Anytime I traveled to the Paraguayan capital, Asunción, as a Peace Corps volunteer nearly a decade ago (ack!), it seemed I would always encounter someone on a city bus selling “bombachas y algogos.” Say that out loud—bombachas y algogos—and tell me that you wouldn’t have wanted both, no matter what they were.
I’d hear “bombachas y algogos” and think of gobstoppers, pinwheels, and magic neon elixirs. The pairing of bombachas with algogos was word candy to my ears, despite the fact that the former meant underwear and latter referred to hair ties.
In Guatemala, I feel much the same way about chuchitos—the country’s take on the tamale. I crave chuchitos because I like chuchitos but also because I love their name. Say “chuchito,” and I guarantee you’ll think of chubby baby thighs. “Chuchito” even means puppy–which just adds to its delectable-ness, as far as words go.
What’s even better, though, is that eating a chuchito is as satisfying as saying chuchito. Usually served warm, they generally consist of corn masa (dough) that’s stuffed with a small piece of pork or chicken, as well as a mild tomato-chili sauce, and then wrapped in a dried corn husk. They’re steamed until the dough is cooked through. Occasionally, they’re also grilled after they’re steamed, which lends them a delicious, smoky flavor.
Chuchitos are one of Guatemala’s most ubiquitous foods. You’ll find them at street stalls and in the towel-lined wicker baskets of señoras at the local market. People eat them in the morning and at night.
In Panajachel, I buy them at the market’s busy entrance or on Santander, our town’s main drag. In Antigua, they’re sold in the plaza outside of La Merced church, as well as across the street from San Pedro church. You can get them to go, still wrapped in their husks, but I’d recommend sitting down and eating them at a street stand, if you can. A señora (and it’s always a señora) will unwrap your chuchitos for you (don’t eat the husks) and top them with more tomato sauce and sometimes a sprinkle of cheese. They’re as delicious as they are filling. And unlike bombachas y algogos, they most definitely live up to their name.