Love Thy Neighbor’s Peruvian Aji Pepper Sauce

We have lived in the same neighborhood for the last 22 years. When we bought our house, we never imagined we would live in the neighborhood for this long, but time flies when you are having fun. With such great neighbors it would be very difficult to move anyway.

We have seen many neighbors come and go and have met some delightfully interesting people like the United States Ambassador to Côte d'Ivoire (next door), the Hasidic Rebbe (two doors down), Croatian immigrants (three doors down), and the German airline executive (across the street). We all live harmoniously regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or any other life choices.

If you had told us that living just a few miles from downtown Atlanta could feel like small town living, we would have laughed out loud. However, we have come to enjoy all the comforts of small-town-living with the convenience of big-city life. The area hardware store still lets you run a tab, the pharmacist at the local CVS Pharmacy knows you by name and when a tree falls through a neighbor’s house in the middle of the night, everyone on the street shows up to help.

Weekends in the ‘hood begin Friday evening when the sidewalks are filled with tykes on bikes, chatting parents, toddlers toddling and playful puppies. On Saturdays, there are pick up football games, games of chase and hide-and-seek, and on the rare occasion when it snows, tobogganing down driveways. The day often culminates in drinks on a neighbor’s deck or a potluck cookout. The menus for these potluck suppers are as diverse and intriguing as the individuals making the dishes from Pam’s yia-yia’s orzo salad to Margarette’s hot deviled turnovers.

At the most recent gathering, we were treated to mango-marinated ribs and a potato dish with an amazing hot cheese sauce (a specialty of the host’s South American stepmother). We were thrilled to have another recipe to add to our multifarious community arsenal.

Papa a la Huancaina
  • 6 potatoes, boiled
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups feta
  • 3 tablespoons Aji Amarillo pepper paste*
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper

Bring a large stock pot of water to a boil and cook potatoes until fork tender. Drain potatoes and set aside. Reserve a cup or two of the boiling water and use this to rinse the finely diced onions for a minute or two to lightly blanch.

Mash together cheese and hot peppers and place in a food processor. Add evaporated milk and lemon juice, and pulse. Pour in olive oil a little at a time like you would do when making mayonnaise. Lastly, add onion and pulse until the sauce is an even deep yellow/orange. Add more evaporated milk to reach the desired consistency and then season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cut the boiled potatoes into ½” cubes and place in a serving bowl. Cover potatoes with the Aji pepper sauce. Traditional Peruvian garnishes are hard-boiled eggs and black olives. Serve warm and watch your neighbors devour them!

* Native to Peru and fundamental to Peruvian cooking, aji amarillo is a hot chili pepper, in the range of 40,000-50,000 Scoville units (a jalapeño is 2,500 Scoville units). It's easiest to find in paste form, but also available fresh, dried, canned or ground. Chopped Aji peppers make a wonderful addition to peach, mango or tomato salsas. Aji Amarillo Pepper paste is available at many international food markets such as Atlanta's Buford Highway Farmer's Market or on