Here is a really interesting recipe known in Guatemala as Jacon de Pollo. While I don’t know the literal translation; I do know that it’s a delicious dish of chicken, stewed in a tomatillo-pumpkin seed sauce.
During our month in Guatemala, we weren’t overly impressed with food options. Seeing as Mexico, home to one of the worlds greatest cuisines, is right next door; we were surprised to find that the food scene was lacking. Not to say it wasn’t around, it just wasn’t as prevalent as it’s neighbour to the North.
In San Pedro la Laguna we found a little cart on the side of a road selling grilled chicken with beans and potatoes, in Antigua some grilled meat with rice, and some delicious tortas at the market; but none of it really stood out as Guatemalan. It wasn’t until our final days in the country that we learned Guatemalans do in fact have their own cuisine, it’s just not in plain view. As it turns out, Guatemala does in fact have it’s own unique cuisine, but the processes often involve complex or long cooking processes; so they’re typically cooked at home rather than out for the public.
While the following dish isn’t overly complex, it’s certainly unique and incredibly delicious. Slow-simmered chicken in a thick green sauce of garlic, cilantro, toasted seeds, and finished with fresh lime juice; it’s one of the most interesting flavour combinations we’ve ever encountered.
Jacon de Pollo
by Kylee and Mark
2 lbs chicken, preferably legs and thighs
4 cups water
2 cups tomatillos, hulled, washed and chopped (roughly 6-8)
1 bunch cilantro (stems included)
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1-5 jalapeños, depending on your level of heat, seeds removed
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
2 slices of bread, toasted
Salt to taste
Place the chicken, water and a little salt in a pot and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until chicken is cooked.
Remove the chicken and set the broth aside. Either leave the chicken whole as we did, or wait until it’s cool enough to handle and spread the meat from the bones.
Heat a dry pan over medium heat, add pumpkin seeds and toast, stirring regularly until lightly browned. Repeat with the sesame seeds. Place the toasted seeds in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle and grind into a powder.
Add the seed powder, toasted bread, onion, garlic, jalapeños, tomatillos, green onions, and cilantro to a food processor or blender with a cup of the reserved broth. Puree until smooth, adding broth as needed. Do in batches if necessary.
Place chicken in a pot and pour puree over top; add extra broth until chicken is covered, if necessary. Stir, cover and place over medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes.
Remove from heat, add juice of one lime and season to taste.
Serve with rice or roasted potatoes, with slices of avocado and a lime wedge. Garnish with a few cilantro leaves if you’re fancy like that.
Mark is the co-founder, photographer, author, and part-time editor of These Foreign Roads. A former chef, he left the professional kitchen in search of interesting experiences and unique cuisines from around the world.