I have read that Pepian is Guatemala’s national dish and after feasting on a few bowls of it I can see why. Tomatoes, chiles and a bunch of other ingredients are charred (ideally over a wood fire) before being cooked off with chicken, pork or beef (or all three). It’s smokey, a touch spicey and delicious. We spent two weeks recently staying in a family homestay in Guatemala and this recipe comes from the amazing family cook Sandra Elizabeth, or more correctly from her mum.
1 kg chicken (I prefer either leg or thigh with bone in but you can use whatever you like)
1 cup chicken stock
Whole bunch of coriander (including cleaned roots)
2 chile guaque, seeds and stems removed**
2 chile pasa, seeds and stems removed**
100g pumpkin seeds
Pinch of sesame seeds
1 cinnamon quill
1kg fresh roma tomatoes
100g mil tomatillos
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced into a large cubes
1 medium onion, cut in quarters
2 cloves garlic
1 cup breadcrumbs (a few slices of day old bread will do)
Salt and pepper to taste
- Grill the tomatoes, tomatillos and onions over an open flame until charred on the outside (ideally over a BBQ but you can also use the hob on your stove)
- Dry fry chiles, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and cinnamon until just smoking. Always keep the spices moving in the pan so as not to burn them.
- Bring 2L of water to boil in a large pot, reduce to a simmer and then poach the chicken with the coriander and the potatoes for 30-40mins until the chicken is just cooked. If the potatoes need a little longer leave them until cooked. Remove both the chicken and potatoes and set aside.
- Take half the poaching liquor from the chicken plus the chicken stock and then blend with the charred tomatoes, tomatillos, onion, garlic, chiles and spices in a food processor. When combined to a smooth sauce add to a pot over medium heat.
- Blend the breadcrumbs with a cup of the chicken poaching liquor and add to the sauce
- Add the poached chicken and the potatoes to the sauce and then cook everything together over a medium heat for 20-30 mins until the sauce is reduced by a quarter.
- Add salt and pepper to taste
- Serve with steamed rice and tortillas
*DISCLAIMER: We’re still on the road so recipe is yet to be tested. We’ll get to it as soon as we can. Any feedback welcome.
**NOTE: Chile Guaque and Chile Pasa are different varieties of Guatemalan chile which are found in most markets in dried form. Guaques are black and Pasas are a very deep red colour. If you want a spicier Pepian you can leave the seeds in, otherwise remove them.