Monday, October 14, 2013

Sikil P'ak

Pumpkin carved in the style of the Maya calendar round

This is about as Mayan as you can get when it comes to Mayan cuisine and it is also one the most well known Mayan dishes, often showing up as "Mayan Pumpkin Seed Dip."  Although the traditional accompaniment to the are freshly fried tortillas pieces, or Totopos, bagged chips are fine.  It is also really good with fresh vegetable dippers.  There are endless versions of this out there; this particular one comes from and important Diana Kennedy book entitled Mexican Regional Cooking.  According to her note the Mayan ethnologist Dr. Alfredo Barrera Vasquez told her that the correct name for the dish is ha'-sikil-p'ak:  ha' or water pumpkin seed tomato in English.  It comes from the Yucatec language of what is now southern Mexico.  She also mentions that it can be used to top Lomitos, which are kind of like Mayan carnitas.  It is made with unhulled raw pumpkin seeds traditionally, but if you can't find them, make it instead with green hulled types commonly found in supermarkets (but this is a really great reason to save you pumpkin and squash seeds!).


1 cup unhulled raw pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup raw hulled pumpkin seeds
1 chile habanero, or any hot fresh green chile
2 medium tomatoes, broiled for 20 minutes
1 1/2 tsp. salt or to taste
2 heaped tbsp. chopped cilantro
2 heaped tbsp. chopped chives
2/3 cup very cold water

1.  Heat a thick frying pan or comal, and toast the unhulled seeds, turning them constantly until they are well browned and crisp (some of the seeds will pop open).  Add the hulled seeds and toast for one minute more.  Set them aside to cool.  Add the chile to the pan and toast in, turning from time to time until it  is blistered and has black spots.

2.  Using coffee/spice grind, grind the toasted seeds, together with the salt into a coarse powder (this can also be done in the traditional volcanic rock mortar and pestles that are indigenous to Mexico).  Transfer to a bowl.

3.  In a blender, blend the tomatoes briefly with 1/3 cup of cold water.  Stir this into the ground seed mixture, add the charred whole chile, cilantro and chives mix well (if you like it really hot, blend the chiles with the seeds).  Place in serving bowl.  If you mixture is really thick, add more cold water to thin it out.  Ms. Kennedy notes that it should have the consistency of mayonnaise.

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