One of the most ubiquitous salsas of Yucatan state in Mexico, this fiery hot, slightly sour sauce is painfully addictive. Each region of Mexico has its own set of flavours, and the food of the Maya in Yucatan often features smokiness. In the state, tomatoes, tomatillos, and onions are often charred, right in the coals of the stove. This effect can be achieved by blackening vegetables over the direct flame of a barbecue or gas range, but the recipe below is for cooks who are broiler-bound.

6 tomatillos
2 green habanero chilies (substitute fully ripe habaneros or green Scotch bonnet)
1/4 white onion
6 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
30 mL (2 Tbsp) Seville orange juice* (or sub with a mix 2:1:1 orange, lime, yellow grapefruit juice)
30 mL (2 Tbsp) chopped cilantro
Salt to taste

Remove the papery husks from the tomatillos and rinse under running water to remove the soapy film that forms on the fruits. Use a broiler or open flame to blacken the chilies, garlic, tomatillos, and onion. Turn several times in order to maximize surface scorch – black is the right colour. Set aside the ingredients and allow to cool. Once cool, peel the garlic. Slice the caps off the habaneros (keep the seeds for extra heat) and keep the juice and seeds from the tomatillos. Put it all in a food processor or blender with the orange juice, cilantro, and salt. Whiz it smooth. Test for seasoning and adjust salt to taste.

Add this salsa to tacos, refritos, and salads, or just enjoy it with tortilla chips. Chiltomate salsa is available with nearly all meals in Yucatan. Despite its fierce heat, it is dangerously addictive.

* Seville oranges are sometimes available in January and February in North American markets. Latino groceries usually stock it in bottles. Look for naranja agria – sour orange. It’s not a juice for drinking, but it brings amazing flavour to several famous Yucatecan recipes, and can be used in place of lime juice in margaritas.