Street food in the Yucatan is a great way to experience culture when you aren’t comfortable with the language.
The problem with Mexico is that there is just too much food and not enough time to eat it all. I loved my time in Campeche, Valladolid and ate at great restaurants in Merida. I will be back.
Food in the Yucatan has its own flavour and has been much different from what I experienced in Canada. It draws its influences from many cultures including the local Mayan, Caribbean and Middle Eastern. I’m leaving the region, but not before recommending three more dishes to try:
The tamale has been around for nearly ten thousand years and is popular throughout Latin America. They are made from masa, a starchy corn-based dough that is steamed or boiled in a leaf until solid. They can be filled with any assortment of meat, cheese, vegetables etc.
The ultimate comfort food, Mexico has almost 1000 different varieties of tamales depending on the region and I plan to eat as many as I can.
I found my first tamale from a vendor at the food market. The price depended on the size and I chose a smaller one, slightly larger than a deck of cards, for 65 cents.
The filling was simply tomato based with chicken, accompanied by a baggie of hot sauce to spice things up. I ate them every day is Merida, which left more room in my budget for too many pitchers of beer.
Originating in Merida, Panuchos are small fried corn tortillas garnished with black beans and topped with turkey or chicken, lettuce, avocado and pickled onion.
As always, hot sauce or habanero peppers are availble as an additional topping. Many street vendors and restaurants sell them throughout Merida and the Yucatan.
Unlike some other street food it was light, fresh and didn’t have the heaviness of typical fried food. It’s often an appetizer, but like most food in Mexico, it was enough for lunch.
Very similar to panuchos, another very traditional dish from the Yucatan are salbutes, a deep fried soft tortilla topped with chicken, turkey or pork, onions, tomatoes and lettuce. The corn tortillas fry in oil until they crisp and are topped with meat, tomato, lettuce, sliced avocado and pickled onion.
As delicious as they are, I would consider them as treat as they are deep fried.
I ate my first salbute in a market stall in Campeche where the vendors shout out the menu to entice people to sit at their table.
Lunch was somewhat eventful as the women laughed at me for photographing my food. While my Spanish was weak, I did understand one cook mocking another that no one was taking photos of her food.
Pork is central to every great celebration in Mexico, but you don’t have to go to Mexico to try it. Check our this recipe for Yucatan style Mexican pulled pork which can be served on tortillas as tacos or on a soft bun as a torta sandwich.