Recipe of the month – Chili Coban Chirmol

by Simone Riddle

Upon arriving in Xela four years ago I bought a Guatemalan recipe book. Food is my passion. It connects us to people and to cultures, and in my opinion is one of the best ways to get to know a country and those that inhabit it.

I came up with a project in which I would create one of the dishes from the recipe book per week. In hindsight it was an overly ambitious project. I consider myself a fairly competent cook yet I could not make sense of many of the instructions given. The writers assumed everyone knows the traditional techniques used here, such as toasting seeds and tomatoes to make the base of their ‘salsas’ or that one would know Guiskil could be made into a dessert as well as being served as regular boiled vegetable – I got looks of horror when I once served stuff guiskil with raisons and cinnamon as a main course next to a portion of broccoli! If it wasn’t for my Huehuetecan housemate I would have given up after the first couple of recipes. So to ensure that you folks don’t suffer the same fate, Xela Who brings you gringo-friendly Chapin recipes so Guatemalan food can live on forever, in our bellies and our hearts.

Chile Coban Chirmol

This is a homemade hot sauce using the small chillies that grow here called ‘chile coban’. You can buy them whole in the market by the onza. This is perfect hot sauce to spice up your tipico breakfasts or dinner, i.e. beans and eggs!


1lb of tomatoes; tbs of chile coban (less to make if you don’t want a super hot sauce); half an onion finely chopped; around 2 tbsp of chopped cilantro; a ‘chirmolera’ which you can buy in the market for about Q20 (it’s a bowl which rough edges in which you can grind the toasted chillis. Alternatively you could use a pestel and mortar.)

1. Wash the tomatoes and chile coban. Dry with a tea towel.

2. Heat up a hot plate over a burner on the cooker or a frying pan without any oil.

3. Add the tomatoes and chile coban and begin to toast. Turn both every 2-3 to minutes to brown well in every side without burning. The chilli will toast quicker, within around 10 minutes and should be taken off the hot plate and put into the ‘chirmolera’. The tomatoes will around 15 minutes to brown on every side.

4. Grind the chilli until a fine powder (as fine as possible), place in a bowl.

5. Place the tomatoes one by one in the chirmolera and grind into a paste.

6. Mix with the tomatoes with the chili in the bowl. Add the finely chopped onion and cilantro.

7. Add 2-3 tbs of water and mix to make a lighter sauce.

8. Try the sauce. If the sauce is too hot, add a little more water.

9. Season with salt to taste.

Simone works at Asociacion de Mujeres del Altiplano (AMA) where Women Circle members offer Mayan Cookery classes, email for more information about cooking classes and other activities on offer.


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