Jocón, What is that?
We’re excited to have a guest blogger this month! Rafael Gomez is a Guatemalan living in the USA who can be found in the kitchen or by the grill whipping up amazing culinary concoctions, gardening, working towards his biomedical engineering degree and the talent behind @chapincookin on Instagram. He’s sharing a great recipe today for a homemade Guatemalan soup.
It’s a small glimpse into how we are all different but ultimately the same. We all have that one meal that brings us back home, for me that’s Jocón. The simplest way to introduce someone to Jocón is to say it’s the Guatemalan chicken noodle soup. While that's the simplest way to put it, it's also not the most accurate way to describe it. Just like any meal that brings you a certain amount of comfort while you are sick, during cold rainy days, when homesickness strikes, describing it solely on what it looks like and tastes like isn't good enough, but I will try.
First of all, we have to remember that this meal doesn’t cost a fortune. It's a meal that everyone in Guatemala knows based on how simple and cheap it is to make. For me, one of the easiest ways you can interact with a culture you don’t know is by sitting at the dining table, wherever that may be. So pull up a chair and sit down for a second and immerse yourself in the sounds and smells of my kitchen.
You will need:
green bell peppers
Masa or corn starch (key ingredient)
Salt and Pepper to taste
These are your ingredients, nothing particularly expensive, nothing from some random remote mountain in the middle of the jungle that only blooms once a year during a solar eclipse. The two unique ingredients to most people in the states are masa and tomatillos.
The masa is used as cornstarch to thicken the soup so it feels more filling. You can sub in corn starch to get a similar result. However, that’s not the only use of masa. Masa is commonly used to make tortillas. Tomatillos are little green tomatoes you can find in the grocery store that have an outer husk that hides the tomatillo. They are tart in taste and a bright green similar to green tomatoes. Other names for these little guys are miltomates, tomates verdes, tomates de cascara, or tomates de fresadillas. Tomatillos are usually the main ingredient behind several of the salsa verde recipes that people know and love.
An important part of the recipe is to start by roasting the vegetables. By roasting the vegetables over an open fire it lets them extract all the wonderful flavors of the vegetables and still have a hearty meal. This version of jocón that I made is vegetarian. Quick history lesson, the reason I made the jocón vegetarian is because before the Spanish came along, that's how it was made, vegetarian.
The essence of most meals that warm the heart and soul have similar components, inexpensive and humble ingredients that are cooked with love. So the next time you want to explore a new culture, or get a small essence of what a culture has to offer. You can comfortably do it from your dining room table.
Check out Rafael's complete recipe for Jocón here and let us know if you try it!