Five Mayan Dishes To Try Before The Long-Form Calendar Resets


3. Poc chuc with chayote shoots

pocchuc.jpg
Flickr user jenniferwoodardmaderazo
Poc chuc means "grilled pork"; thin slices of pork are marinated in sour orange juice and onions, then grilled over an immensely hot fire. They cook almost instantly, in so little time that the juices literally do not have time to escape into the fire.

While the chayote (or mirliton, choko, etc.) is known in the United States, there is nowhere north of Miami where it's consistently warm enough for the plants to send up tender young stalks in the winter; they look like mutant asparagus but taste like squash and are normally served boiled or in soup.

4. Tikin xic

Tikin xic (the second word is pronounced "sheek") means "dry fish" and refers to fish, normally a grouper or other white or pink fish, which is rubbed with a marinade made of bright red achiote, sour orange juice, salt (or seawater), then rolled inside banana leaves and cooked in a pit. As with many Mayan dishes, it goes well with just a dab of xni pec ("dog's snout", the hottest non-novelty salsa in use in Mexico)

5. Agua de chia, chocolate and xtabentún

Flickr user garyjwood
Xtabentún on ice
Yes, those Chia Pets we all got twenty years ago really were edible. The seeds have a nutty, slightly "green" taste, and are packed with vitamins; soak them in water and then add sugar and lime juice to make it sweeter and a little more interesting.

The Mayans were the first to grow the cacao for food; they developed the savory, coffee-like drink that was the first chocolate; made with bitter chocolate, canela, and chile powder, it's not exactly Hershey's here.

For the after-dinner digestif, there's xtabentún, an anise-flavored, honey-sweetened liqueur based on rum. It didn't start that way, of course, but the invading Spaniards didn't develop a taste for fermented corn alcohol with tree bark; their alterations changed the drink into the world's most interesting variation of absinthe.

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