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~ Yucatan Cuisine

Cochinita Pibil - Yucatan Pork Baked in Banana Leaves

The food of the Yucatán peninsula is distinct from the rest of the country. It is based on Mayan food with influences from the Caribbean, central Mexico, European, especially French and Middle Eastern cultures .

Cochinita Pibil - Yucatan Pork Baked in Banana Leaves
Cochinita Pibil – Yucatan Pork Baked in Banana Leaves

Like in other areas of Mexico, corn is the basic staple, as both a liquid and solid food. One common way of consuming corn, especially by the poor, is a thin drink or gruel of fermented corn called by various names such as pozol or posolli.

One of the main spices is the annatto seed, called achiote in Spanish. It gives food a reddish colour with a slightly peppery smell with a hint of nutmeg. Recados are a seasoning paste based on achiote used mostly on chicken. Recado rojo is used for the area’s best-known dish, cochinita pibil. Pibil refers to the cooking method, generally wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in a pit oven. Various meats are cooked this way. Habanero chillies are another distinctive ingredient, but they are generally served as (part of) condiments on the side rather than integrated into the dishes.

One feature in Yucatan cooking is tropical fruits such as tamarind, plums, mamey, avocados and bitter oranges, the last often used in the region’s distinctive salsas. Honey was used long before the arrival of the Spanish, used to sweeten foods and to make a ritual alcoholic drink called balché. Today a honey liquor called xtabentun is still made and consumed. The coast areas feature seafood, especially esmedregal, a type of jack fish, which is fried and served with the spicy salsa de chile xcatic. Other fish dishes include those in spicy chilli pepper sauces and those in achiote paste .

Street food in the area usually consists of snacks made of cooked corn dough and fruit-flavoured ices. The snacks include brazo de reina and papadzules.

Food

As stated previously, Yucatecan food is its own unique style and is very different from what most people would consider Mexican food. It includes influences from the local Mayan culture, as well as Caribbean, European (Spanish), (North) African, and Middle Eastern cultures, as well as influence from the cuisine of other parts of Mexico.

There are many regional dishes. Some of them are as follows:

  • Poc Chuc, a Mayan/Yucatecan version of barbecued pork.
  • Salbutes and Panuchos. Salbutes are soft, cooked tortillas with lettuce, tomato, turkey, and avocado on top. Panuchos feature fried tortillas filled with black beans and topped with turkey or chicken, lettuce, avocado and pickled onions. Habanero chillies accompany most dishes, either in solid or puréed form, along with fresh limes and corn tortillas.
  • Queso relleno – is a “gourmet” dish featuring ground pork inside of a carved Edam cheese ball served with tomato sauce and gravy.
  • Pavo en Relleno Negro – is turkey meat stew cooked with a black paste made from roasted chillies, a local version of the mole de guajalote found throughout Mexico. The meat soaked in the black soup is also served in tacos, sandwiches and even in panuchos or salbutes.
  • Sopa de Lima – A turkey, lime, and tortilla soup.
  • Papadzules – Egg tacos covered in pumpkin seed sauce and tomatoes.
  • Cochinita Pibil – a marinated pork dish and by far the most renowned of Yucatecan food.
  • Xcatik, a type of chili.
  • Pavo en Relleno Blanco is a turkey stew almost like Pavo en Relleno Negro.
  • Xnipec, a fiery hot salsa or relish similar to pico de gallo, made with habanero chillies and Seville orange juice

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