This grilled pork from Mexico is a traditional Mayan dish marinated in sour orange juice and served with pickled onions. It’s so tasty and easy to make.
When travel is your job it can be difficult to stop working and actually enjoy travel. I know…first world problems. But I always want to document and share what I’ve learned, so the idea of not working can be tough. After a few weeks writing the Playa del Carmen food guide I decided to take the ferry across to Cozumel to just do nothing.
I cashed in some IHG Rewards Club points to stay at the InterContinental Presidente Cozumel Resort Spa. A few years ago IHG gave me points as payment for work with them and I just couldn’t redeem them, clinging to the idea that someday I’d need them.
The day finally came.
Cozumel isn’t really a foot friendly spot like Playa del Carmen unless you stay in town. Most of the hotels and resorts are a bit farther out so it’s not easy to just walk off the resort and do something. This was exactly what I needed, somewhere I couldn’t explore.
That was perfect for me because I just wanted to hang out, to lay in the sun, snorkel and have a few cocktails.
But as you can see from the post I just couldn’t do nothing. At lunch I wanted to eat poc chuc, one of the most traditional foods in the Yucatan. Its roots are Mayan, and while many people think that the ancient Maya disappeared like the Inca they are actually well and alive in the Yucatan.
Food with Mayan roots is often distinct using tomatoes, onion, achiote, chilis and Seville oranges (naranja agria), which are sour oranges used in many dishes like cochinita pibil.
The Origins of Poc Chuc
The Maya are known for producing and controlling the salt production long before Spain tried to conquer the Americas. They used salt to preserve meat with water.
When the Spanish arrived they brought pork, garlic, onions as well as Seville oranges and domesticated animals. The Maya soon realized that instead of preserving pork with just salt, it was much tastier with the Seville oranges.
Today the recipe varies, you can use pork leg, loin or shoulder. Some people still bathe the flattened pork in a salt wash before adding the Seville oranges. Others serve it with cabbage.
Salt was very important to the Maya and still is today in cooking, don’t use iodized salt. I use this great grey sea salt that really shines but it still affordable.
However, it’s almost always cooked over a wood fire or grill. Poc chuc, or póok chúuk in Maya literally means toast over wood coals. So poc chuc is most commonly pork, but you can also find versions that use chicken or even fish.
Don’t let this recipe deter if you if you’re not cooking over open fire. While there’s nothing like the taste of fire-cooked food. It’s also acceptable to cook in a cast iron pan and roast vegetables in the oven. A cheap grill or Hibachi would also be great.
Poc Chuc Recipe
I adapted this recipe from the original InterContinental Presidente Cozumel Resort Spa. Serve poc chuc with avocado, cilantro, refried beans, cabbage, salsa, and of course the tortillas and pickled onions that accompany every meal in the Yucatan.
In Cuba there’s also a similar recipe for Cuban mojo pork chops which also uses the sour orange flavour.
What’s your favourite food from the Yucatan? Let me know in the comments below!