We all have heard and tasted Mexican food (I hope you all have tasted it. If not, go and find a Mexican restaurant. Right. Now). Tacos. Enchiladas. Tortas. Tostadas. Just thinking about all those delicious treats make my tasting buds suffer.
But Mexico is big (take a look at a map if you don’t mind). Regional specialties abound. And here is the thing; a lot of them are not that popular outside the country. You may found a regional-centered restaurant here and there but, overall, it is like finding a needle in a haystack.
For example, the food from the Yucatan Peninsula can be considered a hidden treasure among the regional cuisines. Yes, you can find the basic staples that distinguish Mexican food in here. However, there is an extra layer of ingredients and techniques which makes the delicacies prepared in this area unique. Mayans, Spaniards, French and others have left boosting flavor traces in the food.
I bet you are not familiar with the food of the Yucatan. How I know? Because I wasn’t before my visit to the area last year. And let me tell you, I have tons of Mexican friends and have eaten in many good taquerias around Los Angeles.
Here is a sample of what you can find in the area (information taken from Wikipedia and Yucatan Today):
Pollo or Cochinita Pibil
Chicken or pork marinated in achiote (annatto), sour orange juice, peppercorns, garlic, cumin, salt, and then wrapped in banana leaves and baked. This dish can also be made with pork (cochinita pibil). A dish you should definitely try for lunch or dinner. Not spicy.
Panuchos and Salbutes
Pre-cooked tortilla with shredded chicken and garnished with lettuce and onion. The difference between panuchos and salbutes is that the first has refried beans inside the tortilla.
Pavo en Relleno Negro
Turkey meat stew cooked with a black paste made from roasted chiles, 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.
A delicious soup made with shredded chicken, bits of fried tortilla, and lime juice.
Tender slices of pork marinated in sour orange juice, grilled, and served with a tangy sauce and pickled onions. Some restaurants offer a chicken version.
Chopped hard boiled egg rolled up in tortilla and covered with pumpkin seed sauce.
Frijol con Puerco
The Yucatecan version of pork and beans. Chunks of pork cooked with black beans, served with rice, and garnished with radish, cilantro and onion. A regular Monday dish in most Yucatecan homes.
A scrumptious breakfast of tortilla, covered with refried beans and a fried egg and then smothered with tomato sauce, peas, chopped ham and shredded cheese. Usually served with some fried banana slices.
A ”gourmet” dish featuring ground pork inside of a carved Edam cheese ball served with tomato sauce and gravy.
My personal experience with the local gastronomy
In the Yucatan state, I visited Valladolid for two days (mostly to visit Chichen Itza). With this short amount of time in the area, I am by no means an expert in this type of food. The goal of this post is to make you aware of this cuisine (and hopefully, you would want to try it).
During my visit, I was really excited about trying some of the typical dishes. My hotel manager suggested the Municipal Bazaar. This place consists of various establishments selling a huge range of regional meals at rock bottom prices. Unfortunately, my food was not good. I ordered the Yucatecan sampler consisting of Poc Chuc, Pollo Pibil and sausage from the area. It came with rice, beans and salad. My husband ordered turkey panuchos. My food didn’t taste right (it was cold). My husband said the panuchos were so so. I think we were served the leftovers from the day (we went late in the evening). Lesson: pick the correct restaurant or eat at this type of establishment during the day.
The next day we opted for a not so Yucatecan dinner. We ate some excellent tacos in a nameless joint.
Then we made it to a restaurant called Las Campanas. The food and the ambient were great. My husband ordered the Caldo Tlalpeño and I ordered a chicken and veggies stuffed potato (man, I was full after those tacos).
My take on the city dining scene
Valladolid is a small city. For its size, I believe it has a good amount of nice places to eat. However, to get a good feeling of the Yucatecan cuisine, you will need to visit Merida (the capital) or hang out longer in the state. I notice that once I moved to Quintana Roo (where Cancun and the Riviera Maya are located), the selection of Yucatecan dishes diminished drastically. The food in Quintana Roo is more about what we (outsiders) recognize as Mexican. This makes me believe Yucatecan cuisine is concentrated in the state, not in the entire peninsula (with some exceptions).
My (one) bad dining experience does not really influence how I feel about Yucatecan cuisine. I still want to try all the above mentioned dishes (in a different setting, of course). It wasn’t possible this time (travel is like that). In the future, I hope concentrate one trip to Merida and Campeche (and the areas surrounding those cities).
Other restaurants in Valladolid
Here are other options in town where you can find Yucatecan, Mexican and International dishes:
- Taberna de los Frailes
- El Mesón del Marques
- La Calzada
- La Casa del Café Kaffe
- Amor Amor
Ask at your hotel where these places are located. Vendors in the main plaza sell local sweets and snacks. Valladolid, is small and walkable. Also, ask locals were they like to eat.
If you are interested in learning more about the Yucatecan gastronomy, take a look at the following links:
Have you tasted real Yucatecan food? Where? Let us all know in the comments section below.
Note: Congratulations to me!!! This is my 200th post. Yeyyy.