Used in powdered form to accompany Dzotobichay (a Yucatecan tamal made with Chaya and egg), in a paste to flavor Papadzules, or as a snack in delicious Sikil Pak. You guessed it! We’re talking about the pumpkin seed known locally as Pepita, present in some of Yucatán’s most emblematic dishes.
For thousands of years, pumpkin, maize, and beans have formed the trifecta of the Maya diet. Pumpkin and its seeds are a natural source of healthy fats and proteins and have been included in traditional dishes that continue to delight locals and visitors alike today.
In Yucatán, two types of pumpkin are commonly cultivated: the small-seeded pumpkin, and the thick seeded pumpkin. The small-seeded pumpkin, known as Xmejen K´úum (“small pumpkin” in Maya) is harvested between July and October so that the small seeds are available in November and December. The seeds are toasted, ground, and then used in dishes such as Sikil Pak – a traditional dip and one of the oldest dishes in Yucatecan cuisine. And we’re going to tell you just how you can enjoy it at home.
Sikil Pak, means “seeds and tomato” in Maya. It’s a creamy dip made from these two ingredients and has a unique, smoky flavor that comes from the toasted Pepita. It’s a very popular appetizer because it’s not only delicious, it’s also very easy to make. Sikil Pak is commonly served at restaurants and bars with a side of corn Tostadas while you wait for your main meal to arrive. When you buy Pepita in powder form, you will immediately notice its distinct fragrance and its grey-brown color. It is also easily found as a green paste. Both presentations are inexpensive and readily available at local markets.
Ready for that recipe? To make Sikil Pak, you’ll need two tomatoes, a couple handfuls of ground Pepita, some chopped onion, cilantro, and salt to taste. To start, roast the tomatoes until they’re soft and the skin can be easily removed. Blend the roasted tomatoes with salt and a little water and add the Pepita powder in little by little. Then mix in the cilantro and chopped onion. You should have a paste-like consistency and can add habanero chile and more salt to taste. Garnish the Sikil Pak with extra cilantro leaves and chives, and serve with corn Tostadas.
Now you’re ready to enjoy Pepita in one of its many presentations. Buen Provecho!
Editorial by Violeta H. Cantarell
“Meridana,” traveler, animal lover, passionate reader, commentator, and enthusiastic promoter of the natural and human beauty of Yucatán.
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