Paches is a Guatemalan dish made from mashed potato and corn flour that is mixed together into a dough and steamed within banana leaves. They are stuffed with meat, often pork or chicken, and covered in recado, a flavorful traditional Mayan tomato-based sauce. Paches will sometimes be referred to as potato tamales in English.
With a dough made from chopped potato and masa harina, Paches is a bit different from your average tamale. The potato pieces retain some of their shape within the dough, giving the Paches a chunky texture that is perfect for carrying sauce and meat with every bite.
They are also great for the first-time tamale maker, as the starchiness of the mashed potato serves to create a dough more cohesive than typical corn-flour doughs.
Paches are made with hearty ingredients and spices that are reminiscent of many other Guatemalan dishes. These potato tamales are a well-known comfort food in Guatemala and are eaten at home or bought from your favorite local street vendor.
Origin & Cultural Significance
Paches, one of the hundreds of kinds of tamales in existence, belong to a long tradition of masa (corn flour) based food in the Americas. Tamales of all kinds have existed throughout Central and South America for nearly five millennia, with many recipes’ origins being untraceable. Luckily, Paches’ origin is known and can be found in the Quetzaltenango region of Guatemala, known for its abundance of potatoes.
There is a tradition in Guatemala known as “Jueves de paches” or “Paches Thursdays”. Street vendors throughout the cities will often serve paches on Thursdays and other kinds of tamales on other days of the week.
- Banana leaves, cut into pieces (total of 12 pieces) - 1 lb
- Russet potatoes - 3 lb.
- Pork shoulder, cubed - 1 lb
- Pork lard - ¼ lb
- Masa Harina - ½ cup
- Warm water - ¾ cup
- Vegetable oil - ½ cup
- Salt - 1 tsp
- Bird's eye chiles - 6
For the sauce:
- Tomatoes, halved - 1 lb
- White onion, halved - 1
- Garlic - 3 cloves
- Pepitas - 1 tbsp
- Sesame seeds - 1 tbsp
- Guajillo chili, dried - 1
- Pasilla chili, dried - 1
- Achiote paste - 1 tbsp
- Salt - 1 tsp
- Pepper - ½ tsp
- Allspice - ½ tsp
- Cloves - ¼ tsp
- Preheat the oven to 375 F.
- Begin by starting on your sauce. Place the halved tomatoes, garlic, and onion on foil on a baking sheet. Ensure the open (cut) side is down and roast for 20-25 minutes, until the ingredients are softened and beginning to char.
- While these ingredients are roasting, take this time to prepare your banana leaves. In a large pot, boil water on medium-high.
- While the water is heating, cut 6 leaves into 13x10-inch rectangles, and six more leaves into 10x8-inch pieces.
- Once the water has begun to boil, place the cut leaves into the pot for about 2 minutes. The leaves are ready when they turn bright green. Drain and set aside to dry and cool.
- Finish preparing your other ingredients for your sauce. On a skillet over medium-high heat, toast your pepitas for 3 minutes. Toss frequently until the pepitas have turned gold. Once finished, set aside on a plate to cool.
- Pour your sesame seeds into the pan and toast for 30 seconds. Transfer to the same plate as the pepitas.
- Turn off the heat and add guajillo chiles. Toast for 15 seconds on each side. Remove chiles from the pan and put them into a bowl. Submerge in 1 cup of hot water and let steep for 10 minutes.
- In your blender, combine the roasted tomatoes, onion, garlic, seeds, guajillo chiles, and ½ of the chili water. Then add the remainder of the sauce ingredients and blend until completely smooth.
- Prepare your dough. In a large pot, peel and then boil your potatoes for 25- 30 minutes, until tender. Drain and let cool before cutting into small cubes.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine masa harina and warm water. Mix until combined. Add in the chopped potatoes, oil, and salt, and then mix on low for 1-2 minutes.
- Add about 1 cup of the sauce from before and mix at low until the dough is a uniform color. Careful not to overmix as you want to keep some of the smaller chunks of tomato in the dough.
- Assemble your paches. On a flat work surface, place the larger cut of the banana leaf down. Take a smaller banana leaf and place it in the center of the larger one. Using a spoon, scoop 1 cup of dough into the center of the smaller banana lead. Use the spoon or your fingers to shape the dough into a 6x4-inch rectangle.
- Take a chunk of pork shoulder and a bird’s eye chili and put it into the dough.
- Repeat this step until you have used all the dough, pork shoulder, and chile.
- Go back through and pour ¼ cup of the sauce onto each piece of dough and meat. It is okay if it spills over the side.
- Wrap the paches by folding the long banana leaf sides over the dough. Use this time to shape the Paches into a rectangle, similar to a tamale. Fold one short side over, and then roll upwards over the remaining side to close.
- Use twine to wrap the paches in a criss-cross shape. This will ensure that the filling stays secure and the banana leaves do not unfurl when steaming.
- In a large pot, add 3 inches of water. Place a steamer basket inside, or a wire rack if necessary. Use leftover banana leaves to create a layer in the basket or on the rack.
- Place the paches in the pot, keeping them close together. Bring the water to a high boil for 2 minutes before reducing to a simmer. Cover and steam for 1 ½ hours. Make sure to add more water every 20-30 minutes to prevent burning the pot.
- Once the paches are done cooking, carefully remove them with tongs and place them onto a dish with the seam side up. Untie the twine and open the leaves. Serve atop the banana leaves with bread and limes. Enjoy!
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1003Total Fat: 52gSaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 33gCholesterol: 116mgSodium: 1538mgCarbohydrates: 93gFiber: 11gSugar: 19gProtein: 43g
Nutrition is provided and calculated by Nutritionix. It is for general information purposes and is only a rough estimation.
Photo Credit: Luisfi on Wikimedia