Today, we are headed to the peninsula of Yucatán, in Mexico, for papadzules, a kind of enchiladas.
Papadzules are fried corn tortillas, dipped in roasted squash seed sauce, topped with hard-boiled eggs and served with a tomato sauce with onion and habanero pepper.
It is a typical dish of Mayan cuisine, probably the oldest traditional dish of Yucatán.
The cuisine of this part of Mexico is indeed based on Mayan food and culture, one of the oldest civilizations in America that occupied a territory centered on the Yucatán Peninsula during the pre-Columbian era. As in many parts of Mexico, corn is the staple food. The Mayans considered it a divine plant, a symbol of life and resurrection. According to their beliefs, the gods would have shaped men with corn.
Calabaza pepita gruesa
In Yucatán, the squash seeds used for papadzules traditionally come from a specific type of cucurbit, the Mexican squash or cucurbita argyrosperma (subspecies sororia and argyrosperma). Its seeds are named pepita gruesa in Spanish. They have a characteristic taste.
This squash is named “Ark of taste” by the Slow Food movement, which maintains an international catalogue of endangered heritage foods. And indeed, although its production persists, its culture is still threatened as it is replaced by more commercial varieties that do not have the same flavor.
The ripe fruit being very fibrous, it is mainly produced for its seeds, which are roasted and used to make sauces like pipián de carne and mole verde. However, flowers and young shoots that are still green are consumed.
It is produced traditionally on a model of agroecology called milpa, an ancestral method of agriculture from the Mayans and other Mesoamerican peoples, which involves combining corn, climbing beans and squash. These three plants (the three sisters) will complement each other and help each other grow. For example, corn serves as a guardian for beans, which binds the nitrogen needed by plants in the soil, and squash, with their foliage, help conserve moisture in the soil while reducing weeds.
Recado de pepita
Recados are seasoning pastes in Mexican cuisine. For papadzules, the paste is made from pumpkin seeds. They are first roasted to bring their aroma out, then ground.
To obtain a good sauce, grind the seeds until the oil comes out on the surface. It may take a little while. At the beginning of the process, you will get a powder that will clump on the edges after a few minutes. You will need to continue grinding while taking breaks from time to time to scrape the edges. The paste should become creamy and oily (shiny) on the surface. It can be prepared in advance and stored in the refrigerator for a few days.
The habanero pepper, originally from Mexico, is part of the pepper family Capsicum chinense, the family of the most pungent peppers, 10 out of 10 on the Scoville scale! Do not hesitate to wear gloves and protect your eyes when you cut it. Some may know it as Caribbean pepper. It has the shape of a bishop’s cap or a small lantern.
It is certainly spicy but also very tasty and fruity. Under the spiciness, you may find notes of mandarin, apricot, orange blossom and passion fruit. To prepare it, you will need to remove the seeds and the white membrane.
What is epazote?
Originally from Mexico and Central America, the epazote or chenopodium ambrosioides, commonly called wormseed, Jesuit’s tea, or Mexican-tea, is of the same family as spinach.
With cilantro, it is one of the most used herbs in Mexican cuisine. It flavors soups, moles and tamales. It adds a characteristic rustic note. It has large serrated leaves with a powerful, pungent and slightly lemony, minty and camphor flavor. It is eaten fresh or dried.
It is also used as a medicinal plant, particularly for its deworming properties since it eliminates most parasitic worms from the digestive system. It is often associated with dry beans because it reduces the flatulence caused by these legumes.
However, you should not have too much of it as its essential oil is toxic in high doses. So avoid the seeds and flower stalks, that are more concentrated in essential oil than the leaves, and as a precaution, pregnant women should avoid it.
Unfortunately, fresh epazote is very hard to find outside the American continent unless you grow it in your garden. Some replace it with parsley, bay leaves and fresh cilantro leaves.
Papadzules are very easy to prepare. You can prepare the sauces ahead of time and assemble the dish at the last moment.
It is original and just delicious! The salsa chiltomate is the perfect complement to the pepitas sauce.
- 12 oz. pumpkin seeds , toasted and ground
- 1 sprig epazote (Mexican tea), chopped
- 2 cups salted water
- 24 corn tortillas
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 12 hard-boiled eggs , grated
- 4 tomatoes
- 1 habanero pepper
- 2 onions , chopped
- 2 tablespoons corn oil
Dip the tomatoes in a large volume of boiling water for 10 minutes. Drain.
- Peel and seed the tomatoes. Set aside.
- In a skillet, heat the corn oil and fry the chopped onions for a few minutes over medium heat, without burning.
- Mix the tomatoes and chili peppers.
- Incorporate to the onion mixture. Season with salt and pepper.
- Boil the epazote in salted water for 10 minutes.
- Add the pumpkin seeds to a salad bowl and pour over the cooking water (with the épazote) to obtain a thick sauce.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat.
- Fry the tortillas on both sides until golden brown, making sure that they are still easy to fold.
- Take 3 tablespoons of grated hard-boiled eggs and set them aside.
- Dip the tortillas in the pumpkin seed sauce.
- Add some grated hard-boiled eggs in the center of each, roll them and place in a serving dish.
- Pour over the salsa chiltomate.
- Sprinkle the reserved grated hard boiled eggs on top.
Papadzules are often served with pickled red onions.