Salsa Xnipec

Salsa Xnipec

Xnipec means ‘the dog’s nose’ in Mayan so prepare for
some nose-tingling snuffles after tasting this fiery salsa made
from blazing-hot habañeros blitzed with sour citrus juice!

Xnipec has been prepared in the Yucatán peninsula for over 8000 years, since the first habañero peppers were grown domestically. Habañeros come from the Amazonia region in South America and it is believed they reached Mexico via Cuba (hence the name habañero for Habana, the capital). Their scientific name, however, is Capsicum chinense thanks to a Dutch botanist named Nikolaus J von Jacquin, who mistakenly believed they originated in China.


You’ll need
4–5 habañero peppers
⅔ cup (170mL) sour orange
juice or use a combination
of lime juice, lime zest and
grapefruit juice
¼ cup fresh coriander leaves
(cilantro), chopped
Salt to taste
Tip Use this spicy table condiment over scrambled eggs, grilled meats, rice and beans, and, why not, a good slice of pizza.

Cooking Method
1 Over an open flame on the stove or a barbecue, roast the habañeros until the skin blackens. In Yucatán cooks often roast the habañeros by placing them directly over hot charcoal coals.
2 Using a pestle and mortar, crush the habañeros, adding enough juice to make a salsa. Add the coriander and salt to taste.
3 Adjust the seasoning and let it rest for half an hour or so.

Tasting notes
Xnipec goes best with food from the Yucatán region. At the Lucas de Vargas Market in Mérida, people sprinkle xnipec over freshly made panuchos (black-bean-stuffed tortillas topped with chicken or turkey),and tacos with cochinita pibil (slow-roasted, marinated pork, sour oranges and annatto seeds wrapped in banana leaves). Although the kick can be extreme, it is tamed with pickled red onions, which provide a cool contrast. Luckily, you don’t have to travel far to get a xnipec hit – if you can find habañeros then you can easily make your own. But beware, xnipec is not for the faint of heart and if you go too far you may find your nose getting as wet as your dog’s!

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