When travelling to a new destination, the best thing is to step out of your comfort zone and experience something different. A different culture and tradition, interacting with the locals and tasting new flavours. When talking about flavours, Mexico perfectly knows how to satisfy every taste. Mexico is a huge country where every state differs in gastronomy and offers very typical tastes. Yucatecan cuisine is famous for having diverse flavours and for being an intangible cultural heritage of the State. The traditional dishes are created with a mix of local elements, ingredients that came from a different country like Spain and traditional spices that the ancient Mayas used.
Here is a list of 10 must-try dishes you absolutely have to try when travelling to Yucatan. Prepare yourself to live a culinary experience like no other!
1. Cochinita Pibil
It’s a traditional Mexican slow-roasted pork disk. Cochinita means baby pig so true cochinita pibil involves roasting a whole suckling pig. The preparation involves marinating the meat in citrus juice, adding annatto seed to give a vivid burnt orange color, and roasting the meat while it is wrapped in banana leaf. It is usually eaten with side dishes such as tortillas, red pickled onions, black beans and habanero chilies. Traditionally, cochinita pibil is buried in a pit with a fire at the bottom to slowly roast it.
2. Poc Chuc
It is a Mexican pork dish. Thin pork cutlets are marinated in orange juice and then cooked over a grill. Poc Chuc is served with a side of rice, pickled onions, refried beans, avocado and freshly prepared corn tortillas on the side. The term Poc Chuc comes from the Mayan language: poc means to toast (especially on hot embers) and chic means charcoal.
3. Salbutes y panuchos
They are made with a refried tortilla and topped with chopped cabbage, shredded chicken or turkey, tomato, pickled red onion, avocado, and pickled jalapeño pepper. The difference between panuchos and salbutes is that panuchos are stuffed with refried beans inside the tortilla while salbutes come without beans.
4. Sopa de Lima (lime soup)
It’s a broth-like hot soup made from turkey or chicken stock and lima (a citrus fruit similar to lime, but less acidic) and filled with chunks of turkey or chicken and pieces of fried tortilla.
5. Queso relleno
It’s a dish prepared with Edam cheese (queso de bola), which is hollowed-out and then filled with ground beef and pork, almonds, raisins, green pepper, and local spices. It’s covered in a white sauce (known as K’ool) made with flour, lard, and chicken broth. The dish is then topped with tomato sauce.
6. Relleno Negro (black stuffing)
It’s a black dish based on turkey, pork and mixed chili peppers (chilmole). The black colour of the dish comes from the mixture and toast of the chilies that are used in the chilmole. The dish is garnished with hard-boiled eggs and eaten with fresh tortillas.
It’s a dish with Mayan origins consisting of egg-filled tortillas drenched in a sauce made with pumpkin seeds (pepitas) and epazote (an herbal tea used for seasoning in Mexican cuisine).
8. Huevos motuleños
It’s a breakfast food originated in the town of Motul (45 kilometers North-East from Mérida). The dish is made with eggs on tortillas with black beans and cheese, often with other ingredients such as ham, peas, plantains, and spicy sauce.
Lechón means piglet and it is usually cooked in the oven. It is served in baguette sandwiches (tortas de lechón) or in tacos and it is a very typical dish for breakfast, especially on Sunday. Both dishes are very simple, consisting of bread or tacos and juicy baked pork with a crunchy crust known as “chicharrón,” pickled onions, and some chile habanero (if you are brave enough).
It’s a delicious snack/dessert you can find all over the Yucatan. It’s like a thin crunchy crepe cooked in a purpose-made griddle to form the consistency of a waffle cone. It’s then filled with your choice of toppings: nutella, jam, banana, cajeta (caramel) and queso de bola (Edam cheese). The traditional marquesita is served with queso de bola.
These are the most typical dishes of Yucatan, but this cuisine has so much more to offer! In this article, we talk about the best restaurants you definitely have to try in Mérida, where you can taste the real flavours of Yucatan. Gastronomy is for sure one of the reasons to visit this magical land. If this is not enough for you, check out the other reasons why Yucatan should be your next travel destination!