14/01/2009Yucatecan Cuisine in Cancun

Yucatan is famous for its culinary delights, combining a mouthwatering mixture of European and Mayan flavors. The Yucatan peninsula is the land of the Maya, and was once very isolated from the rest of Mexico. The easiest way to reach the peninsula was through its many ports, encouraging cultural contacts with European traders. Hence the European influence in the dishes found in the Mayan dishes of Yucatan.

In Cancun, the Mercado 23 is like a farmer’s market providing fruits and vegetables, meat and poultry, herbs and spices, flowers, and more. If you plan to cook whilst in Cancun then you will find all the regional ingredients right here. Some of the main ingredients found in Yucatecan cuisine are sour oranges (used as a marinade), achiote, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), and chaya, which is a Mayan spinach packed full of vitamins, minerals and protein. Banana leaves are used to wrap tamales and many other dishes.

Here are some examples of Yucatecan cuisine you should definitely try:

Cochinita Pibil
Amazingly rich and tasty dish made from pork marinated in achiote (annatto), sour orange juice, peppercorns, garlic, cumin and salt. The meat is traditionally then wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in the ground in a pit oven. The cochinita is usually served with fresh tortillas, and chopped pink onions.

Pescado Tikin Xic
This is grouper fish also prepared with achiote and baked or barbecued wrapped in banana leaves. Very typical on the coast.

Panuchos are corn tortillas split and filled with black bean paste and fried, then topped with shredded chicken lettuce, tomato and pink onions. Absolutely delicious!

Sopa de Lima (Lime Soup)
Delicious chicken broth, with shredded chicken and lime and strips of fried tortilla.

Frijol con Puerco
What makes this dish extra special are the garnishes added at the table. The stew is made from black beans (frijol) and pork (puerco) and is served with rice. You then sprinkle chopped radish, cilantro and onion over the top. A real delight for the tastebuds.

These are just a few of the vast variety of dishes common in Yucatecan cuisine. If you would like to try some of these dishes, take a look at our Eating Out Guide for a list of restaurants worth a visit during your Cancun vacation.