Maya women like Marta Hernandez Boror and her mother, Maria Boror, steam this tomato and chile-based stew inside an elaborate bundle of mashan leaves (similar to plantain leaves). Since the leaves can be hard to find outside Guatemala—and the bundle is difficult to construct—a piece of banana leaf placed in a simmering pot will add a similar earthy flavor. Espinazo de cerdo, or pork spine, is traditionally used to give the stock rich flavor, but any pork or even beef bones will work. This dish is spicy, but if you want extra heat, leave the chile seeds in, like the Borors do.
On the wood-fired griddles, Maya home cooks keep ancient traditions alive with recipes even their neighbors wouldn’t recognize
- 3 lb. bone-in, skin-on chicken or hen pieces
- 1 lb. pork or beef bones
- 2 lb. pork loin, cut into 3-inch pieces
- 8 medium tomatoes (about 3 lb.), cored and quartered
- 7 small tomatillos (about 4 oz.), husked and rinsed
- 3 medium red bell peppers, chopped
- 2 dried cobanero or puya chiles (or similar), stemmed and seeded
- 2 dried guajillo chiles (or similar), stemmed and seeded
- 2 dried pasa or pasilla chiles, stemmed and seeded
- 2 dried zambo or taviche chiles (or similar), stemmed and seeded
- 1 1⁄2 tsp. kosher salt, or more to taste
- Pinch of sugar
- One 12-inch piece mashan leaf or banana leaf
- Cooked rice or corn tamales, for serving
- In a large pot, bring 3 cups water to a boil. Add the chicken and pork bones and cook 20 minutes. Add the pork loin and cook, stirring gently and adding small amounts of water occasionally if the water level gets too close to the bottom of the pot, until just tender, about 40 minutes more. Drain the cooking water (reserve for another use if desired) and return the pan with the meats back to the stove.
- Meanwhile, in a medium pot, add the tomatoes, tomatillos, red peppers, all of the chiles, salt, and sugar. Add 3 cups water, and be sure the dried chiles are submerged. Cover the pot and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let cook until the chiles are softened, about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let cool slightly.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer half the vegetable mixture to a blender; blend until mostly smooth (do not overprocess). Transfer to a large bowl and repeat with the remaining vegetables (discard the liquid left behind in the pot).
- Add the vegetable mixture and the mashan or banana leaf to the pot with the meats and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 20 minutes.
- Serve the stew with cooked rice or corn tamales.