Published on October 1st, 2017 | by admin
The Tastiest Mexican Food in Yucatan State, & Where To Try It
In Yucatán, locals value their fruits and vegetables as essential ingredients for regional Mexican cuisine, influenced by the Mayans in pre-Colombian Mesoamerica. With a diet largely based on freshly grown produce, the Mayans took advantage of the abundant ingredients, including sour oranges, chaya, huaya, and rambutan, all of which thrived in the tropical climate. Today, the markets within the state of Yucatán, Mexico, are hotspots for those looking for these fundamental fresh fruits and vegetables — and for anyone looking to sample delicious regional Mexican food.
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In Yucatán’s capital, Mérida, there are three main markets: Mercado Lucas De Galvéz (the most well-known market), Mercado Santiago and Slow Food Market. Additionally, two local spots where visitors and locals can dine on authentic Yucatecan cuisine are MERCADO 60, an outdoor gourmet market with 18 different restaurants that opened in May 2016, and the newest experience, Casa Dominga, which opened in August 2017 with several restaurants that serve regional and national gastronomic options — all set in a restored house dating to 1906.
For visitors, food tours and cooking classes provide an opportunity to meet with farmers, fishermen, ranchers and chefs for a well-rounded view of farm-to-table cooking and the supply chain of Yucatecan ingredients. Below is a short guide to freshly grown ingredients available in Yucatán’s markets that visitors can learn about on a tour or in a class.
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Key Ingredients Used in Mexican Cooking in Yucatan State
• Sour oranges, also known as Seville oranges, are a staple in Yucatecan cooking, with its acidity constantly used to liven up many dishes, such as pibil, with the benefit of its preservative qualities.
• Chaya is a local green with a fast growing popularity similar to kale in the United States. As an essential green in Yucatecan cuisine, it provides iron and other vital nutrients. It is very common to see the green used in antojitos (street food), as well as in green juices, tea, corn tortillas, and chips.
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• Huaya is the Spanish lime, one of the most popular fruits in Yucatán that is exclusively found in the Yucatán region. The fruit is more tart than sweet, and is eaten alone or with salt, pepper, or chili powder. It may also be roasted before being eaten.
• Rambutan is a red shell fruit with a white pulp and sweet taste. A common sight in southern Mexico, rambutan is sold by vendors in the street and in the markets. It’s often used in chili powder and lemon, eaten by itself or turned into an agua fresca drink.
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Where to Eat in Yucatan State
Travelers can experience these regional Mexican specialties first-hand through a myriad of unique tours and packages, including:
• Visitors can test their skills with a cooking class at boutique hotel Casa Lecanda, a boutique hotel where a local chef teaches participants how to prepare Yucatecan dishes utilizing local products and ingredients that have been present in the cuisine for hundreds of years. Options include Class 1: “Introduction to the Kitchen,” inclusive of a welcome cocktail and four-course meal ($120 per person with a two-guest minimum); and Class 2: “Local Market Tour Class,” inclusive of a market tour with the chef, welcome drink, and four-course meal ($140 per person with a two-guest minimum). Prices may vary according to number of participants.
• Travelers looking for full culinary immersion can book an eight-day “The Cuisine of Yucatán and Campeche Tour,” from Tia Stephanie Tours, which includes visits to fishing communities, ranchers, a Yucatecan family, and ancient Maya sites. The market tour and cooking class in Mérida provide education on ingredients such as chaya and sour oranges, before taking those items back to use in the cooking class. The tour starts at $2,475 per person, double occupancy, and includes accommodation, guides/academics, meals according to the itinerary, and more.
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• A popular Mexican cooking school called Los Dos offers “Cocina Económica,” a half-day cooking class with Los Dos’ head Chef, as well as the owner and a few family members of a small, family-owned restaurant operated out of their home. The focus here is an affordable cooking style created by women during World War II. Rates are $125 per person.
• The “Mérida Market Tour and Cooking Class,” available through Viator, includes a market tour with a bilingual guide who will allow participants to converse with vendors as they select seasonal ingredients for a cooking class with a local host. Rates start at $60 per person.
For additional ways to visit Yucatán or to view a full list of tour packages, visit gotoyucatan.com/tour-packages.