You know how sometimes you get cravings for greasy food? At least a few times a year I get cravings for salchipapas or French fries with sausage, which are extremely greasy, unhealthy, but so tasty. It all started at a place in the city of Loja called Soda Bar, a small salchipapa snack bar that was always packed; it had the best location: right on the corner of the Plaza Santo Domingo, a park where high school students (including yours truly) loved to hang out, it was also right around the corner from the only movie theater in the city and basically within blocks of three major high schools (La Inmaculada, Marianitas and La Dolorosa). I don’t think there is anyone in Loja who was in high school or college during the 80s or 90s that didn’t set foot in the Soda Bar and whose mouth doesn’t water remembering the taste of the “papas del Soda”; ah, these salchipapas were our drug, I’m not joking, I had friends who would pawn their jewelry at the Soda Bar in exchange for their delicious salchipapas.
The fries and sausages were cooked right in front of you and then served stuffed in plastic cups with a toothpick on top. While there were a lot of places to get salchipapas in Loja, the Soda Bar was the most popular because of the amazing sauce that was drizzled on top of the fries, it was good that everyone always ordered double sauce and once the fries and sausages were all gone you lifted up the cup and drank every single sip of that sauce. Most places usually serve salchipapas with mayonnaise and ketchup, either separate or mixed together and called salsa rosada or salsa golf, the sauce from the Soda Bar was a type of salsa rosada, but they made it entirely from scratch, using fresh tomatoes instead of ketchup, and it was a very liquid sauce, no one really knew how they made the sauce, apparently it was a secret, and as much as my friends and I experimented together we couldn’t get it just right, so I’ve been trying to replicate this sauce for a long time and it’s good, if you’ve ever had the “papas del Soda” it will remind you of it, but it still isn’t an exact replica. Every time I make this salsa rosada I know that something is missing and I can almost taste the missing ingredient, but I just can’t figure it out, then I stop trying to figure it out and just enjoy my salchipapas with my version of the salsa del Soda; though since I always add hot sauce or aji to my fries I’ve been tempted to just throw in a hot pepper, I think it would make the sauce even better, but right now that feels a little sacrilegious and I can’t bring myself to defile my memories of the salsa del Soda, but my husband who doesn’t share my salsa del Soda devotion thinks it would be a great idea.
There was another restaurant that also had memorable salchipapas, I’m not sure of the actual name of the place (even though it was right next door to my high school) but we called it “las papas de la Gorda”, these were also delicious, and while they didn’t have the special sauce their fries were very nice and thick and always with a curtido de cebolla and tomate or a pickled red onion and tomato salsa, which I’ve incorporated into my salchipapas. I also recommend eating these with some good spicy hot sauce and a nice cold beer. I probably don’t even need to say this, but your kids will love salchipapas and will think you are the best mom ever for making these (but the nutritionist will disagree). Happy Mother’s Day!
Salchipapas (for about 4 people – 1 potato and sausage per person)
4 large Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into thin or thick fries depending on your preference
4 hot dog sausages, cut in half or whole, with crosswise cuts on the ends
Canola oil for frying
Salt to taste
Serve with: salsa rosada del soda (recipe below), curtido de cebolla y tomate and some spicy hot sauce or aji.
Salsa rosada del Soda (for about 2 ½ cups of sauce)
2 tbs diced white onion
4 tbs lime juice
¾ cup to 1 cup sunflower oil
1 tbs milk
8 roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
Salt to taste
Optional (and only if you dare to mess with the pursuit of figuring out how to make the real salsa del Soda) – 1 or 2 red chili peppers, seeded
Salsa rosada del Soda
- Prepare a basic mayonnaise by blending the egg, diced onion, and lime juice until the onions are completely crushed.
- Continue blending and add the oil slowly until the mayonnaise begins to thicken, but don’t let it get as thick as you would if making regular mayonnaise, the consistency should be almost like a sauce.
- Add salt to taste and the milk, which is added to mayonnaise to help it keep a white color.
- Remove the mayonnaise, you don’t need to remove it all, just most of it, and add the diced tomatoes (and hot peppers if you dare) to the blender.
- Blend the tomatoes until well pureed, begin adding back the mayonnaise and blend well, the sauce should be very liquid. Taste and add salt if needed.
- Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Soak the potatoes in cold water for at least 30 minutes.
- Drain and dry the potatoes, meanwhile heat the canola oil to 325 F in a deep fryer or deep sauté pan.
- Add the potatoes and cook until they are tender, but don’t let them get any color, about 10 minutes depending on their thickness.
- Remove the fries and place them on top of paper towels to drain the grease and let them cool down for at least an hour.
- Re-heat the oil to 375 F and add the fries, cook until they are golden and crispy, about 5 minutes.
- Fry the sausages separately or add them during the last 3 minutes of cooking of the French fries.
- Transfer to paper towels to drain the grease and serve immediately with the salsa rosada and curtido.