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Colada morada is a thick sweet beverage traditionally drink for The Day of the Dead, November 2, but its not restricted to that only day because you can usually find it a couple of weeks before and after in all cafes and restaurants in Ecuador.
Its very distinctive deep purple color comes from the many red fruits, herbs and flours it has. Its an old Andean recipe that has lasted through generations although it disappeared in pre-Hispanic times and was then renewed by Spaniard priests.
In the beginning, the Incas used to mummify their dead and in November, on the celebration of Aya Marcay Quilla, which means the “month to carry with the dead”, relatives visited the tombs of their loved ones to take out their bodies, bath them and dress in their best clothes. Then family and deceased “walked” through the city in the middle of chants, dances and prayers. The ritual culminated with a very special meal: the elaboration and consumption of the “chicha morada” along with some eatable corn figurines. This ceremony was performed in order to keep those who are no longer alive in memory.
With the Spaniards conquest, the priests banned these types of ceremonies and rituals but over the years they were replaced or adapted to their catholic celebrations. Thus, the Aya Marcay Quilla was replaced by The Day of the Dead and so the recipe was also modified with some new ingredients. Blackberry, Andean berries, purple flour and sugar cane were incorporated into the local cuisine adding a new touch to this millenary drink.
Now a days, the preparation of the colada morada involves a dynamic process where the whole family gathers for its elaboration. The essential ingredients are: Andean berry, blackberry, strawberry, pineapple, “babaco”, passion fruit, “guava”, cinnamon, cloves, sweet pepper, purple flour, panela, cedar leaves, lemongrass, orange, amaranth, myrtle and ishpingo, cinammon flowers.
Being the official beverage for an ancestral representation of the life and dead cycles, it doesn’t come alone. Colada Morada is often served along with an special bread called the “Guagua de pan”, sweet bread rolls made in the shape of a baby. Guagua means baby in kichwa and pan is bread in spanish and they often come with many different fillings in the middle such as chocolate or fruit jellies.
Start by sifting the purple cornmeal through a fine sieve. The flour is soaked in warm water avoiding the formation of lumps. In a pot, boil blackberries, Andean berries, guavas and orange, then liquify them and sieve. Fill another pot with two liters of water, brown sugar, aromatic herbs and pineapple peels, then boil. Subsequently, this preparation is sieved and mixed with the orange and blackberry juices. Chopped fruits such as strawberries, pineapple and “babaco” should be cooked with sugar until they are turned into syrup. All these preparations should be boiled in a large pot and constantly stir to ensure that the flour is cooked.
This classic combo: Colada Morada + Guagua de pan, is a tradition that carries the flavors of the past not only for the ancestry on its elaboration but also for the conscious meaning of its consumption, the family gathered all together in memory of the loved ones that has already passed away. This holiday, take the time to enjoy this Ecuadorian drink and share with your family the sweet memory of those who are gone.