Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Fanesca - Wednesday Facts

Today is Wednesday. It's no Friday but it's not Monday, either.

To honor the fact that we are in the middle of week, I will tell you five facts of life, about me or someone else, faith, world and existence in general.

And what I want from you, my readers?

I want to know about you! 

Leave me your facts, so I can enjoy reading them!

They can also be about you, your life or anything you find fascinating in this world or in the world beyond.
By Micah Yoder (Transfered from [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

To honor Semana Santa, or Easter week, as it is know outside of the Spanish speaking world, I wanted to tell you a little about fanesca.
1. Fanesca is a very traditional soup or chowder from Ecuador.

It is typically prepared and served only in the week before Easter (Holy Week) and eaten by households and communities during the Holy Week.

The making and eating of fanesca is considered a social or family activity where everyone from the extended family participate in some form.

The components of fanesca and its method of preparation vary regionally, or even from one family to another.

2. Fanesca contains a variety of different grains, some of which are found only in the Andean highlands of South America, and in general it is made with fresh grains.

The primary ingredients are figleaf gourd (sambo), pumpkin (zapallo), and twelve different kinds of beans and grains including chochos (lupines), habas (fava beans), lentils, peas, corn and others, together with bacalao (salt cod) cooked in milk.

The twelve beans represent the twelve apostles of Jesus, and the fish is symbolic of Jesus himself.

The soup does not contain any meat due to the Catholic religious prohibition against red meat during Holy Week.

Ecuador has an amazing variety of beans and unlike other places you can get these beans fresh, most of the time in the pods.

And when you peel them and cook them, the taste of cooked fresh beans is unbeatable.

Fanesca is usually consumed at midday, which is generally the principal meal of the day within Ecuadorian culture.
Pealing peas at the Farmer's Market.
3. Families have their own unique recipes for fanesca, which is labor intensive to prepare and involves lots of peeling and shelling of beans, soaking of salt cod, and cooking many ingredients separately before they can be added to the soup.

Everything is done from the beginning to end by hand, nothing is bought done, or premade for the traditional fanesca.

As Good Friday approaches the children of the family often act as assistant peelers and soakers and washers and choppers.

This soup can be quite complex to make as it involves several different steps.

Most of the ingredients are cooked separately and added together later on, meaning that preparing fanesca takes a long time.

Families spend days preparing everything for fanesca.

4. Side dishes are very important and this soup must be served with slices of hardboiled eggs, fried ripe plantains, slices of queso fresco, slices of hot peppers or a good Ecuadorian hot sauce, white onions marinated in lime juice, and empanadas de viento or fried empanadas.

These last empanadas are sometimes replaced by masitas or just the empanada dough shaped into small balls and fried. 

It is also generally garnished with hard boiled eggs, fried plantains, herbs, parsley, and sometimes empanadas.

Which you can find floating on top—or, more likely, lying on top, since this is a marginally liquid bowl of soup.

Fanesca is usually followed a dish of Ecuadorian mashed potatoes called molo.

Ecuadorians love their fanesca and can eat incredible amounts of it.
Two indigenous women peal different kinds of beans at the Farmer's Market.
 5. According to historians, the tradition to prepare fanesca comes from precolonial times when the indigenous people of the area used to celebrate Mushuk Nina (New Fire’s Day) around the March.

During this festivity they would cook different kinds of fresh beans with Andean squash, as a harvest celebration.

Mushuk Nina was originally celebration for the Spring Equinox and was later on known as Uchukuta.

Uchukuta comes from Kichwa, meaning a dish made of chili pepper cooked with different kinds of beans.

During the Spanish reign the Catholic Spaniard combined the Catholic symbols and beliefs with the indigenous elements, creating the cultural synchronism that exists in the actual Ecuador.

Here is an excellent fanesca recipe in T’s Tasty Bits blog, if you would like to try your hand in preparing this delicious and traditional Ecuadorian dish.


  1. The history and background of this soup is VERY interesting. I would like to try some one day if I ever have the chance...I'm just a little apprehensive about the cod part because I don't know how I feel about fish in soup. After reading your post, I have a taste for empanadas now.

    1. The cod is optional, Yona. It is added to the soup when it is in the plate, after cooking. So you don't necessarily get any flavor from it. Everyone always asks here do you want the fanesca with cod or without. Because not everyone likes it.

  2. Wow loads of history behind this soup. I love reading your posts! I learn such much every time I visit. The culture and history is rich and flavorful!

  3. I would so love to visit Ecuador. That soup sounds so interesting!

    1. I hope you'll come. This is a geourgeous country. And so interesting, full of adventure and history. I love it here :)

  4. This looks like such an interesting soup! I would love to try it.

  5. I have never heard of this soup before!! I want to try it now!!

  6. Very interesting history and tradition. looking at the marketplace photo reminds me of my hometown in the Philippines. :)
    Semana Santa is also observed back home.
    We have heritage from Spanish colonization. Filipino language has Spanish words. Because majority of the people in my country are Catholic, Fiestas are celebrated also.

    1. There must be very similar traditions both in Ecuador and Philippines. But there are always things that are older than the Catholic faith and the influence of Spanish, which will be very different. I would love to visit Philippines to see everything myself, everything I have heard, and seen and read about it sounds so fascinating!

  7. I was catholic most of my childhood, growing up in the Dominican Republic, so I understand all the rituals of Holy Week. I really loved the picture of "pealing peas" and I'm wondering whether those are gandules, because those are my most favorite! Great job!

    1. They are called alverjas here Elayna, I think it's the same thing but I'm not absolutely sure. Have a wonderful Easter!

  8. I'm just enjoying my Passover this week