This past September, my brother, Chris, went to Chicago to visit my cousin and her family. Chris has a similar love for fresh Mexican food, so I knew it wouldn’t be hard to convince him to visit one of Rick Bayless’ restaurants.
My expertise on Chicago’s food scene is sadly limited to what is available at O’Hare International Airport, but I know that a visit to Chicago for a Mexican food lover would not be complete without a stop at one of Bayless’ famed eateries.
Thankfully, Chris jumped at the opportunity and decided to visit Bayless’ Xoco, a quick-service café that offers a variety of contemporary Mexican street food. One of the items that they ordered was a dip called sikil pak. Judging by its Mayan name, it is likely that this appetizer comes from the Yucatán Peninsula area. In Mayan, sikil means tomato and pak means pumpkin seeds/pepitas. When Chris came back from Chicago, he raved about how good this pumpkinseed dip from Xoco was. Of course I was super intrigued, so Chris decided to try his hand at making it, and can I say that he has certainly perfected the dip!
I always enjoy showing the artisan’s hands with his craft, so if you were wondering, those are my brother’s hands in the top picture, and he made this incredibly delicious dip just for Flan & Apple Pie. Of course, my whole family enjoyed eating every last spec of it afterwards at dinner.
Although this dip may not be the most photogenic, it is quite tasty. It has an earthy flavor from the pumpkin seeds, but since the seeds are hulled you won’t get any stuck in your teeth ;-). I love the little kick that comes from the habanero pepper, and although the dip contains onion and garlic, they do not overpower the overall flavor.
If you are looking for a healthy dip for your next party or occasion, give this a try. I promise it won’t disappoint.
Pumpkinseed Dip (Makes about 2-3 cups)
1 small white onion, peeled and sliced into ¼” rounds
3 small plum tomatoes
1 fresh habanero chile*
1 clove garlic, with husk on
1 ¾ cup (about 8 oz.) raw hulled pumpkinseeds*
1/3 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice (about 1 large orange)
1/3 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice (about 3 limes)
2 generous TBSP tahini*
¾-1 tsp salt
2 TBSP roughly chopped cilantro
Jícama*, Cucumber, or Tortilla Chips*
→Place onion slices, whole tomatoes, whole habanero, and garlic on a baking sheet lined with parchment or foil.
→Roast at 400°F for 30 minutes, flipping the vegetables once so that they are evenly browned on all sides. The habanero and onion may need slightly less time.
→In the meantime, toast the pumpkinseeds on an ungreased comal/griddle until brown and crackling. Be sure to constantly stir them with a wooden spatula so that they don’t burn. When they are toasted, remove from the griddle and pour them into a food processor.
→Juice the orange and limes. You should have about 2/3 cup juice total. Set this to the side.
→When the vegetables are done roasting, remove them from the oven and let cool. You will want to cut the habanero in half to remove the seeds and veins. Be very careful not to touch the habanero. Hold onto the stem and use the knife to do the work. You will want to taste the habanero for heat. Start by putting half of the habanero in the food processor. You can always add more if you’d like.
→Peel the paper off the garlic. Add the garlic clove, roasted tomatoes, and onion to the food processor along with the toasted pumpkinseeds and habanero. Then add the juices, tahini, and salt.
→Pulse the ingredients to blend. You want them to be well-mixed, but you still want the dip to have some texture. Then, add the cilantro. Pulse a few more times to incorporate it. You still want to see pieces of the cilantro in the sikil pak.
→Serve with jícama and cucumber spears. You could also eat this with tortilla chips.
- Habaneros are one of the hottest peppers. Be very careful when handling them. You may want to wear gloves and be sure not to touch your eyes after handling an habanero.
- We buy our pumpkinseeds from Trader Joe’s. They may also be called pepitas.
- You can substitute toasted, pulverized sesame seeds for tahini.
- Jícama is a Mexican yam or turnip. It can be found at any Mexican grocery store and now some larger grocery stores are carrying them. It is definitely worth a try. You will have to peel the outside to eat it. It is like a cross between an apple (texture), a potato (flavor), and a cucumber (it is slightly juicy).
- My favorite tortilla chips are also from Trader Joe’s. When it comes to corn, you always want to opt for organic. If you are wondering why, find out here.
Recipe Source: Based on Rick Bayless’ recipe, but perfected by my brother, Chris