Mexicans pride themselves on having the best food in the world, and within Mexico, each region has its local and unique dishes that they then contend are the best in Mexico. Hopefully, you will have enough time off to explore Mexico’s diverse regions and taste the local cuisine to decide for yourself. However, to tempt you into visiting the Yucatan Peninsula, “yucatecos” and “quintanarooenses” tote a variety of local cuisine featured in restaurants and street carts that will wow you as much as the region’s turquoise blue waters and white sandy beaches. Here are a few regional favorites for you to try on your visit to the Yucatan Peninsula.
Regardless of the region, Mexicans have a very developed street food culture and consume a large part of their meals from street carts. The most common Mexican street food anywhere in Mexico is obviously the taco. In Quintana Roo and Yucatan, the most popular and abundant taco is cochinita pibil. Cochinita pibil is slow-roasted pulled pork, the preparation of which involves marinating the meat in orange and lime juice with annatto pepper giving it a distinct orange color, then slow-roasting it inside of a banana leaf.
You will also see petty cab carts (either motorized or foot-pedaled) with a number of local delicacies that include, panuchos, salbutes and freshly fried plantain chips (salty or sweet). Panuchos are refried tortillas stuffed with black refried beans and topped with shredded chicken, pickled onion, cabbage or lettuce, jalapenos, and avocadoes. Salbutes are deep-fried, puffed-up tortillas topped with shredded chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, and pickled onions. As with all Mexican food, these snacks come with a choice of home-made red or green sauce.
As for nighttime munchies, we must not forget the beloved tamal. Tamales in this region are made using banana leaves and are generally savory. They are larger and flatter than northern style tamales and the masa is softer and with more cooking liquid. To find this delicious street food, I recommend perusing the highly trafficked 30th avenue or even the 5th (la Quinta) avenue closer to Coco beach or Punta Esmeralda.
Many local restaurants in Yucatan offer more elaborate and labor-intensive main dishes such as Poc chuc, Mukbil Pollo, Relleno negro, and queso relleno. Poc chuc is a cut of meat, usually pork, that is marinated in citrus juices and cooked inside of a banana leaf then served with black beans and pickled vegetables. Mukbil Pollo is roasted chicken that is prepared by a unique underground burial method and is served in a tamale or on its own and is generally a seasonal dish.
Relleno negro is a traditional Yucatecan dish served during the fall months that is essentially a stew made from turkey, pork, a mix of regional chilies and hard-boiled eggs.
Queso relleno is a meat-stuffed cheese dish that consists of queso bola which is a semi-hard white cheese that has been hollowed out and stuffed with ground seasoned red meat and served with a corn flour-based salsa.
While many of these traditional dishes are served only at local's homes on special occasions, there is one locale called 'Loncheria Dona Mari' on 30 Avenida that serves up traditional Yucatecan dishes and is generally always packed which is a good indicator for quality cuisine!
A popular Mexican drink that spans all regions is fresh fruit water or agua fresca. In the Yucatan, there are plentiful varieties of fruit waters, my personal favorites being passion fruit and pineapple, melon, and guanabana waters.
A uniquely yucatecan drink made from cornmeal is Pozol. This is perhaps my favorite Yucatecan creation. There are traditionally two kinds of Pozol: cacao and coco, although I have also on rare occasions seen a peanut pozol. White cornmeal is mixed with water and fresh cacao powder or coconut milk and coconut meat. The drink is generally not sweetened but vendors always have simple syrup so that you can sweeten the drink to your liking. I recommend the coconut Pozol as it is truly a delight both taste-wise and texture-wise.
While enjoying the beautiful outdoor scenery in the Yucatan, do not forget to try the local cuisine. From drinks, to snacks, to hearty main dishes, there is surely some local delicacy that will strike your fancy.
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