Thursday, September 13, 2012

Alien Ingredient #36: Chipilin

Chipilin: A Legume from Sothern Mexico and Central America

I was trolling through the market a few weeks back and I saw some mangy looking plants with leaves similar to peanuts, but they were in too sad a shape to bring back to the restaurant. And they were not labeled. I saw a guy with some in his basket, so I asked him what they were and what they were used for. Alas, he spoke no English, but still I managed to learn that they were called chipilin and were used in chicken soup.

I finally found a beautiful bunch that I brought home with me to check out. It turns out that I was right in thinking peanuts; chipilin is a perennial legume of the Crotalaria genus. We checked it out raw, quickly stir-fried with garlic, and boiled as a pot herb. The color is beautiful and we could see where it could add greatly to the presentation of caldo de pollo, but the flavor just isn't there. It is a very neutral and fairly boring green leafy vegetable.

Vote: a very pretty leafy green but extremely uninteresting in flavor. Give me spinach or pea shoots!


  1. I picked some up at the Culpeper Farmer's market because I was curious. My Spanish is even more limited than yours, so I could not even understand the name. But I got is was served with chicken/chicken soup. I agree with your assessment - The leaves also had to be picked off the stems - so that was fairly laborious. I'd be curious to taste a dish made by someone familiar with the greens though....

    The vendor had other greens unknown to me - schedule allowing I will visit his stand again.

  2. Let me know what else you find at the market. I'm always game for unknown greens!

  3. (Are you kidding?) Obviously you have never eaten tamales de chipilin!!

  4. Obviously not. Why don't you tell us all how to make the filling?