DISHES OF THE YUCATÁN

1. Cochinita Pibil

This punchy dish dates back to pre-Conquest Mayan cooking – pork marinated in lime, bitter orange, and achiote (a hot, spicy mix of dried herbs), wrapped in banana leaves and baked in an earthenware dish. A flavorful food, it’s very versatile and can be served as a main course or used to fill tacos. Pollo pibil is a chicken version of this dish.

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Spicy cochinita pibil

2. Puchero

Commonly eaten as a Sunday lunch, puchero is a heart stew found across Latin America, but with its origins in Spain. In the Yucatán Peninsula it is typically packed with pork, beef, chicken, and vegetables, spiced with allspice and cinnamon, and finished off with a garnish of diced habañero peppers, oranges, coriander, and radishes.

3. Poc-Chuc

Marinating is one of the most characteristic skills of Yucatecan cooking, and this delicious dish features pork marinated in the juice of naranja agria (small, bitter oranges, special to the region), cooked with onions, herbs, and garlic, and served with black beans. With a wonderful mix of sweet and savory flavors, it’s very popular, but debate rages as to whether it is really traditional or a creation of La Chaya Maya restaurant in Mérida.

4. Pollo Oriental de Valladolid

The pride of Valladolid: chicken quartered on the bone and casseroled with garlic, onion, cloves, and a mix of both hot and mild chilis; it’s then quickly roasted in a baste of maize oil and bitter orange juice. This is another regional dish with a rich, densely layered combination of different flavors. Pavo oriental is the turkey version.

5. Relleno Negro

Yucatecan cooking likes rich concoctions. In relleno negro (“black stuffing”), finely ground pork, peppers, grated hard-boiled egg, herbs, spices, and a powerful combination of chilis are mixed together to make up a thick, majestic sauce. It is usually served with turkey (pavo or guajolote), the region’s most traditional meat.

6. Pollo con Mole

This dish is a central Mexican classic. Fried chicken is covered in mole, a thick, spicy, savory – not at all sweet – chocolate sauce. Richly satisfying, this is one of the oldest uses of chocolate, its flavor uniting perfectly with strongly spiced meats.

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Classic pollo con mole

7. Crepas de Chaya

Tasting like spinach, chaya is a vegetable native to the Yucatán. It features in traditional cooking and contemporary dishes such as this one. It is cooked with garlic and wrapped in light, European-style wheat pancakes (crêpes) and served with a cheese sauce. Chaya is also used to make drinks.

8. Camarón al Mojo de Ajo

All around the coasts, fish and seafood are restaurant staples. One of the simplest and most delicious ways of cooking the likes of camarón (prawns/shrimp) and caracol (conch) is al mojo de ajo, fried quickly in hot oil and lots of garlic.

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Camarón al mojo de ajo

9. Sopa de Lima

One of the most popular classics of Yucatecan cooking, “lime soup” is actually made with chicken, boned, chopped into strips, and then slow-cooked with coriander, onions, herbs, spices, and masses of local sweet limes. It’s served with strips of dry tortillas for added crunch.

10. Arroz con Pulpo

A Campeche specialty: a delicious warm salad that’s much lighter than many local dishes on a hot day. Rice (arroz) is mixed together with chopped octopus (pulpo), red peppers, onion, coriander, and other herbs, plus, often, mango, papaya, or other fruits, in a refreshing blend of sweet juice and salty seafood flavors.

TOP 10 YUCATECAN SNACKS AND STREET FOODS

1. Ceviche

Raw fish or seafood marinated in lemon or lime juice, and served with salad, spices, and lots of coriander.

2. Cócteles

Usually, fish or seafood ceviches served in a glass accompanied by a vinaigrette-style dressing.

3. Papadzules

A Mayan dish of chopped hard-boiled eggs in a sweet pumpkin-seed sauce, rolled in tortillas and often served with a spicy tomato sauce.

4. Panuchos

Small, crisp-fried tortillas covered in refried beans and topped with strips of chicken or turkey, plus generous helpings of chopped tomato, onion, avocado, and chilis.

5. Salbutes

Similar to panuchos, but made with a thicker, spongier base instead of crisp tortillas.

6. Enchiladas

In southern Mexico, these rolled soft tortillas with various fillings tend to be served with a rich mole sauce.

7. Tacos

Small rolled tortillas filled with 1,001 possible fillings: at taco stands, they’re served rolled up; at taquerías you sit and assemble them yourself.

8. Fajitas

Pan-fried meat or seafood served sizzling alongside bowls of onions, refried beans, chili sauce, guacamole, and soft tortillas.

9. Tortas

Small bread rolls, available with as many different fillings as tacos.

10. Quesadillas

Small, soft tortillas that are folded over and filled with melted cheese and sometimes ham, and served up with a range of sauces.

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Stuffed quesadillas

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