May 2011

Humintas– The Bolivians' favorite snack

It is well known among cochabambinos that humintas are a delicious appetizer or a light dinner after a big Bolivian lunch. But do you really know what kind of story the cornhusks are hiding?

Anna Mucha Joergensen
Projects Abroad volunteer
Kobenhavn - Denmark

The little package being placed in front of me at a small café well hidden from the cars and the noises in the streets looks delicious and appetizing. A smell of sweetness with a touch of spices invites me to open the little present and enjoy the tasty filling which brings me closer to an exciting culture very different from my own.

Wherever you find corn, you find humintas.

Humintas is a traditional dish in many South American countries– Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, and each country has its own customs when it comes to name and filling. In spite of that, I agree that the most important ingredients are freshly ground white corn (choclo), lard (pig fat) or just butter and fresh cheese. Apart from this, you are able to make your huminta however you want. If you prefer spicy food, salt, peppers and anise are among many options, but if you prefer sweet things (as most Bolivians seem to), sugar, cinnamon and raisins would be obvious choices.

Humintas are actually a native South American dish which has its roots in pre- Hispanic Incan times. Really, the Incas are the reason for a lot of the South American eating habits– among other things we have them to thank for the potato, which is also one of the Bolivians’ favorite foods. There are no solid facts about where and when this delicious snack was actually created, but it is known that the word ‘huminta’ derives from the word ‘jumint’a’, which has its roots in Quechua– one of the native languages of South America. As already mentioned, the main ingredient is corn, which has its origins in Mexico where, according to, today’s archeologists have found traces of corn that seem to be more than 8700 years old! Corn is a seed that, in the beginning came from a wild grass called teosinte. It has been proved that the corn we eat today was developed from this plant by humans, and that corn plants always need human care to grow.

Because the facts about humintas are almost non-existent, I decided to talk to the people surrounded by them everyday– the Cochabambinos, and finishing my interviews it turns out that the taste in humintas varies quite a lot; some like them boiled, some like them baked, some like them sweet and some like them spicy. Despite this, most of the interviewees agreed that it is the perfect snack in the afternoon, accompanied by a cup of tea.

Making humintas: (

Makes 10 - 12 humintas
8 ears of corn
¼ cup of lard or vegetable shortening
2 teaspoons of salt
( tablespoon milk)
(Your favorite filling – sugar, raisins, anise,
onions, peppers, whatever you prefer)

They are relatively easy to make, but as a Cochabambino told me it is also easy to find them in one of the many stalls selling humintas along the streets, and especially on 25 de Mayo – maybe that is why they have become one of the Bolivians’ favorite fastfoods. I think I might have to stop by on my way home for a snack!

The first step is to carefully remove the husks from the corn, trying to keep them as intact as possible. You will use these husks later to wrap up the filling.

Strip the kernels from the corn and save the corn cobs.

Place the corn cobs in a large pot, so that they cover the bottom. Add about an inch of water to the pot, without covering the cobs. Place the corn in a blender with the salt, and process until smooth. If the corn is too dry, add a little bit of milk. When thickened, pour the mixture into a heatproof bowl.

Melt the lard in a skillet until very hot and add it to the corn mixture slowly while stirring. Add the corn mixture and the chosen filling back to the skillet and cook over medium heat for five minutes.

To tie up the humintas, use two corn husks. Place about four tablespoons of filling in the middle of the first one, and then lay the second one crosswise on top. Fold the flaps under and over to make a square package. Tie up the corn husk package with string, or with a thin strip of corn husk. Place the humintas on top of the corn cobs in the pot. Cover them with any extra corn husks and the lid of the pot, and steam for about 30 minutes. Keep the water at a low boil.

Remove from heat. Let cool and serve.

Thoughts about the road traffic in Cochabamba

I come from Italy, and I believed that I had seen some of the worst road traffic in the world. However, I see that our drivers would still be able to learn something here about road indiscipline. Since here in Bolivia I am only a poor pedestrian, this increases a lot of the problems, and it makes you much less sympathetic towards the local drivers, as well as underlining the real or potential dangers.

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