Perfect Papadzules

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Discover how to make Papadzules – a traditional dish from Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula

PAPADZULES
Chopped egg enchiladas
Chef // Mariana Huchin Ake
Location // Cocina Mary, Mérida

Papadzules are essentially a type of enchilada – here, the tortillas are filled with chopped hard-boiled egg and drenched in a rich, creamy sauce made from ground pepitas, the prized green pumpkinseeds of the Yucatán.

Papadzules, at least by etymology, are Mayan, and can be written papatzul, papasul, papak-tsul, or papak-sul. The dish is one of the champions of Yucatecan gastronomy, and while it is a unique variation in the enchilada canon, it’s a commonplace dish served at almost every sit-down restaurant in Mérida.

The sauce is made with pepitas, the green hearts of the white, fibrous pumpkinseed, mined from the centres of the local variety of pumpkin, xka’al. When ground and pressed, the seeds generate rivulets of jade-like oil that is often drizzled over top of the dish. Cocina Mary, an open-air puesto (street stand) in the Santa Ana Square of Mérida, has been in operation for over 30 years and turns out a superlative version of papadzules.

It is among the dozen or so small, casual restaurants that serve similar dishes in the shadow of a sunflower-yellow chapel flanked by palm trees. In a shoebox of a space, a collective of women work together – chef Mariana Huchin Ake tends the kitchen, chatting with manager Madeline El Kal about the day’s orders.

Most of the employees have been with Cocina Mary for over a decade. In the early morning, light already fierce, waiters flap their menus at passersby, trying to lure them with their offerings. Families in plastic red chairs at oil-cloth covered tables settle in for caldos (broth) and plates of eggs, as waiters ferry over goblets of agua de chaya (a spinach-like green juice) and fruit licuados (juices).

Egg-stuffed papadzules makes an excellent breakfast. It’s possible that the dish was made in pre-Hispanic times, with the eggs from quails, ducks, or even iguanas, but chicken eggs – ubiquitous, cheap sources of protein, are the basis for most papadzules throughout the region. The pastel green sauce, creamy without cream, nutty and mild, is a balm for the nerves when they’ve been rubbed raw by too much sun or prickling chiles. But note – you can always dial up the heat with a splash of the roasted Habanero and sour orange condiment, which sits on every table. It’s as loose as juice and one hundred times spicier.

Serves 4
Preparation & cooking time 40 min

Ingredients
8 eggs
4 medium tomatoes, chopped
½ small white onion, peeled & chopped
1 tbsp water (or chicken stock), for blending
salt, to taste
1 Habanero chile, whole
300g (10½oz) pepitas (shelled green pumpkinseeds)
1L (1¾ pint) chicken stock (or water)
1 sprig epazote (or coriander/cilantro, if unavailable)
16 corn tortillas

1. Put the eggs in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil on a medium-high heat and cook for eight to 10 minutes, until hard-boiled. When cool, crack, peel, and chop the eggs. Set aside until ready to use.

2. Make the tomato sauce by blending the tomatoes, onion, and a splash of water or stock in a blender until smooth.

3. Strain the tomato sauce into a pot and bring to a simmer. Season with salt.

4. Slip the Habanero chile into the tomato sauce and let simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reserve and keep warm until ready to use.

5. Make the pumpkinseed sauce by bringing the pepitas to a boil with the stock (or water) and sprig of epazote. Simmer for 10 minutes and then puree the sauce in a blender with salt to season. The sauce should be thickish and creamy; if it is too loose, reduce it a bit on the stovetop over medium heat, stirring constantly. If too thick, loosen with a bit of water.

6. Warm the tortillas on the stovetop or in a microwave.

7. Fill each tortilla with a tablespoon or two of the chopped egg, and roll up. Serve four tortillas to a plate with the pumpkinseed sauce poured over the top, a bit of the tomato sauce and a little hardboiled egg.

Tip
‘Make sure the Habanero simmers in the sauce gently. You just want its essence.’
Mariana Huchin Ake

 

Reproduced with permission from From the Source Mexico, © 2017 Lonely Planet, www.lonelyplanet.com.

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