Along the Yucatecan coast, as well as other points of the Península, it’s customary to have Pescado Frito (fried fish). Of course, there are many ways to eat fish in Yucatán, including more elaborate preparations like Mojo de Ajo (bathed in garlic), Tikin Xic (wrapped in banana leaves and grilled), Empanizado (breaded and fried), Sancochado (stewed), Al horno (baked), En Escabeche (cooked with onions), and En Postas (sliced and fried), among many others!
But today I want to tell you about Pescado Frito. Wandering about the coast I came across a delicious fried Boquinete (hogfish), served with pickled onion, tomato, and other local sides, as well as fresh tortillas, a nice serving of Habanero and an ice-cold beer. Boquinete is one of the most popular types of fish in Yucatán because of its delicate white meat, ideal for many types of preparations. Fishermen catch it by harpoon or net, as it does not bite a baited hook like many other species do.
How to choose your fish
Before you order Pescado Frito at any restaurant, I suggest you ask to see the fish that they are going to cook. Make sure it’s as fresh as possible: it should have a nice sparkling pinkish color and that the eyes should be bright and clear; do not accept it if they are grey or sunken. Another thing I personally like to ask, especially at the fish stores or fish stands, is when they last changed the oil in the fryer; some places they keep using the same oil week after week! These are just a few tricks I’ve picked up in my quest to properly enjoy one of the most iconic dishes in our coastal regions.
How to eat Pescado Frito
Now, for how to eat Pescado Frito like a true Yucateco. First of all, you have to 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, pickled onion, and tomato, squeeze some lime juice on it, add a bit of Habanero to taste, and enjoy it like there’s no tomorrow. You’re supposed to clean out the fish; if there’s still meat attached to the bones, don’t be shy: pick it off until it looks like a comb. Then you’ll be able to say you’ve truly enjoyed a fried fish.
As we say here, ¡Buen Provecho!
Mero (red snapper) is a very popular local fish, but its capture is restricted during February and March. Temporary bans are our only hope to save this species from extinction; every bit helps!
By Juan Manuel Mier y Terán Calero (✝), Fundador, Yucatán Today.
Photography by Yucatán Today for its use in Yucatán Today.
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