It is customary on the Yucatecan coast, indeed in coastal towns throughout the peninsula, to eat delicious fried fish. Of course there are many ways to enjoy the local seafood, including “mojo de ajo” (bathed in garlic),”tikin xic” (charcoal grilled and wrapped in banana leaves), “empanizado” (breaded), “sancochado” (stew), “al horno” (baked), “en escabeche” (in a typical Yucatecan sauce), and “en posta” (fillet), among others. And no matter how you order it, the seasonings and flavors are unique, whether you season it with local ingredients or just grill it freshly caught from the sea. You have to try it!
The dish which enticed me in my wanderings on the coast is a delicious fried “boquinete” (hogfish) served with purple onion and tomato, along with fresh tortillas, some chile habanero, and an ice cold beer, perfect accompaniment and refreshment for the warm tropical climate. Hogfish is one of the most popular types of fish in Yucatán, favored by locals for its delicate, delicious white meat, ideal for many types of preparation. Fishermen catch it by harpoon or net, as it does not bite a hook with bait as many other species do. So if you see that they offer “boquinete” dishes on the menu at any restaurant, don’t hesitate to try it prepared any way that appeals to you; you are guaranteed delicious flavor and a memorable gastronomic experience.
We suggest that before you order fried fish in any restaurant, fish store, or fish stand, that you ask to see the fish that they are going to cook, to be sure it is as fresh as possible: look carefully and be sure it has a nice sparkling pinkish color, that the meat is not coming off, and that the eyes are bright and clear; do not accept it if they are dull or grey.
The other thing that I personally like to check, especially at the fish stores or fish stands, is when was the last time they changed the oil in the fryer; in some places they keep using the same oil week after week!
Now that you have the fried fish in your hands, all that is left is to taste it, and here is the way I like to prepare a taco with fried fish: first of all, you must eat it with your hands; don’t even think of using a knife and fork! Open a fresh tortilla on the palm of your hand and then place some chunks of fish, purple onion and tomato, squeeze some lime juice on it, add a bit of chile, and enjoy it like never before! When you have eaten almost all the fish, there are always more delicious chunks to be found attached to the bones. Don’t be shy, just pick it up with your hands and nibble off the rest of the meat until it looks like a comb. Now you will be able to say that you know how to eat a Yucatecan style fried fish!
I hope these recommendations which I have learned and shared with you help you to enjoy with perfect tranquillity one of the iconic dishes of our coast: fried fish. Remember you can order it by the kilo or by the plate.
By Juan Manuel Mier y Terán Calero, Founder, Yucatán Today
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