canned Papas Criollas

Hatogrande

Amigo Foods

More Colombian Recipes

Andrea Meyers - Ajiaco Bogotano (Colombia) Andrea Meyers - Papas Chorreadas (Colombia) Andrea Meyers - Arequipe (Dulce de Leche from Colombia)

More Bloggers with Authentic Colombian Recipes

Nikas Culinaria

My Colombian Recipes

[An original post from Andrea Meyers: making life delicious. All images and text copyrighted, All Rights Reserved.]

[Disclosure: This blog earns a few cents on items purchased through the Amazon.com links in posts.]

Comments

  1. says

    Andrea,
    Papas Criollas at “Andres Carne de Res”, or at “Kukaramakara”, or at any restaurant in Bogotá… your post made me miss Colombia even more! I’m so happy for you… enjoy your papas, and don’t forget to share the recipes with us :)
    (By the way, ‘suero costeño’ and ‘hogao’ are the papas’ best friends.)
    Un saludo!

  2. says

    Andrea,
    I love papa criolla. You can find them frozen in Latin supermarkets. I usually use frozen for my ajiaco or other Colombian dishes and they are pretty close.

    Thank you :)

  3. says

    These sound brilliant; I have some potatoes left from the farmer’s market that would be perfectly suited to this dish. I love the idea of frying them; they already have such a buttery taste, I am sure the frying would take them to a new level of richness.

  4. Pat says

    I bought these at Trader Joe’s too! Didn’t go into the store for these but when I saw them, couldn’t resist. Was planning to roast with herbs, but may try your delicious sounding method!

  5. says

    My farmers market has lovely little tiny potatoes, too bad, they won’t be open again til spring!

    PS I missed your connection to Colombia, remind us?

  6. Frances says

    Oh those brought back childhood memories! We lived in Bogota for a year and I have never forgotten the wonderful people (or those potatoes!).

  7. says

    Oh my, what’s not to like about this recipe? I actually bought 2 of the very same nets of potatoes from our local Trader Joe’s this week. They brought back memories of living in Switzerland near a farm that grew potatoes. After the harvest we would walk through the fields and pick up the littlest potatoes left behind from the harvest and then we would use them to dip in fondue But right now I would rather try your recipe!

  8. says

    Andrea,

    Good news!

    In September, Andres Carne de Res opened a second restaurant, IN BOGOTA!!! It’s about 5 stories tall, and filled with the same wacky hangings., and has same wacky entertainers. Prices are also high- it’s worth it for the experience. You don’t need to drive an hour to Chia anymore, and pay for parking in that big dirt field, either.

    Let me know how the Ajiaco soup tastes with these Trader’s potatoes. I can get frozen papas criollas at a local Hispanic market. I’ve had Ajiaco in Bogota, but nover cooked Ajiaco at home, as can’t find fresh guascas herb. I hear it grows wild in some spots in the US-no one here knows where!

    Ivan

    • says

      Hi Jack. I don’t have a source for the seed potatoes yet, but I’m trying to find the source for the TJs potatoes in the hope that they might sell some seed potatoes.

  9. Jack says

    I was sitting here copying my Tio’s old ajiaco recipe and decided to look up the yellow flesh potatoes when I came across this page. I really enjoyed reading it. It brought back many wonderful memories of travelling to Bogota when I was little and going to the local groceries with my grandmother.

    Luckily, I live in NY and many of the Colombian bakeries that have been cropping up carry these potatoes in cans.

  10. says

    Hi there,

    Have been at the end of August for the first time in Colombia. Tasted the criolla potatoes and they are outrageous!! As I work for an innovative European importer of exotic fruits and vegetables we will start import criolla potatoes for the EU market. Can anybody give me the recipe for the Colombian hot starter criolla potatoes with small pieces of sausage (sorry I fogot the Colombian name for it!)
    Thanks in advance for anyone who can help me!

    • says

      Hi Jan. Are you referring to salchipapas? It’s street food, basically french fries with sausage or hot dogs, though you’ll find many variations in South America.

      • says

        Hi Andrea,

        During my visit in Colombia we have had a starter in a Colombian traditional restaurant with papas Criolla (fried), some herbs and small pieces of a tasty sausage. I am looking for the recipe of this!
        Can you help me with the recipe?
        The taste is by the way great!

        Jan

  11. Brad says

    So did the TJ teeny tiny potatoes work well in making ajiaco? I’m living in Bogota right now but am visiting the US this summer and wanted to make ajiaco for my family. TJ’s stock is always changing so I’m not even sure they will still carry this item when I’m there.

    • says

      Hi Brad. Yes, the teeny tiny potatoes were great in ajiaco. Check TJs this summer, they might have them. Originally I only found them in the fall, but now they seem to have them during other parts of the year.

  12. Don Pratt says

    Hi Andrea. I never leave posts on websites but decided to this time. I lived in Bogota from ’83 to ’86 and attended CNG. My food memory is Ajiaco. I dream about the stuff but haven’t had any for 26 years. I’ve found it a few times at a Colombian restaurant, but it’s usually just a Sancocho because they don’t have the papas criollas to make the real thing. I do love sancocho- but it’s no replacement for ajiaco. Sigh. Maybe someday I’ll get back to Bogota and go to the Casa Vieja. Until then, I’ll have my dreams.

  13. says

    I am a farmer in Holyoke MA. I am growing papa criollas now. I am on the second generation. My goal is to sell them to farmers who participate in the Jackson Heights farmers market so we can increase the quantity available and eventually spread it across the country.

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