DELICACIES OF THE YUCATAN
Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula has great food, and we encourage you to be gastronomically adventurous on your visit to this magical region. If you’re not familiar with Yucatecan cuisine, this post provides a brief glossary describing some of the more popular dishes you’ll encounter in your culinary adventures.
There are two main ingredients to many Yucatecan foods. These are sour orange juice (from a special kind of green, thick-skinned orange found primarily in the Yucatan) and a spice paste called recado made by grinding up achiote seeds with garlic, black pepper, cumin, oregano, cloves cinnamon and vinegar. [Achiote is a tree or large shrub with reddish seeds contained in a large spiny pod.]
STUFFED CHEESE AND SOUP
This is a Yucatecan specialty made by stuffing gouda cheese (usually the rind of the cheese) with spicy ground pork. Sorry, this dish was so good that I forgot to take a photo. Dove in and cleaned the plate! My mouth is watering just recalling this treat.
Sopa de Lima
Rich chicken stock to which may be added any combination of vegetables but always includes lots of shredded white chicken meat. It is seasoned with limes, which evoke the delicate flavor of the broth. I find it to be reminiscent of Greek Lemon Chicken Soup, only more subtle in lime flavoring. The soup is served with fried tortilla strips and usually a side dish salpicon (meaning hodgepodge or medley) of chopped radishes, purple onions and bitter oranges. !Muy delicioso!
POC CHUC & COCHINITA PIBIL
One of the signature dishes of the Yucatan. Slices of tender pork are marinated in a citrus mixture of sour orange juice and spices, grilled and served with a side of rice, tangy sauce, pickled onions and avocado. The term is made up of two Mayan words: poc, which means toasted on hot embers, and chuc, which is the term for charcoal. Again, I guess I’m a foodie in training, because I just gobbled down this gem of Yucatan cuisine, forgetting all about taking a photo to share!
Cochinita means baby pig, and pibil is the Mayan word for buried. Arguably the ruby in the crown of Yucatecan cuisine, this luscious dish is made by marinating a suckling pig in sour orange juice, ground achiote and lots of other spices, wrapping in banana leaves and slow cooking overnight in an outdoor oven. Usually eaten with pickled onions in a sandwich (torta) of soft French bread or corn tortillas.
Tikin-Xic, pronounced “teekeen sheek” is Mayan for dry fish. Traditionally, a whole, firm-fleshed white fish is slathered with a mixture of sour orange juice, dried oregano and an achiote-based spice paste, then layered with slices of tomato, bell peppers and onions, wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in an earth oven beneath a wood fire. Modern preparation may be substituted, involving steaming the banana wrapped parcel instead of earth baking it. The most common white fish eaten this way are grouper (mero) or snapper (huachinango).
A hearty breakfast originating in the Yucatan town of Motul. It’s made of crisp, fried tortillas topped with black bean paste and fried eggs, and plantains. This delectable dish is crowned with a rich sauce of tomato, onion and peppers, and sprinkled with a liberal helping of green peas, cubed ham (or sometimes chorizo) and crumbled cheese. Huevos motuleños Is also commonly served in Cuba and Costa Rica.
PESCADO A LA VERACRUZANA
This is Vera Cruz style fish seasoned in a sauce of tomatoes, onions, chiles, garlic and green olives. An “easy” recipe to reproduce in your home kitchen is from that fabulous Mexican food aficionado, Rick Bayless.
Served all over Mexico, these refreshing fruit-based drinks cannot be missed. These thirst-quenching aguas frescas should be made exclusively with bottled water. Ask before you drink. Brightly-colored, delicious, icy drinks are concocted by pulping fruits like watermelon, cantaloupe, mangos and the like, adding sugar and water and pouring over ice.
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