If you have walked a bit on the streets of Mérida, you will have noticed that in most parks, plazas, and at city events, every day and at all hours, there are street carts with the sign “Marquesitas”. Go on up to one of them and try this delicious snack, an ideal dessert to make you feel very Yucatecan.
The marquesita is a rolled crepe-type wafer approximately 20 cm. (8 in.) in diameter, with your choice of fillings. It is unique in all of México for its perfect combination of sweet and savory, crispy and soft at the same time. And all for only 25 pesos! Their popularity and success have grown over the years and you can also find them, with the same recipe, in various other cities of southeastern México including Izamal, Valladolid, Tulum, Holbox, and more.
Preparation is fairly simple: the blend of ingredients used to make the marquesita thin and light is of flour, eggs, sugar, and milk, similar to pancakes. The batter is first pressed on a heavy iron griddle, over an open flame. It is removed from the flame as soon as it has formed a thin crepe, and then you can choose your filling, including the classic grated Dutch Edam cheese (known as “queso de bola” in Yucatán). The crepe is then rolled into the shape of a flute before being sweetened, and the final touch can be a sprinkling of “queso de bola” or a dollop of hazelnut cream…to be enjoyed on the spot!
You can also choose sweet fillings, including toffee (“cajeta”), chocolate, honey, or jam. Combine them any way you like! They are all delicious. We promise you that once you have tried your first marquesita, you will want to try a different version every time you see one of these carts on the street.
The origin of this delicious Yucatecan dessert goes hand in hand with the story of the local ice cream stand “Helados Polito” in Parque de Santiago. Its founder, Don Leopoldo Mena, alias “Don Polo”, and his son Vicente Mena were looking for ways to maintain their business during the winter months, adding to their wafer sales. Experimenting with fillings, and with the arrival of the Dutch cheese to Yucatán, the marquesita was born, becoming popular during the 1940s with all sectors of Mérida society. The origin of its name has various theories: some people say that the treat bears resemblance to snacks favored by the grandchildren of a marquis; or that Vicente named it in honor of his wife, who was called Marquesa.
Today you can buy marquestitas easily from street carts everywhere. No one can resist their specific taste and texture! There are not many people who have not tasted this delicacy, a light snack that is sweet but not too sweet. Whether on a hot day or cool evening, it’s always a good time to enjoy a crispy marquesita with “queso de bola”, savoring it until the last bite. Delicious, at a great price, unique, and hard to find anywhere else outside this region of México. Don’t leave Yucatán without trying one…or several.
By Violeta H. Cantarell
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