This is a Mayan family in San Antonio Aguas Calientes, Guatemala. Lidia Lopez and her sisters are making tortillas to accompany a traditional meal called Pepian (also spelled Pipian.) In Guatemala, corn is served with almost every meal, often in the form of tortillas. Not only is corn commonly grown by families in rural areas, but the people of Guatemala also have a special relationship with corn dating back centuries. According to the traditional Maya religion, the gods first made men out of mud, then wood. But neither material worked. Finally, men were created from corn, and some Mayan people today still believe their flesh was once made from corn.
In Guatemala cooking is a family affair. Here is Lidia Lopez and her family making a traditional meal called Pepian. It is generally reserved for weddings or ceremonies and is served with rice and home made tortillas.
2 oz. Green Squash Seeds (Pepitoria)
2 oz. Sesame Seeds
1.5 inch cinnamon stick, broken in pieces
4-5 Roma tomatos, whole
2 oz. tomatillos
1/2 dried Guaque chile
1/2 dried Pasa chile
2 lbs. chicken, cut into pieces
1 1/2 liters water
2-3 hot dog buns (in Guatemala they use 3 pieces of ‘pan frances’ which look like hot dog buns)
Place chicken pieces in a large pot with about 1 1/2 liters of water. Cover and simmer approx. 20 mins. until chicken is done and broth is golden in color.
Dry roast the sesame seeds until slightly browned. Let them cool and do the same with the squash seeds.
Place the tomatos, cinnamon, tomatillos, and chiles on a flat, non-teflon metal roasting plate (in Guatemala they call this a ‘comal’) on a burner (preferably gas) and allow everything to roast and blacken slightly, turning occasionally so everything roasts evenly.
Pour the roasted sesame and squash seeds into a blender until finely ground, approx. 30 seconds. Add the roasted cinnamon, and peppercorns and blend for another 30 seconds. Add the wet ingredients (tomatos, tomatillos, chilies) and pieces of ‘pan frances’ (bread) and about 1 cup chicken broth. Blend until mixture is smooth, adding chicken broth or bread until the sauce is the right consistency. It should drip slowly from the spoon.
Heat a pan with a bit of oil. Remove the chicken pieces from the broth and fry for about 5 mins. or until golden in color. Place the chicken into a big pot and pour in the ‘recado’ from the blender. Simmer for about 10 mins, the sauce will darken. Add a few pinches of salt to taste. If sauce is too thin, cook a bit longer. If it is too thick, stir in more chicken broth.
Chicken is served topped with the ‘recado’ and sprinkled with remaining sesame seeds for garnish and rice and tortillas on the side.
Brown the rice kernels, diced onion, and garlic in a bit of butter and oil. Add water (2:1 ratio water to rice) and chopped vegetables. Salt to taste. Simmer until water is absorbed.