Quintana Roo the state that Cancun is located in and Cancun itself are less than 50 years old. Before 1974 the area of Quintana Roo was part of Yucatan state and so Cancun’s cuisine is heavily influenced by its neighbours. The roots and language of Yucatecan cooking date back to the Mayans who inhabited this part of the world many centuries ago. Below are five delicious foods that are typical of our region and can be found in our hotels and their surrounding areas.
Sopa de lima
A staple of any self-respecting Yucatecan restaurant, sopa de lima (translated as lime soup though it uses a local citrus fruit similar to a lime that has a less acidic flavour) is the ideal first dish to try if you are new to the region’s cuisine, perfect as a starter before you delve into the other foods on this list. Apart from lime, the other key ingredients of this soup are tomato, onion and shredded chicken. Fried strips of corn tortilla are added to the soup giving it a crunchy twist. When done well you won’t want the bowl to end!
Tikin xic is a fish dish prepared with achiote paste, a blend of cumin, pepper, cloves and the orangey-red seeds of the annatto tree. Typically a local fish is used like red snapper or grouper, the fish is then marinated in the achiote paste and traditionally wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in an underground oven known as a pibil. Once cooked the fish is normally garnished with fried onion and served with rice.
Cochinita pibil is a slow cooked pork dish that like tikin xic uses achiote and is traditionally cooked in banana leaves underground. The pork is marinated in the achiote paste and bitter orange juice for several hours which helps soften the meat. Once cooked, the tender meat is pulled and typically eaten as a taco or sandwich filling topped with pickled red onion. A variety of this dish is pollo pibil, where chicken is used instead of pork.
A tamal is a snack made of corn dough with a savoury or sweet filling. The tamal is wrapped in either corn husks or banana leaves and then steamed in a large pot. Popular fillings include chicken, pork and chaya, a green vegetable similar to spinach native to the Yucatan Peninsula. Many enjoy their tamal covered in red or green spicy sauce or mole poblano, a sauce that includes chocolate amongst its many ingredients. The food is a popular choice at large celebrations such as Independence Day, the Day of the Dead and Christmas.
A marquesita is a savoury dessert that consists of a rolled, hardened waffle filled with grated edam cheese (known locally as queso de bola). The story behind this dessert begins in Merida, the capital of Yucatan state, where an ice cream seller low on winter sales devised this alternative filling to great success. The name is said to derive from two regular clients that were daughters of a marquis. Popular additional ingredients include Nutella, cajeta (caramel made of goats milk) and lechera (sweet condensed milk) creating a sweet and savoury combination. Several marquesita vendors can be found in Parque las Palapas in Cancun city centre as well as in squares, parks and street corners throughout the Yucatan peninsula.
We hope you try at least one of these five delightful foods during your stay with us; we are sure you won’t regret it!
Let us know in the comments section below what your favourite food was when you stayed with us…