X-Ni-Pek has the same concept as a pico de gallo with tomatoes, onions, and cilantro, but the addition of habañeros and sour oranges gives this salsa a tropical flair with a powerful heat.
This salsa originated in the Yucatán from the Mayans. The name X-Ni-Pek is a Mayan phrase for “Wet Dog Nose,” which came about because this salsa is so hot that it could make a dog’s nose sweat.
I wanted to try my own version of this salsa by incorporating Zima Grape Tomatoes, manzano peppers, and prickly pear fruit. It was also fun to create a salsa that pays homage to my ancestors, as I have Mayan descent through my Nana Angelita and the Quintañar side of my family.
The reason I decided to use Zima Grape Tomatoes rather than cherry tomatoes was due to their bright orange color and increased sweetness. These tomatoes plus the juice from the prickly pear fruit help tame a bit of the heat from the powerful chiles.
It was very exciting to find manzano peppers while I was shopping at El Super in Tucson, so I wanted to include this special pepper that is typically grown in higher elevations of Central and South America.
Manzanos are about twice as hot as a jalapeño, but also contain a sweet and citrusy flavor. You can almost think of them as a cross between a milder habanero and a small bell pepper. Manzano refers to an “apple” in Spanish, and these peppers have a similar shape and dark large seeds like apples.
The manzanos are a great spiciness companion to the habañeros from my garden. Thankfully, the habañeros are finally ripe in my garden. These peppers take longer than most to mature, taking nearly six months to grow. They’re worth the wait though as they have been entertaining additions to my salsas.
X-Ni-Pek is a great topping for any taco, however my favorite pairing was with chorizo. The spiciness and juiciness of the X-Ni-Pek combines deliciously with the chorizo.
I highly recommend using X-Ni-Pek with a Yucatán Style Roasted Salmon recipe that I learned from Mely Martinez’s Mexico in My Kitchen website. Here is a link to Mely’s Yucatán Style Roasted Salmon recipe. The salmon tastes amazing and is not difficult to make as long as you have achiote paste available. Achiote paste contains annatto seeds, cumin, pepper, coriander, oregano, cloves, and garlic, giving the salmon a beautiful red-smokey color. The salmon and X-Ni-Pek combined to make delicious tacos, full of flavors for my Sunday dinner.
2 cups Zima Grape Tomatoes, chopped
2 habañeros, sliced
1 manzano pepper, sliced
1 ½ tsp cilantro, chopped
½ red onion, chopped
½ Valencia orange, juiced
½ grapefruit, juiced
1 prickly pear fruit, juiced
2 tbsp water
½ tsp salt
Cut the Zima Grape Tomatoes in quarter pieces and the red onion into small feather-like slices (about ½ an inch in length) before adding to a bowl. Next, remove the seeds and stems from the habañeros and manzanos before cutting into thin slices. Place the peppers in the bowl as well as the chopped cilantro.
Juice the orange and grapefruit into a container. Then prepare the prickly pear, cutting around the outer layer and transferring the inner portion of the fruit to a blender along with 2 tbsp of water. You can discard the outside of the prickly pear fruit. Purée the prickly pear for one minute before straining the fruit into the orange/grapefruit mixture, discarding the prickly pear seeds.
Finally, add the orange/prickly pear liquid into the salsa as well as the salt. Stir the salsa until well combined. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before serving.