The more I cook and learn about Colombian cooking the more I find out that I love soups from the Altiplano Cundiboyacense area of the country (Cundinamarca and Boyacá departments). It’s those kinds of soup that don’t have a lot of seasoning because they get all their flavor from the rest of the ingredients, specially the amount and variety of potatoes that are used to make them.
Cuchuco de trigo con espinazo or bulgur wheat and pork spine soup is one of those soups that I really love, as much as ajiaco. The flavor it gets from the pork spine, the potatoes and vegetables is incredible and you only season it with salt and pepper, nothing more. The bulgur wheat is mainly used to give the soup texture and it goes surprisingly well with all the other ingredients.
In the US you will find cuchuco as “bulgur wheat” and it is sold at many natural grocery stores like Whole foods or in the natural/health section of most grocery stores. So, trust me that will easily find it if you look for it under that name.
As for the pork spine, it is a bit more difficult to find, or at least the same way you get it in Colombia, with bones and lots of meat. In that case you can do what I do and buy pork neck bones, which don’t have a lot of meat on them, and then buy the rest of the pork meat separately. Pork shoulder or pork butt works really well because it’s easy to shred after it’s cooked.
Fava beans are also very hard to find so use any good substitute like lima beans, edamame or butterbeans.
Colombian Bulgur Wheat & Pork Spine Soup (Cuchuco de Trigo Con Espinazo)
- 10 cups (About 2¼ liters) water
- ½ cup (25 g) cilantro, whole
- 2 green onions, stalks only
- 2 garlic cloves, whole
- 1½ lb of pork spine with meat or a combination of pork neck bones and pork shoulder (I use about 2-3 neck bones)
- ½ cup (4 oz) bulgur wheat
- 3-4 medium red potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
- ½ cup (75 g or 4 oz) diced carrots
- ½ cup (75 g or 4 oz) sweet peas (I use frozen)
- ½ cup (75 g or 4 oz) fava beans (You can also use lima beans, edamame or butter beans) (I use canned)
- 7 small creole potatoes or yellow potatoes, whole and unpeeled
- 4 green cabbage leaves cut into thin strips
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fill a large pot with the water. Add the pork bones, pork meat, cilantro, green onions and garlic. Bring it to a boil on high heat, then lower it to low-medium low and cook for about 35-45 minutes or until the meat is tender. Optional: Place the cilantro, green onion and garlic inside a cheesecloth. Tie all four corners together to make a bundle. This will make it easier to remove the cilantro, onion and garlic from the soup.
- Remove the cilantro, green onions and garlic. Add the bulgur wheat and cook for 15 minutes.
- Add the red potatoes, carrots, peas and fava beans and cook until the soup thickens which can take about 15-20 minutes. Tip: I have been adding one whole red potato grated to the soup to add thickness and it has worked really well.
- Now add the creole potatoes or yellow potatoes, the strips of cabbage and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another 20 minutes, stirring often.
- Remove all pork from the pot and shred the pork meat. Serve the soup with a handful of shredded pork on top.