Braised Pork With Sesame and Pumpkin Seed Sauce (Choc’a)

  • Serves

    serves 6

  • Cook

    2 hours 50 minutes


By Francisca Siquaná de Cotoc

Published on May 17, 2017

This obscure regional dish can be tracked down only in the agricultural valley town of Almolonga in Guatemala. Adapted from a village native, Francisca Siquaná de Cotoc (who insists that a food processor could never achieve the same texture as grinding seeds by hand), this recipe is meat-focused, but its creamy, nutty sauce would pair well with any cooked vegetable. The level of spice will vary depending on the type of dried chiles used.

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  • 4 lb. trimmed boneless pork shoulder, cut into 3-inch chunks
  • 10 medium tomatoes (2 1/2 lb.)
  • 1 medium white onion, quartered
  • 1 tbsp. plus 1/4 tsp. kosher salt, or more to taste
  • 34 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sesame seeds (4 oz.)
  • 34 cup pumpkin seeds (4 oz.)
  • 7 black peppercorns
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 2 dried guajillo chiles, or another dried red mild to medium-heat chile, stemmed and seeded
  • Cooked rice or corn tamales, for serving


Step 1

In a large pot, add the pork, tomatoes, and onion and just enough water to cover (about 10 cups); stir in 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and cook until the tomatoes are soft and the skins are peeling off, 20 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the tomatoes to a large bowl; discard the skins. Continue cooking the meat uncovered at a low simmer until tender, about 1 hour and 40 minutes more.

Step 2

Meanwhile, in a large skillet or griddle, add the sesame and pumpkin seeds, peppercorns, garlic, and chiles; cook, stirring occasionally, over medium-high heat until toasted, 10–12 minutes. Remove to a medium bowl.

Step 3

Using a metate (stone grinder), stone mortar and pestle, or food processor, grind the seed mixture into a thick, powdery paste with a few small chunks remaining. Add the cooked tomatoes, working in batches as needed, and 1⁄4 teaspoon salt; process well until the mixture has the texture of a thick, creamy sauce. (Sauce can be made up to 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Step 4

When ready to serve, add the sauce and meat to a large pot over medium heat. Cook until the meat is heated through, adding a few tablespoons of water as needed to thin the sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning as desired. Serve with rice or corn tamales, with the extra sauce ladled on top.

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