Old New World: Mayan ts'anchak bi k'um and pim

ts'anchak bi k'um, pim and garnishes

Squash and their seeds were incredibly important to the Maya. Ground or crushed pumpkin seeds show up in drinks, soups, sauces and the rare treat. When my sweetheart surprised me with a pretty Delicata squash, I knew I wanted to make a typical Mayan dish with it. K'um is the basic word for "pumpkin" in Maya and ts'anchak means "boiled;" this is a very simple preparation that uses garnishes to build flavor and it is one that is still made today. Pim is still the word for "tortillas" in Yucatec Maya today, sometimes doubled as pimpim.

squash about to be boiled

ts'anchak bi k'um

makes about 8 cups

  • 4 pounds pumpkin or other winter squash
  • 10 cups water
  • salt to taste
  • 2 dried chili peppers
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin or squash seeds
  • 2 limes

Seed and cut the squash, peeling if necessary, into 2 inch pieces and place in a large pot with the water. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until squash is tender, about an hour. Stir in salt. 

While the squash is simmering, toast your pumpkin or squash seeds until golden brown, then destem and toast your chili peppers, separately, in a heavy skillet (I use a small cast iron pan). Let cool, then chop the pumpkin seeds finely and set aside in a small bowl. Grind the chile peppers with a mortar and pestle or a molcajete  and set aside in separate small bowl. Quarter the limes when serving. Garnish the squash with the pumpkin seeds, chile peppers and lime or set out the small bowls of the garnishes along with the squash and pim.



makes 6

  • 1 cup masa harina
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup water plus more if necessary

Place the masa harina in a large bowl and stir in the salt. Add water and knead until the dough is firm but pliable. Form 6 balls of dough and cover them in the bowl with a damp  towel for 1 hour. 

Heat a flat pan over medium heat until drops of water dance and evaporate when flicked. Press between wax paper on a tortilla press or roll out into circles, then cook for about 2 minutes on each side. Fold stack of pim in a clean towel to steam for about 10 minutes.



If you have a spice grinder, feel free to use it to grind the pumpkin seeds and the chile peppers. 

You can substitute 1 TBSP crushed chile pepper if you don't have access to whole dried chile peppers. 

If you also use a Delicata, you don't have to peel it - you can eat the skin! 

You can save the squash seeds to plant or to use in other recipes. 

Recipe from Mayan Cooking: Recipes from the Sun Kingdoms of Mexico by Cherry Hamman. 

ts'anchak bi k'um, pim and garnishes