Loco for Locro: Setting records with Ecuador’s iconic soup

13/Julio/2012 | 14:30

By Lance Brashear

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It was billed as the world’s largest bowl of locro and there would seem no reason to contest it. 

Saturday, June 30th, in the San Francisco Plaza, the Chef’s Association of Ecuador prepared 5,000 portions of Ecuador’s iconic potato soup as part of International Potato Day.  Each portion cost $1 and proceeds went to the Potato Seed Program, a new fund sponsored by the Ministry of Agriculture to aid Ecuadorian potato growers.

Locro is one of Ecuador’s most popular culinary traditions. In Quito it is typically made with potatoes and cheese, but the main ingredient can actually vary throughout the country.


Carlos Gallardo, President of the Ecuadorian Chef’s Association and Director of Tourism and Hospitality Faculty at the University of the Americas, says that locro is not just made of potatoes. “The locro method involves the breakdown of a carbohydrate or a cereal.  The locro also can be made of ocas, carrots, or any other tuber.”

For example, Cuenca, in southern Ecuador, is known for its “mote” or hominy locro, while Latacunga, in central Ecuador, offers “locro de mellocos” (a native tuber).

But on this occasion, cooking the “World’s Largest Locro” called for a celebration of the tuber most identified with the Andean region: the potato.

International Potato Day is celebrated every June 29, a date established four years ago by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a branch of the United Nations, to raise awareness of the potato’s importance as a human food staple.

According to FAO more than 300 million tons of potatoes are produced worldwide each year with half of those in developing countries.  In Ecuador, yearly production is about 400,000 tons, which are produced by approximately 50,000 people.  So the potato is not only an important crop for Ecuador’s gastronomy, but its economy as well. 

Worldwide, there are more than 5,000 varieties of potato, 400 of which are found in Ecuador alone.  With such a great selection, the question arises: Which potatoes are used to make a locro? 

Ruben Flores, City Administrator for Quito, says that for the giant locro cooked in San Francisco Plaza the Chef’s Association utilized 2,400 pounds of papa chola and 300 pounds of mixed potatoes. 

Why was an overwhelming amount of chola utilized?

The chola is a genetically modified potato whose resistance to disease and productivity has allowed it to gain a large market share in Ecuador.  Consequently, it has become the potato of choice in many Ecuadorian kitchens. 

Chef Henry Richardson of Intercul Catering says, “Papa Chola is the preferred one now-a-days because it cooks quickly [and] dissolves easily with a small grain giving the locro a creamier texture.”

Chef Pablo Zambrano, Director of Food and Beverages at the Hilton Colon Hotel adds, “The potato has to be a yellow potato with the largest quantity of starch.  This type is the chola potato.”  

Although Quito’s giant locro utilized more than a ton of chola potatoes, 220 liters of milk, four sacks of onions, and hundreds of portions of oregano and spices, can it really be considered the world’s largest?

The authority on such achievements, Guinness World Records, has no official entry for locros.  It does offer a record for the largest bowl of soup, however.  In 2009 a vegetable soup was made in the Netherlands and contained, officially, 26,658 liters. 

Another organization, the World Records Academy, declared a 15,000 liter sancocho prepared in Venezuela as the world’s largest pot of soup – an achievement apparently not recognized by Guinness.  Perhaps the two records are distinct because one was made in a “pot” and the other a “bowl.”

The extra-large locro prepared in Quito, though it would seem to pale in comparison to the official record holders, was prepared in neither a pot nor a bowl, but rather a custom-made trough.  And with over 100 chefs, using 400 varieties of potato, at an altitude of more than 9,000 feet, surely there must be a record in there somewhere.


Ciudad Quito

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