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{All Around Latin America} Panama: Chicheme or Sweetly Aromatic Corn & Chowder in Celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month

 Day 3.

More like the third installment in the {All Around Latin America} food series. I try not to contribute for this, but this one was a bit too good not to share.  I was *this* close in not posting this today. But, I found some reasoning in my writing skills, which I’ll have to exercise super effectively on this one in order to sell you this recipe concoction from Panama, today’s featured country.

This is soup. Really, really, really good soup. It’s called chicheme, a corn-based meal. I had it two weeks ago for the first time and just about lost my etiquette at the dinner table. We were celebrating my aunt’s husband’s birthday and a Panamanian friend of theirs made an ultra large pot to enjoy. At first, I was reluctant to try it, though he fervently persisted. It was not attractive or the least bit interesting. It did smell good, but as we all know, food has to look good, too. Unless of course, you already know what you’re getting into (kind of like chicharos).  I mean look at this. It’s far from sexy. At least on the surface. It’s just a light tan-looking liquid. No foam, no garnish, not vibrant color, and seemingly no texture.  But as my intriguing mind goes,  I poured a conservative amount into a little bowl and closed my eyes. I let it do its thing.

Oh, and it did.

 

 photo FEHHMbadebloggers_zps4d88c7c4.png

 

Joy, joy. It was heavenly.

So let me try to describe this new gem in Latin cuisine I’ve discovered. Have you ever had arroz con leche, or rice pudding? I parallel this sweet corn soup to the best, most refined arroz con leche dessert you’ve ever had. Only it’s soup. So it’s warm. And comforting. And perfum-y, and perfectly textured.

There are roasted corn kernels sunken in creamy and smooth milky base, rounding out with the wonderful spices of the season. The ones we can’t omit in all of fall’s glorious foods.  The sweetened condensed milk gives it its happy note and the corn balances it out just right with a smokey essence.  Doesn’t this just sound like fall bliss? I want to drink this up like the frothiest warm glass of seasoned cocoa milk during chilly mornings with frosty pine trees. It’s the sensation I got when I took a spoonful. And coincidentally, many of the recipes I’ve found for this dish, refer to it as a dessert or drink. Since I had it as a soup, I made some and modified as such to enjoy it like a hearty bowl of seasonal love.

Chicheme Soup

Okay, so the picture was one of the most difficult I’ve had to take. I intentionally didn’t beautify it. I left it blank. I want you to take my words and try to envision it. I hope I did it justice. If you’ve had this, then you already know how lovely it is. If not, I hope I intrigued you enough to try it.

It’s worth every bit of wonder you’ll experience during the entire cooking process.

I’m happy with it. It was divine. And just a wonderful new dish I can add to my repertoire of Latin foods. Until I get to Panama, I’ll start exploring more of their foods. Because if it’s like this, I want more!

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month! Stay tuned for a full week of recipes from Mexico, Columbia, Venezuela, and Cuba — yes, my own Cuba — a recipe I’ve never shared!

Panamanian Corn Soup

*This is part of an annual Hispanic Heritage Month food series, now in its 3rd year. Catch up on this years and previous delicious features: 

{ALL AROUND LATIN AMERICA} FOOD SERIES

How do you celebrate this culturally inspiring month?

Eat well, love unapologetically, pray with true intention, and take care of yourself.

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Enjoy

Panamanian Chicheme

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb of dried uncooked corn
  • 5 cups of water
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1.5 cups of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup of evaporated or coconut milk
  • 2 Tbsp. roasted corn kernels, for garnish
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup of turbunado sugar
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp. fresh ground nutmeg, divided

Method:

In large bowl, soak the corn and chill overnight. In medium saucepan, cook corn, adding salt, and stirring. Cook on medium-high for 40 minutes until kernels have softened.  Remove from heat and allow to cool, approximately 10 minutes. In small skillet, toast corn for 5 minutes, until a bit firm. In same pot, add toasted corn, stir in sugar, milk,  vanilla extract, and 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg. Stir with wooden spoon until the sugar completely dissolves.

Serve warm. Garnish with roasted corn kernels and dust some nutmeg, if desired.

8 thoughts on “{All Around Latin America} Panama: Chicheme or Sweetly Aromatic Corn & Chowder in Celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month

  1. You really made it sound delish…and I would love to try!! Totally agree it did not look appealing once I seen the pic, I said to self hmm…but the cups were pretyy. (of course).

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