Mexican And Yucatecan Flavours In Merida: Eat Like A Local
If you think Mexican food starts and ends with tacos (and tequila but that’s more of a liquid dish!), you better make your way over here! Specially because here, in Merida, you can experience delicious flavours that are unique to the area and its Yucatecan heritage.
Read on to see what local dishes should make its way on your menu next time you’re here.
First, the regional Yucatecan stuff. And what better place to start than… breakfast?
A breakfast classic! A bed of tortilla with fried eggs, refried black beans and tomato sauce. You can also expect peas, plantains or ham - and a bit of cheese to top it up. Guarantee of a good day ahead!
Panuchos and salbutes
Two dishes featuring tortillas or masa cakes which have shredded chicken or turkey layered on them. With panuchos, you can also expect a layer of beans (frijoles).
Sopa de Lima
This delicious, hot soup resembles a broth and is made from chicken stock and lima, a distinct local type of lime that’s a little less acidic. Traditionally, you will find shredded pieces of chicken or turkey, tomatoes, onions and fried tortilla in it. Healthy and light.
Not the lightest dish on the list! Queso relleno is a hollowed-out Edam cheese stuffed with some interesting flavours, like caramelized ground beef, peppers, onions, capers, raisins, almonds, herbs and olives. Traditionally, wrapped in banana leaf and steamed.
This dish is also a true celebration of Yucatan’s affair with…. Edam cheese. The beloved queso de bola has made its way to Yucatan thanks to the Dutch influence and can be quite a culinary surprise for international visitors.
Cochinita or Pollo Pibil
Yucatan’s trademark dish. Delicious meat marinated in achiote (a red condiment and food colouring derived from the seeds of the achiote tree), spices and the bitter Sicilian orange, now also a staple of Yucatecan cuisine. The marinated meat is wrapped in banana leaves and barbecued or baked. YUM!
Turkey is a very popular meat in Yucatan - and this turkey dish is one of the other staples of the area. The meat is cooked with a paste of charred chiles, called black recado, veggies and hard-boiled eggs. Don’t let the darkness of the dish scare you off - it’s delicious!
Merida’s favourite treat. Invented in 1938 and beloved by the daughters of a Marquis living in the city, this crepe rolled up around a variety of different fillings, got its name after the girls. The specialty filling you ought to try when in Mérida is definitely Edam cheese and caramel sauce or Nutella. A local go-to snack!
Now, here in Yucatan we love more widespread Mexican cuisine too. A couple of our favourites below.
Together with huevos motulenos, one of our breakfast favourites! Think fried tortilla triangles or strips covered with red or green salsa topped with a whole bunch of goodness, like beans, eggs, cheese, cream, onion and meat of choice.
Might suffer from a food coma afterwards!
These classics of Mexican cuisine are in fact popular across the whole of Latin America. Ranging from the plain corn tortilla filled with yellow cheese and deep-fried - to a more Yucatecan take on the fried goodness: corn and chaya tortillas, stuffed with Edam cheese. Because Yucatecan Edam is really salty and strong, it doesn’t melt easily so the result is a dense and strongly flavoured snack.
This filling snack has been around since mesoamerican times. Tamales are made by mixing a corn masa with lard, beating the batter - and filling it with pork, cheese, fish, chicken, boiled egg and other things before wrapping. Usually steamed, baked or grilled and the standard wrapping tends to be corn husks and banana leaves.
Tacos al Pastor
Did you know Mexico has benefited from some Arabic influences through the years? Well, tacos al pastor are essentially a Mexican take on a traditional Lebanese kebab. The strips of pork are marinated - amongst other things - in achiote and vinegar. Then the meat is stacked on a vertical rotisserie, resembling a doner kebab. Once ready to eat, the crispy bits of meat are placed in a taco and eaten fresh. One of our favourite taco fillings, hands down!
Should beans be on Mexico’s national flag? Well, maybe not. But you’ll struggle to find a meal that doesn’t come with a side of frijoles! While pinto beans reign in the North, Yucatan is all about black beans. With the addition of a bit of garlic, onion and herbs, they are an excellent counterpoint to the popular spicy food. Leftover frijoles are often served as a side dish called frijoles refritos -refried beans. Interestingly, ‘refried’ in this case means fried well - not fried more than once!
It’s a delicious and refreshing drink made with rice, almonds, cinnamon and sugar. A sweet delight that’s very popular in Yucatan.
Tequila and mezcal
We all know these party animals! With roots in octli and Aztec agave drink, tequila and mezcal were created by the Spanish through the process of roasting agave hearts, followed by extraction, fermentation and distillation of the liquids. Every cantina in Merida will offer an extensive list of local variations of these, sometimes accompanied by the bitter orange and a bit of salt with chilli.
Salivating yet? We sure are! As you can see, Merida is the perfect culinary base to explore the whole Yucatan area, so if you’re a foodie and love exploring local flavours - this is the place. ¡Buen provecho!