This ancestral Mayan turkey, tomatillo and annatto-seed soup is
as faithful to pre-Hispanic Latin American cuisine as it gets, the
startling red hue evoking the blood of ancient sacrificial rites.

Kak’ik is the dish time forgot: unchanged from when the Q’eqchi’ Maya, Guatemala’s largest ethnic group, were cooking it a millennia back. Several ingredients, like the tomatillos and the guaque/ pasilla chillies, herald from the Mexican part of Mayan civilisation, but true kak’ik concocted in its home (Alta Verapaz’s capital, Cobán) utilises smoky chiles cobaneros (Cobán chillies).

You’ll need
7 tomatoes, whole
225g (8oz) tomatillos, whole
3 medium red peppers,
seeded and roughly
1 onion, peeled and roughly
1 guaque chilli
1 pasilla chilli
6 Cobán chillies
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
4 cups (1L) chicken stock
1 tbs annatto-seed paste
1.5kg (3½lb) turkey legs
(approx 3)
Salt and pepper
1 bunch of spring onion stalks
1 bunch of fresh coriander
(cilantro), chopped
Handful of mint leaves,
chopped to garnish

Cooking Method
1 To make the red sauce: place the tomatoes, tomatillos, red peppers, onion, four cloves of garlic, and the guaque, pasilla and Cobán chillies under a hot grill. Cook the vegetables until brown and beginning to char.
2 Blend the browned vegetables and the chillies, thinning the mixture if necessary with a little chicken stock (¼ cup or 60mL). Add the annatto-seed paste and blend again. Strain and set to one side.
3 Put the turkey legs in a pot with enough chicken stock to cover each leg. Add one teaspoon of salt and the remaining two garlic cloves.
4 Cover and cook for about 1 hour on a lowmedium heat until the turkey is tender.
5 Add the spring onions and half the coriander to the pot after 30 minutes.
6 When the turkey is cooked, remove the spring onions and add the red sauce. Stir well.
7 Add the rest of the chopped coriander and bring slowly to the boil. Reduce the heat to low-medium, and cook for another 30 minutes.
8 Season as desired with salt and pepper. Add mint to garnish.

Tasting notes
Visit the rudimentary back-street Mayan kitchens and street-side stalls for the very best kak’ik. Preparation begins with the traditional killing, smoking, boiling and plucking of the turkey. Then there’s the assembly of the vegetables: the reds (peppers, tomatoes), the greens (tomatillos) and a rainbow of chillies. Cobbled together, the resulting broth should be russet red-orange, achieved by slow roasting and the addition of annatto-seed paste. Kak’ik is as hot as its colour suggests. The ‘ik’ (spiciness) hits you in a four-flanked attack of the three chillies followed by the pepperiness of the annatto seeds, complementing the citrus tang of the tomatillos. A broth is velvety, with the turkey leg falling off your spoon in softened tomato and chilli infused morsels.

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