There is something magical and unique about Yucatecan cuisine. Ingredients like sour orange and habanero peppers add acidity and heat to so many of our favorite dishes and snacks.
But when it comes to home-style cooking in Yucatán, Recados are king. What are Recados you may ask? Well, to put it simply, Recado is a catch-all term used to refer to blends of spices and chilies used in a variety of dishes.
Like curries, Recados come in a wide range of colors and flavor profiles. Some are spicy, some are mild, but they are all oh-so-flavourful. Speaking of curries, did you know that this Indian staple has its origins in México? That’s right, it wasn’t until Portuguese spice traders took chili seeds from México to Asia that curry started to be incorporated into Indian cuisine.
Some Recados – like the Recado Rojo, made with Achiote (annatto seed) – are used across the entire country to add flavor and color to México’s famous Tacos al Pastor and Yucatán’s Cochinita Pibil. You can find powdered Achiote in most Yucatecan grocery stores, but I would recommend making your way to one of the state’s many traditional markets to pick up some fresh Recado Rojo paste. Rub the paste on pork chops before frying them up and ta-da! you have Carne al Pastor. Well, not really, but with enough practice and experimentation, you may get a reasonable facsimile going.
Recado Negro is made from from charred tortillas, Tabasco and Castilla peppers, garlic, oregano, cumin, and epazote. Its flavor is extremely bold, but not necessarily hot. Recado Negro is one of the main ingredients in several popular Yucatecan dishes such as Chilmole and Relleno Negro. As its Spanish name heavily implies, Recado Negro is completely black and passes on this coloring to the dishes it is prepared with. As black foods are not that common in most parts of the world, some visitors are turned off by its appearance. However, if you are an adventurous eater and are not afraid of some serious flavor, I recommend you give Relleno Negro or Chimole a try. Just don’t overdo it!
Papadzules are one of Yucatán’s favorite dishes. This Maya delicacy is made with corn tortillas, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, chili peppers, and a rich pumpkin seed sauce that uses Recado Verde, also known as Pepita or Recado para Papadzul. This popular blend is made from the ground Pepita seeds harvested from a local variety of squash. Besides being delicious, Papadzules are also popular among vegetarians, as this quintessentially Yucatecan dish contains no meat.
As its name implies, Recado para Escabeche is used in the preparation of one of Yucatán’s favorite dishes, Escabeche Oriental. This classic dish is a Yucatecan take on traditional Escabeche, which has its origin in Spain. The Recado used in Escabeche usually comes in small plastic bags and is either dark green or brown. It’s made by mixing pulverized cumin, black and Tabasco peppers, clove, cinnamon, onion, and garlic. Its rich taste is balanced out beautifully by a chicken broth to which vinegar and sour orange are added.
Other popular Recados include Recado Blanco utilized in the preparation of a hearty Yucatecan stew known as Puchero, Recado Mechado, used to marinate chicken or turkey, and Recado Español, an affordable alternative to saffron which reproduces much of its color and taste.
So next time your sinuses are acting up, or if you want your meal to have a little extra zing, just say to the cook or waiter, “con mucho Recado, por favor.”
Editorial by Carlos Rosado.
Coming from a Mexican/Canadian family, Carlos Rosado is an adventure travel guide, blogger, and photographer with studies in Multimedia, Philosophy, and Translation.
Photography by Carlos Rosado for use in Yucatán Today.
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