Ecuadorian burger recipe

Burger with Aji Sauce and Avocado on Stuffed Potato Cakes (Llapingachos)

And so we begin the letter E with the beautiful county of Ecuador.  Ecuador is located on the northwestern corner of South America along the coast.  It’s bordered by Colombia and Peru and, for some reason Wikipedia thinks it’s interesting that Ecuador is one of only two South American countries (Chile is the other) that doesn’t share a border with Brazil.  I didn’t find that particularly interesting, but wasn’t sure if you would, so there it is.

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

What I do find interesting is that Ecuador is the home of the Galapagos Islands.  The Islands played an important role in Darwin’s theory of evolution and currently are home to nature preserves and national parks (there are also about 23,000 people living there).  Most incredibly (to me), the Galapagos were the subject of a family slide show that didn’t bore me to tears or put me to sleep!  The wildlife is very cool and the scenery is stunning.

But, enough about the Galapagos, back to the mainland.  Ecuador was part of the Inca Empire then it was conquered by Spain in 1533.  After Spanish rule, the Ecuadorians had a ton of conflicts with their neighbors regarding borders (especially Peru) and finally settled in 1999 on the current borders.  In 1999 Ecuador suffered an economic crisis and a collapse of the currency – they’ve since adopted the US dollar and are working on stabilizing their economy.

Now my favorite fact about Ecuador came from our friends at the CIA World Factbook.  Ecuador is known for Mount Chimborazo – to quote the World Factbook, “due to the fact that the earth is not a perfect sphere and has an equatorial bulge, the highest point on the planet furthest from its center is Mount Chimborazo not Mount Everest, which is merely the highest peak above sea level.”  So, Ecuador is home to the tallest mountain in the world, who knew?

Ok then, but what about the food?  The flavors of Ecuador are pretty typical of the region with abundant use of fresh fruits and vegetables and a little bit of spice.  There are a couple of things that really stood out for me though.  The use of annatto seeds gives a rich earthy, peppery flavor to the food and a wonderful orange color (it was the original coloring agent used to make cheddar cheese orange).  I used anchiote paste because I like the addition of the vinegar, garlic and spices – it gives everything even more depth of flavor.

The other thing about Ecuador is they love potatoes (as do I, yeah!).  I read somewhere that they have something like 300 varieties of potatoes!  And, they make this yummy concoction called Llapingachos – these are potato balls seasoned with annatto and stuffed with cheese.  If you’ve been reading for any amount of time, you know this is irresistible to me.  I had to incorporate this into the burger – turns out it is just as tasty as it sounds.  I bought some purple potatoes because I’ve always wanted an excuse to try purple potatoes, but then I remembered that part of the fun of the cuisine is the orange color of the annatto.  So I switched to my old stand-by, Yukon gold potatoes.  I love the texture and flavor of these potatoes, they have lots of creaminess and none of the mealy texture that a russet potato can have.

So we ended up with a beef burger on a Llapingacho with some creamy avocado and a slightly spicy Aji sauce, all complemented by blanched red onions that are lightly pickled in raspberry vinegar.  You could use any fruit based vinegar, you just want a little fruitiness to lighten the overall effect of the dish.

This burger is delicious and rich without being super heavy (surprising as that is).  The Aji sauce is only lightly spicy, but it adds a nice tang, as do the pickled onions – these are perfectly balanced by the cheesy earthy potatoes and the creamy avocado.  The color is also fun and fresh with the pink of the onions playing beautifully off of the right green of the avocado and Aji.  We served with Ménage a Trois red, a great fruity wine that was the perfect compliment.

Ecuadorian Burger
1 pound ground beef
1 teaspoon anchiote paste
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
4 Llapingachos (recipe below)
4 slices of tomato
1 avocado mashed
4 leaves of bib lettuce
Pickled red onion (recipe below)
Aji sauce (recipe below)

Combine ground beef, anchiote paste salt and pepper.  Form four patties out of the mixture, smash the patties until they are as thin as possible and cook to desired temperature.  To serve start with the Llapingachos on each plate, add a tomato slice to each, ¼ of mashed avocado, the cooked patties, a leaf of lettuce, some pickled onion then top with Aji sauce.

Llapingachos (potato cakes)
1½ pounds Yukon gold potatoes peeled and cubed
1½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoon anchiote paste
1 Tablespoon butter
1 cup chopped onions
Shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

Boil the potatoes in water with ½ teaspoon kosher salt.  Drain the potatoes.  Place the potatoes in a large bowl and add the anchiote paste (break it up as you add it) and the remaining teaspoon of salt.  In a medium skillet heat the butter until melted then add the onions.  Sauté onions until soft.  Add the cooked onions and any remaining butter to the potatoes.  Mash the mixture with a hand masher.  Form four balls with the potato mixture.

Using your thumb, make a hole in each of the balls then stuff with shredded cheese (about 1½ Tablespoons of cheese per ball – get as much as you can into each ball).

Close up the hole.  In a large non-stick skillet, heat the vegetable oil until shimmering.  Flatten each ball in your hands until you get a patty about ½ inch thick.  Place the potato cakes into the hot oil and fry each side until lightly browned.

Pickled Red Onion
1 small red onion sliced in half then cut in ¼ inch thick slices
Juice of 3 lemons
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons raspberry vinegar

Blanch the red onion slices in boiling water for 3 minutes then rinse them in cold water or use an ice bath to stop the cooking.  Place the cooked onions in a glass bowl then add the lemon juice (you just need enough to cover the onions).  Add the oregano and vinegar and stir to mix.  Refrigerate for at least an hour before using.

Aji Sauce
4 Serrano chilies
½ cup flat leaf parsley
½ cup fresh cilantro
3 cloves garlic
¼ cup lime juice
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
Kosher salt to taste

Chop the first four ingredients roughly.  Place them in a food processor along with the lime juice and blend until all pieces are even sizes.  Add the vegetable oil while the ingredients are blending.  Taste and add salt as necessary.  Refrigerate for at least an hour in a covered glass container.


©Copyright 2011 Linda Monach

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13 Responses to Ecuadorian burger recipe

  1. Danie says:

    Can I come over for dinner? Boston isn’t TOO far from you, ha!
    I’ve been to ecuador… A very beautiful country. Most the aji was kind of an orange/pink color, creamy, and with vinegar blanched onions already in it. I wish I could describe it better, but I don’t really know what was in it. But the creamy orangey aji was definitely the norm from amazon to the mountains to the coast.
    And llapingachos are amazing! I remember rolling my windows down on a bus and giving someone 50 cents for 2. He was frying them on the street and I just had to have one. They also bring the baked foods onto buses to sell to the travelers.

    • linda says:

      Hi Danie – come on over any time-we’re neighbors!

      It’s always great to hear from someone who’s been to the countries I’m writing about. I admit that I sometimes deconstruct some of the traditional dishes to make them more interesting as burger toppings, hence the onions and tomatoes separate from the aji. I’m surprised that tomatoes are the norm in the sauce since most of the web has green versions of aji attributed to Ecuador – this is why we need more people from different countries posting recipes. Tell all your friends – and if any of my readers have recipes they want to share with me to inspire future countries, I would love to try them out.

      I am a huge fan of llapingachos – I can’t imagine why everyone isn’t stuffing potato balls with cheese and frying them up! Although in Boston, we’d charge $5 for two 🙂

      • Danie says:

        I’ll bring the wine! I actually found this site through a NH friend. She’s been sharing and salivating along side me. You should try to make chifles with your Ecuadorean burger… Fried salty banana chips!
        Also, I’m actually a vegetarian, and Ecuador is SO veggie friendly. It also has a pretty fish heavy cuisine, but veggie burgers can be found on just about any menu, which is nice.

        • linda says:

          I’m glad you’re enjoying the site even though I have a lot of meat dishes. The good news is that so many of them are easily workable with veggie burgers – it’s all about the toppings! I was trying each of the recipes with a veggie burger, but it just became too much to keep track of it all. I’ll be posting Egypt this week (hopefully tomorrow) – did a great falafel burger totally veggie – see, there’s something for everyone! Tell your NH friend thanks on my behalf – I consider it the highest compliment when people share my blog.

  2. Carl H says:

    Excuse me, but haven’t you skipped East Timor?

    • linda says:

      This is the joy of using the United Nations list of member states – sometimes they use the English translation of the names, other times they don’t, but I’m far too lazy to create my own list. East Timor is listed under Timor-Leste, so we’ll visit there on the Ts. Don’t tell me you have some fabulous Timorian (I have no idea if that is the correct term) recipes in your repertoire?

      • Carl H says:

        Haha, sorrily no. I don’t have a first clue about it, but from what I can find out on the internet, the East-Timorese cuisine is quite close to some variations of Indonesian cuisine, but with a few particularities.

        For example; dog meat is popular, cooked with lemon grass and cloves. Also, for the poor people of that poor nation there’s a dish made by cooked palm bark that’s made into a white gel and then grilled – Apparently with quite bad taste.

        How about that? East-Timorese canine burger on the way?

        • linda says:

          I just have to say, eewwww! Fortunately it doesn’t meet the “rule” that I set up that it could be purchased at one of my local grocery stores (catching it out back in an alley doesn’t count).

          At this point I’m falling so far behind I may never get to Timor-Leste! Happy Holidays – I’m hoping to get El Salvador done before Christmas…

  3. freddy merizalde says:

    gracias por las de Ecuador graduado de la UTE. vivo en los USA y soy chef gracias por acercarme a mi pais .tengo un Bistro y mesclo comida Franceza ,Ecuatoriana y los resultados son increibles tengo loco a los grindos jajajajajajaj .gracias

  4. Pingback: 2013, 6/18 – Kristen | i84dinner

  5. Deb says:

    Your recipe was posted 4 yrs ago, but as I just came across it, I couldn’t leave without making a comment. I have lived in the northern part of Ecuador for several yrs now and had to point out a few things. Aji is traditionally an orange color due to the fact that it is made primarily from a fruit called a tree tomato. It is not a tomato at all, but once put through the blender and strained, it is the basis for Aji (or if sugar, water and/or milk is added, it makes a great juice.) I have never even seen green aji! The aji pepper is red and once added to the tree tomato “paste”, they add finely chopped red onion, lime juice and cilantro. Secondly, you obviously changed the llapingacho recipe to include sharp cheddar, as cheddar as we gringos know it, is only found in rare specialty shops, as the cheddar down here is nothing even close to cheddar, except for it’s color. The traditional cheese used is a fresh made white soft cheese that is basically just a rather bland tasting, rubbery milk. It is used in potato recipes much the same way we North Americans would add milk and butter to mashed potatoes. Much as your recipe sounds far tastier to a gringo palate, I’m afraid to say it is not authentic. The recipes definitely have an Ecuadorian basis and I am glad to see someone with an interest in Ecuadorian cuisine, but I just had to note those few details.

    • linda says:

      Hi Deb – I’m so glad you found my site and appreciate your comments. And I really have to apologize for not posting this earlier, I’ve been distracted by life and haven’t been on my site in ages!

      If you check out the backstory of my site (which I somehow manage to lose from my home page, working on a fix today!) you’ll see the idea of my cookbook/blog is to use inspiration from each country to create a recipe that could be made by most people – I try to avoid really specialty ingredients that are hard to find outside the home country – I’m not going for authentic, just inspired. Amazingly, one of the most difficult things to get good information on for each country is cheese – it’s hard to find cheeses from countries outside of the big exporters (France and Italy along with some Germanic countries), and hard to find good descriptions of what the local authentic cheeses taste like (apparently there are very few words to describe cheese flavors). So I often just resort to a cheese that seems like it would taste good.

      As for Aji sauce, like so many classic sauces, there seem to be many regional and local variations, if you search for images of Aji sauce, you’ll see both green and red, and I did come across the tomato/no tomato debate, but didn’t realize that they were talking about tree tomatoes. I’m sorry I didn’t get the authenticity right, but hope you enjoy the flavors.

      So – I hope you feel the inspiration and I hope you love the flavors!
      Thanks again for writing in.

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