The name “Xni-pec “comes from the Maya words “ni” (nose), and “peek” (dog), referring to a dog’s wet nose, since this sauce can be so hot that your nose will sweat like a dog!
My first experience with Habanero peppers was a funny and memorable one. Habaneros weren’t that common where I lived in the north, so when I moved to work in the southern states, I had no idea that this little pepper was so fiery hot and was also very important in the Yucatan gastronomy.
So one weekend, my sponsor family was having a barbecue and I was in charge of making the salsa to go alone with the grilled meats. I was so happy to be able to help and be involved in the cooking that I wanted to do an excellent job with the presentation on the salsa.
In order to make the salsa look fresh and colorful, I mixed the tomatoes, onions, and habanero peppers…. evenly. The meat then finished grilling and everyone started fixing their tacos and getting ready to top them off with some salsa…. that’s when the unexpected happened. Here I was expecting the guests to say something like: “Wow, that was a great salsa!”, or: “Delicious!”. But no, that’s not what happened. Instead, everyone started gagging, their faces red and covered in tears. They all started asking for water, claiming that the salsa was burning hot! My sponsor looked at me and asked how many peppers I had put in. My answer: “Just ten”. “But it has two large tomatoes”, I said. Can you imagine the heat from 10 habanero peppers! From then on, I always ask about the spiciness of every new pepper I might encounter at an Asian, Indian, or any other ethnic market. Live and learn!
Eating peppers also has its health benefits; they are a great source for vitamins C and A.
MAKES 1 3/4 CUP
- 1 Medium sized tomato or 2 small plum tomatoes, cored and diced.
- 1/3 Cup of red onion, finely chopped
- 2 Habanero peppers*
- 3 Tbsp. Cilantro, finely chopped.
- 2 Tbsp. fresh orange juice
- 2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
- Salt to taste.
- * If you are used to eating hot sauces, adjust the amount of peppers to your own liking.
- **If you refrigerate this sauce at least 1/2 an hour prior to serving, the flavors will combine together in a pleasant taste. The salt will help release the tomatoes’ juice, and this will render a watery sauce. If you don’t like this watery effect, season with salt at serving time.
1. Place chopped tomato and onion in a medium size bowl.
2. Remove seeds and veins from Habanero pepper if you don’t want your sauce to be too hot. Mince the peppers. Be careful when handling these peppers, and wear gloves if you’re very sensitive.
3. Add to the bowl, along with the chopped cilantro.
4. Stir in the orange and lime juice and mix gently. Season with salt**.