Yucatan is famous for its culinary delights combining a mouthwatering mixture of European and Mayan flavors. The Yucatan peninsula is the land of the Maya, and was once very isolated from the rest of Mexico because of its surrounding mountainous terrain and very poor roads. The easiest way to reach the peninsula was through its many ports, encouraging cultural contacts with European traders. Hence the European influence in the dishes found in Yucatan.
In Cancun, the Mercado 23 is like a farmer’s market providing fruits and vegetables, meat and poultry, herbs and spices, flowers, and more. If you plan to cook whilst in Cancun then you will find all the regional ingredients right here. Some of the main ingredients found in Yucatecan cuisine are sour oranges (used as a marinade), achiote, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), and chaya, which is a Mayan spinach packed full of vitamins, minerals and protein. Banana leaves are used to wrap tamales and many other dishes such as cochinita pibil and Tikin Xic.
Here are some examples of Yucatecan cuisine you should definitely try during your Cancun vacation:
Cochinita Pibil Amazingly rich and tasty dish made from pork marinated in achiote (annatto), sour orange juice, peppercorns, garlic, cumin and salt. The meat is traditionally then wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in the ground in a pit oven. The cochinita is usually served with fresh tortillas, and chopped pink onions.
Pescado Tikin Xic This is usually prepared with grouper fish and marinated with achiote then baked or barbecued wrapped in banana leaves.
Panuchos Usually eaten in the morning or late in the evening. They are corn tortillas split and filled with black bean paste and fried, then topped with shredded chicken lettuce, tomato and pink onions. Absolutely delicious!
Sopa de Lima (Lime Soup) Delicious chicken broth, with shredded chicken and lime and strips of fried tortilla. This soup is full of goodness and great if you are not feeling well.
Frijol con Puerco What makes this dish extra special are the garnishes added at the table. The stew is made from black beans (frijol) and pork (puerco) and is served with rice. You then sprinkle chopped radish, cilantro and onion over the top. A real delight for the tastebuds. Best to be eaten at lunchtime as it is very filling.
These are just a few of the vast variety of dishes common in Yucatecan cooking. If you would like to try some of these dishes check out Cancun’s Eating Out Guide http://cancun.travel/eating-out/?category=mexican for a list of restaurants that are truly worth a visit.