Learning how to make blue corn tortillas is simple. They are surprisingly easy to make. I find the taste of blue corn tortillas far superior to wheat tortillas and no gluten to worry about! Their color is also rather spectacular and will have your friends and family raving about the taste.
This is my favorite Mexican pork dish that is always a hit. Can be toned down with less or no peppers and still tastes awesome. If you can find Seville orange juice, use it in place of the lemon and regular orange juice for authentic Mexican flavor. Quite easy to prepare too! Your whole family will love this famous Mexican dish!
Regional Mexican Cuisine In the Yucatán, an ancient land of dense jungles, the tropical climate puts food at constant risk of spoiling. In response, cooks concocted pibil, now the region’s most famous dish.
A combination of spice rub and pit smoke, pibil was historically a means of preserving wild game that might otherwise spoil on the journey home. Today it’s a connection to the region’s Mayan past.
Regional Mexican Cuisine
The Yucatán, which sits at the end of Mexico’s curling peninsula, is often described as Mayan, and it was a vital cog in the old empire. The state is home to a proudly defiant people, who, despite the devastation of disease, resisted the Spanish long after other Mesoamerican cultures collapsed. Many people in the countryside continue to live off the land, cooking pibil in earthen pits.
This resilience, and the region’s remoteness, helped to preserve Yucatán culture, though the people have been flexible enough to absorb influences from the Caribbean, the Dutch, the Lebanese, and the Spanish. In the centuries since, Yucatán cooks have learned to stuff peppers with Dutch Edam cheese and have taken to serving Lebanese kibbeh with salsa. Today, Yucatecos eat plenty of turkey, cook with a variety of recados or spice mixes (more on these in a moment), and make tamales that Diana Kennedy says put the rest of Mexico’s to shame.
Achiote, citrus, habaneros, and smoke. These are four defining pillars of Mayan cooking. While habaneros are often trumpeted as the stars of Yucateno cooking, their blazing, fruity heat plays second fiddle to the puckering acidity of Seville oranges. The fruit is found in every nook and cranny of the cuisine, from tamales coladosto chile tamulado (a purée of raw habanero and sour orange juice) to pibil. It’s used, often, like vinegar, its acidity both to liven a dish up and for preservative qualities.
In the Yucatán, only the mild yet earthy, if slightly bitter, achiote matches sour orange’s ubiquity. When crushed up and mixed with liquid, the pod’s oily red seeds form the paste recado rojo, the most prominent of the Yucatan’s spice mixes, or recados. These seasoning bases are, Mexican food historian David Sterling says, the progenitors of mole, a history he says is imprinted in recado negro, a blend of spices and seriously charred chilies that recalls mole’s smoldering depth. Each recado is engineered for specific uses, like recado para bifstek or recado para escabeche. They can be used as rubs, thickeners, or flavor bases. In short: Yucateno flavor bombs.
The Mayan diet was once, like everywhere in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, largely vegetarian, and there’s more to today’s Yucateno diet than pork. Fish and game served to supplement a diet heavily reliant on black and espelones beans, a multitude of squash ranging from chayote to zucchini, tomatoes, and aromatic greens like banana leaves. But the essential green of the Yucatan is earthy chaya, a Swiss chard-like green packed with iron and other nutrients vital when the diet was mostly meat free. Today, it is cooked with eggs, brewed as a tea, and incorporated into antojitos.
Fruits and vegetables aside, you can’t talk about Yucatán food without mentioning venado, a local species of deer that, for a society without any large domesticated livestock, was an invaluable source of protein in a region that lacked domesticated red meat. Because of overhunting, it’s now a protected species. Other proteins that fill out the cuisine: turkey and quail, both highly prized, and more exotic critters like armadillos.
Sikil p’ak is much tastier than its appearance suggests.
Today, pibil is most likely made with suckling pig (cochinita pibil) or, less often, chicken. The meat is rubbed in achiote paste, marinated overnight in sour orange juice, wrapped in aromatic banana leaves to build a head of steam, and cooked in an earthen pit known as the pib. The pib is sealed shut to form an airight oven, which both cooks the meat and suffuses it with smoke.
Pibil’s not the only preservation game in town. The ancient practice of salting meats is carried on today with poc’chuc, a preparation of brined pork cutlets cooked over a wood fire. But in this land, nearly all meat seems to get marinated, typically with achiote and sour orange, whether it’s chicken broiled over charcoal or grilled whole fish.
You can see the Yucatecan commitment to marinades in all manner of dishes: ceviche, pulpo en escabeche (octopus first cooked in olive oil, then marinated in acid overnight, and marinated beef that’s then grilled, chopped up, and fried. Acid has no limits here; the local love of citrus is so strong that it gave birth to sopa de lima, a chicken soup spiked heavily with fragrant local lime juice.
Sopa de lima.
The same preservative need informs the state’s salsas, which rely heavily on the fearsome combination of habanero (an antibacterial capsicum) and sour orange, which fills the shoes vinegar takes elsewhere in the world. These ingredient help preserve otherwise perishable foods in condiment form, like tomatoes, as in chiltomate, or charred tomatoes and habanero, or red onions, which are charred and marinated for days in sour orange and spices.
Yucatenos have a thing for deep fried pig. In Oaxaca, they use asiento, the caramelized pork residue from making chicharrones, to make antojitos, while in the Yucatán, they deep-fry every last bit of the pig, from morcilla to cutlets. Chicharrones, or deep fried pork rind, are the base for one of the region’s meat salads, a uniquely Yucatecan tradition exemplified by tsi’ik, a chilled salad of shredded meat (any kind) with radishes and other vegetables in a sour orange dressing. Garnished with cilantro and chives, it’s a lot like the spicy meat salads of the Isan region of Thailand, though with a heavier balance of vegetables.
These meat salads were a creative way to stretch out leftovers from special meals like a whole roast pig. It’s a thriftiness ethos that extends to other corners of the cuisine, like queso relleno a dish developed by hungry servants as a way to make the most of their masters’ table scraps. The upper classes loved their imported Edam cheese from Holland, but didn’t care for the hard, flavorful rind. So their servants took those rinds and stuffed them with meat and vegetables for what today is a regional delicacy and a case study in the global influences on Yucatan cooking.
Land of Tamales
Banana leaf tamales.
Tamales are one of Mexico’s most ancient (as in 8,000 BC) foodstuffs: a laborious but practical preparation of masa, typically but not always seasoned and/or stuffed. Hearty and durable, they were an essential food in the ancient Yucatán. While they are traditionally wrapped in dried corn husks and then steamed, cooks in the Yucatán and other southern states prefer aromatic fresh banana leaves.
Nowhere else in this vast country, perhaps save Michoacan, are the tamales so unique and prestigious as in the Yucatán. Two, styles in particular, stand out. The most famous are the elaborate tamales colados, called the highest form of tamale-making by Kennedy in The Art of Mexican Cooking. The dough is strained so it’s extra smooth and mixed with a gravy filling. This makes for a delicate, soft tamale unlike any other in Mexico, one that Kennedy deemed like British pudding.
The state’s other great tamale is dzotobichay, a small variety made of masa and lard seasoned with achiote and habanero, filled with pumpkin seeds and wrapped in chaya leaf, which diffuses some of its spinach like flavor. It’s typically served with a tomato and onion sauce.
The state has other achievements in the masa arts, like papadzules, a cousin to enchiladas. Folded tortillas are filled with hard boiled eggs, then bathed in a tomato sauce that’s “fried” in oil, epazote broth, and shimmering squash seed oil—a humble dish with layers of warm flavors. And there’s more: Mexican restaurants in the U.S. would do well to serve polkanes, hush puppy-like fritters of masa and pumpkin seeds.
Mole poblano is the best known of all mole varieties and has been ranked as number one of “typical” Mexican dishes. It has also been called the “national dish” of Mexico. The state of Puebla is identified with mole poblano. Mole poblano has been described as an ancient dish.
Mole poblano contains about 20 ingredients, including chili peppers and chocolate, which works to counteract the heat of the chili peppers, but the chocolate does not dominate. It helps give the sauce its dark color, but this is also provided by the mulato peppers. This sauce is most often served over turkey at weddings, birthdays and baptisms, or at Christmas with romeritos over shrimp cakes. The sauce is also served with chicken, pork, or other meats. Another time when the sauce is prominent is Cinco de Mayo. While this holiday is not celebrated much in the rest of Mexico, it is a major celebration in Puebla.
Various types of mole sauces can be found throughout the center of Mexico toward the south. There is the mole amarillito of the southeast, the mole coloradito of the Valley of Mexico (as opposed to the mole of the same name in Oaxaca), the mole prieto of Tlaxcala, mole ranchero from Morelos, and more. Taxco has a pink version of mole, called mole rosa. The spiciness of this version is very mild. The word guacamole (avocado sauce) is derived from “guaca” (from “aguacate” or avocado) and the word mole.
The city of Puebla also holds an annual mole festival, whose proceeds are shared among the Santa Rosa, Santa Inés and Santa Catarina convents. The world’s record for the largest pot of mole was broken at the city’s 2005 festival. The pot was 1.4 meters in diameter at the base, 1.9 meters high, with a diameter of 2.5 meters at the top. Four hundred people participated in its preparation, using 800 kilos of mole paste, 2,500 kilos of chicken, 500 kilos of tortillas and 1,600 kilos of broth. The resulting food fed 11,000 people.
Mole has become a popular and widely available prepared food product in the United States. Several brands of mole paste are available in the United States and can be found online. Chicago has an annual mole festival for Mexican immigrants at the Universidad Popular community center. The event is a cooking contest, which had over 40 entries, with the winner taking away US$500.
Chile en nogada is a dish, traditionally served at room temperature with cold cream sauce, from Mexican cuisine. The name comes from the Spanish word for the walnut tree, nogal. It consists of poblano chilis filled with picadillo (a mixture usually containing shredded meat, aromatics, fruits and spices) topped with a walnut-based cream sauce, called nogada, and pomegranate seeds, giving it the three colors of the Mexican flag: green from the chili, white from the nut sauce and red from the pomegranate. The walnut used to prepare nogada is a cultivar called Nogal de Castilla or Castillan Walnut.
The traditional chile en nogada is from Puebla; it is tied to the independence of this country since it is said they were prepared for the first time to entertain the emperor Agustín de Iturbide when he came to the city after his naming as Agustín I. This dish is a source of pride for the inhabitants of the state of Puebla.
Some Mexican historians believe the inventors of this dish were the Monjas Clarisas, although others think they were the Madres Contemplativas Agustinas of the convent of Santa Mónica, Puebla.
The picadillo usually contains panochera apple (manzana panochera), sweet-milk pear (pera de leche) and criollo peach (durazno criollo). The cream usually has milk, double cream, fresh cheese and washed nuts. The traditional season for making and eating this dish is August and first half of September, when pomegranates appear in the markets of Central Mexico and the national independence festivities begin. In some areas, the dish is created depending on when the pomegranates are ripe – usually between early October and January.
A Festive Dish in the Colors of the Mexican Flag. We make our chiles en nogada based on an old family recipe from Yuriria, Guanajuato that dates back at least until the 1950’s. Chiles en nogada are meat stuffed poblano chiles bathed in nogada, a walnut cream sauce and garnished with pomegranate seeds and parsley.
Chiles en nogada are meat stuffed poblano chiles bathed in nogada, a walnut cream sauce and garnished with pomegranate seeds and parsley.
Mexican cuisine is known for its varied flavors, colorful decoration, and variety of spices and ingredients.
The staples of Mexican cuisine are typically corn and beans. Corn, traditionally Mexico’s staple grain, is eaten fresh, on the cob, and as a component of a number of dishes. Most corn, however, is used to make “masa”, a dough for “tamales”, “tortillas”, “gorditas”, and many other corn-based foods. Squash and peppers also play important roles in Mexican cuisine.
The most important and frequently used spices in Mexican cuisine are chili powder, dried peppers, cumin, oregano, coriander, epazote, cinnamon, and cocoa. Many Mexican dishes also contain garlic and onions.
Next to corn, rice is the most common grain in Mexican cuisine.
Mexican food varies by region, because of local climate and geography and ethnic differences among the indigenous inhabitants and because these different populations were influenced by the Spaniards in varying degrees. The north of Mexico is known for its beef, goat and ostrich production and meat dishes, in particular the well-known “arrachera” cut.
The six regions of Mexico differ greatly in their cuisines. In the Yucatan region, for instance, a unique, natural sweetness (instead of spiciness) exists in the widely used local produce along with an unusual love for “achiote” seasoning. In contrast, the Oaxacan region is known for its savory “tamales”, celebratory “moles”, and simple “tlayudas” while the mountainous regions of the West (Jalisco, etc.) are known for goat “birria” (goat in a spicy tomato-based sauce).
Central Mexico’s cuisine is largely influenced by the rest of the country, but has unique dishes such as “barbacoa”, “pozole”, “menudo” and “carnitas”.
Southeastern Mexico, on the other hand, is known for its spicy vegetable and chicken-based dishes. The cuisine of Southeastern Mexico has a considerable Caribbean influence due to its location. Seafood is commonly prepared in states that border the Pacific Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico, the latter having a famous reputation for its fish dishes.
In the Yucatan region, the Mayan people have practiced beekeeping for thousands of years. Honey is an important ingredient in many Mexican dishes, such as the “rosca de miel”, a bundt-like cake, and in beverages such as “balché”
In some villages, there are also more exotic dishes, cooked in the Aztec or Mayan style, known as prehispanic food, with ingredients ranging from iguana to rattlesnake, deer, spider monkey, grasshoopers, ant eggs, and other kinds of insects.
This Turkey and Lime Soup is kind of a remake of my old caldo xochitl recipe, but better. A recent trip to a Mexican restaurant made me want to redo this recipe and add more lime, among other things. What we have here is the perfect mix between spicy, salty, and sour – that same famous combo that makes Chinese hot & sour soup so delish.
Sopecito Yucateco with Habanera Sauce Recipe, the Mexican cooking remains simple at its core; most of the picante flavor is added afterward with the chile and salsa found on every table. Regional variations range from the basic but nutritious dishes of the north to seafood specialties of the coastal regions to the complex variety of Mexico City and the central states to the earthy, piquant creations of the Maya in the south.
Serve: 12 sopes| Preparation Time: 30 min | Time: 1 hora
- 1 ½ cups cooked and re-baked black beans (can be canned)
- 12 corn kernels (available in tortillerías or in supermarket)
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 2 eggs cooked and finely chopped
- 8 leaves of lettuce disinfected and cut into thin strips
- 1 large tomato seeded and chopped into small cubes
- 1 avocado cut into small pictures
- ½ cup orange juice
- 1 Salsa Habanera
- Mixed Cuisine Butter or frying oil Salt to taste
Previously: (Maximum two hours before serving)
1. In a deep bowl, gently stir in the chopped onion, eggs, lettuce and tomato with the orange juice. Season the mixture with salt. Keep in the refrigerator
1. In a skillet or microwave warm the beans and apart.
2. In another deep pan with lard or hot oil, cool the pieces one by one and place them on absorbent paper.
3. Grease each soup with beans and place some of the lettuce mixture on top. Up to the top place a few squares of avocado and Salsa Habanera to taste.
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