Chochos, food friendly for vegetarians, vegans and all eaters in between, is a snack on the streets of Ecuador (particularly the mountainous-Andes region) that will randomly settle your tastes buds and tummy for a mere 50 cents — yes, USD.
Colorfully layered flavors of pale whites, rustic browns, fiery reds and lime greens that are stuffed into little plastic bags and sealed with salted spoons swarm the streets via vendors carrying huge baskets of them; local produce markets sell them as well.
While the Spanish name for them is “altramuz” (derived from Arabic), “chochos” may perhaps be the Native American name in Quichwa to what we call “lupin seed” in English.
They usually come with toasted maiz (another bizzare snack in itself), which is a corn seed at its maturest level toward the end of the harvest.
Maiz aka “toastado,” the brown middle layer of the chocho goody bag, are abnormally huge dark brownish, ocre-yellow corn seeds that bear the strong bitter bite of a cornel, similar to popcorn in its hollow texture and dry salty taste, but without looking “popped.”
The top layer, or topping as most would call it, is a “Pico de Gallo” type salsa that consists of tomatoes, onions, cilantro, salt and lime. The vendor may even throw a lime wedge in as a cherry on top.
Others eat lupin beans plain with salt, which is still Just. As. Good.
Hint: The entire combination of the lupin seeds, maiz cornels, and the small salsa salad is the norm in Ecuador, but you may do as you like.
The Romans first ate them and spread their roots throughout the mediterranean, which was then brought over to Latin America by the Spanish.
Personally, I never had them until Ecuador despite the historical Roman account; word on the street is that you can’t easily find lupins in the USA.
Considered part of the bean family, similar to a garbanzo/chick pea or fava bean, lupin seeds are small round pale-yellowish white seeds that expand and grow an outer layer of skin over a few days of being soaked in salted water. You can also fry them or grind them to make a dipping sauce, but of course AFTER they’ve been soaked (this is the only way to make them edible).
They may take some time getting used to, like much food I find in Ecuador, but if you’re a REAL foodie your buds will immediately adapt to its subtle salty, nutty flavor and before you know it, shoving as many into your mouth without even noticing the gesture.
NOTE: Although they can be eaten with or without the skin, it’s smart to remove it if you’re buying them off the streets of Ecuador. They’re likely being soaked in unsterile faucet water that may contain microbes, parasites, worms and all that good stuff. I eat them with the skin regardless, a little won’t kill, but if you can remember you’ll be playing on the safer side.
Either way, after a few weeks or months in Ecuador it’s always good to cleanse your system with a de-parasite pill.
Chochos aka lupins are a health + + + in that they are:
1. High in Fiber.
2. Gluten free.
3. Contain the highest source of plant protein (4 times higher than whole grain wheat).
4. Cholesterol free.
5. Contain a high source of amino acids.
6. Are probiotic (meaning produces good bacteria).
7. An alternative use for Vegan fille.
8. Suppresses appetite (for you weight watchers).
9. Reduces the Glycemic load of carbohydrate based foods.
10. Reduces blood pressure.
11. Improves glucose metabolism (diabetes).
12. Improves bowel health.
13. Is that too much?
1. Lupins can remove warts over time by using the seed’s skin and rubbing it against the warts themselves.
2. Back in the day, Chicago’s Little Italy and New York City’s Spanish Harlem used to serve them as a bar snack with beer.
3. They are still served as a bar snack in Portugal.
~ FIN ~