Yucatán tastes like a rainbow of flavors, textures, and scents. This combination is so wonderful that it has crossed borders, cultures, and languages to become part of a worldwide culinary legacy.
We decided to gather a few special moments that have made their mark in the world through documentaries. These honor the cooks, chefs, farmers, grandmothers, creators, storytellers, and all those who continue to honor traditional knowledge, ancestral techniques, and the culture found in each ingredient.
In 2018, Netflix showed the world the vast knowledge and flavors of Yucatecan food with an episode dedicated to all things sour. Samin Nosrat, the author of “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking” visited Yucatán as part of the documentary series based on her book.
To highlight acidity, she traveled through Yucatán speaking with traditional cooks and chefs about the ingredients and different techniques used with dishes in which this flavor takes center stage. The stars of the show were two staples of our state’s culinary tradition: sour orange and Melipona honey, as this Yucatecan honey has a high level of acidity.
This episode showcases the wisdom and experience of María Concepción Pacho in choosing ingredients at the market in Oxktuzcab, where she selects the best citrus available in the state. The result? Pavo en Escabeche cooked with sour orange. This ingredient can be used to marinate meat, in Aguas Frescas, sauces, and dressings. Of course, the host of the show also pays a visit to a cook who makes handmade tortillas, and to an apiary working with native species of bees.
At the end, chef Regina Escalante from Merci restaurant in Mérida prepared Sopa de Lima, Tikin Xic style fish, and a locally-inspired charlotte for dessert. This shows an authentic and different approach to cooking that is inspired by local produce and recipes to create something new.
From Yaxunáh to the World
Rosalía Chay Chuc is the protagonist of an episode of Netflix’s “Chef’s Table: BBQ Edition.” This is not the first time she’s been featured on an international show; she was also seen on chef David Chang’s first season of “Ugly Delicious.”
She lives in Yaxunáh, a locality of Yaxcabá (20 minutes from Valladolid) and is an avid promoter of Maya customs and culinary techniques through the classes she teaches. She has welcomed chefs like Rick Bayless and Rene Redzepi into her home, along with all kinds of people who wish to learn more about the art of making food in a traditional underground oven or Pib.
Rosalía generously shares the wisdom that has been transmitted from generation to generation, “from her grandmother and mother-in-law,” and teaches participants to make Cochinita Pibil, Relleno Negro, Panuchos, and other regional delicacies.
Whether by using three stones to support a cooking pot over firewood, or an underground Pib oven; these dishes showcase the brilliant Maya culinary heritage Yaxunáh has fought hard to preserve.
Cochinita Pibil as a Delicacy
The second season of “The Taco Chronicles,” a Netflix original, recently debuted an episode dedicated to the Cochinita Pibil taco. This installment highlights Miriam Peraza Rivero, a renowned traditional cook, and promoter of “Encuentro Nacional de Cocineras Tradicionales” (National Meet-up for Traditional Cooks). Miriam is also the owner of the restaurant Manjar Blanco in Mérida. This episode is narrated by another local icon, Conchi León, who is a celebrated actress and creator.
The taco’s praises are sung in interviews with chefs like Obed Reyes (Chef at the Universidad Tecnológica del Poniente in Maxcanú), Pedro Medina (Taquería La Lupita, at the Santiago market), Silvia Campos (Pueblo Pibil), and foodies of all ages.
But how do you make it? Doña Miriam shared her recipe on camera. She begins by grinding Achiote seeds, cinnamon, cumin, cloves, oregano, bay leaves, and black pepper, then dilutes the spice blend in sour orange. This is used to bathe the pork along with the animal’s fat, ribs, ears, and other parts. It marinates for five hours in a metal bowl and banana leaves are used to cover the meat; then it’s placed in the oven (Pib) where it cooks for 12 hours until it’s ready to be served.
The Cochinita taco is the hug that people who visit receive: Miriam Peraza
Editorial by Violeta H. Cantarell
“Meridana,” traveler, animal lover, passionate reader, commentator, and enthusiastic promoter of the natural and human beauty of Yucatán.
Cocina con Rosalía
Rosalía Chay Chuc
Miriam Peraza Rivero
Chef Regina Escalante Bush
Taquería La Lupita
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