If you point your compass or GPS towards the southern section of Mérida’s Centro, your taste buds will be the ones that end up guiding you. Upon arriving to the Barrio de San Sebastián, a traditional neighborhood of the city where the Ermita de Santa Isabel is, you will find yourself in the “Birthplace of the Panucho.” The place where, a few centuries back, the Yucatecan staple that has become a favorite for locals and visitors alike was created. But what is a Panucho? Where does the name come from? How do you eat it? I’m going to tell you all about it!
What is a Panucho?
A Panucho is a handmade corn tortilla that is split in the middle and stuffed with refried beans. After sealing the beans inside, the tortilla is deep fried until it’s golden and crispy. It is then topped with a variety of delicious ingredients such as roasted turkey, Cochinita Pibil, Relleno Negro, Relleno Blanco, chicken, ground meat, or seafood. They are also usually adorned with lettuce, pickled onions, cucumber, or a slice of ripe avocado. If your mouth still isn’t watering like Pavlov’s dog, you must be from another planet!
About how Panuchos were first created, I talked with René Flores Ayora, the organizer of the ever first Panucho Festival which took place at the end of 2019 in San Sebastián and which was so successful that another event is in the works.
Where do Panuchos come from?
“The original Panucho was born close to La Ermita de Santa Isabel (also known as the Chapel of Safe Travels) at the beginning of the 18th century. Here, Don Hucho had an inn which was in a very strategic spot, since it was located right where the road to Campeche started. When travelers passed by, many were hungry, and Don Hucho had a fantastic idea.” René tells me.
He asked his wife to make a tortilla stuffed with beans that they would then fry to make it even tastier, he also instructed her to top the tortilla with whatever they had on hand. The very first Panuchos were garnished with onions and eggs. Later on, other ingredients were added such as turkey, chicken, and Cochinita Pibil.
“Travelers loved Panuchos so much that word spread like wild fire. Everyone would say: Let’s eat Don Hucho’s bread (Pan, in Spanish) which is where the word Panucho comes from.” René tells me.
Here are some places that you can visit to taste unforgettable Panuchos in Mérida, besides going to the San Sebastián market. Give them a try!
Mercado Municipal Lucas de Gálvez
Calle 56 x 65, Centro
Mercado Santa Ana
Calle 47 x 60, Centro
Bazar García Rejón
Calle 60 x 65, Centro
Calle 105 #526, Col. Melitón Salazar
Editorial by Cecilia García Olivieri
Photography by MUGY, Natalia Calero Bejarano, Hacienda Teya, Nora Garrett for its use in Yucatán Today
Esta entrada también está disponible en: ES