Cooking in Lina’s Mexican Kitchen in Tulum is like preparing and sharing a meal with a favorite aunt, one who knows secrets about life and making the perfect sweet potato empanada.
On a balmy late afternoon, I arrived at Lina’s Mexican Kitchen on Calle 2, Oriente, in Tulum. It’s on a non-descript street in Villas Tulum, unknown by some taxi drivers. However, Lina and her sister Miriam, who also teaches cooking classes, are a quick phone call away if you need help with directions.
Cascades of bright pink bougainvillea draped over the white, stucco house. An iron staircase painted in the same fuchsia shade as the bougainvillea led to the expansive dining area and airy, open kitchen. The tropical melody of Hector Lavoe’s salsa classic, “El Dia de Suerte” drifted in the air.
An assortment of wooden spoons, spatulas, earthen plates and pots, stone mortar and pestles, and dried chiles were artfully arranged throughout the kitchen. Gigantic green peppers, crimson tomatoes, shredded coconut, mango, avocado, chiles, and onions waited in bowls to be sliced, diced, and roasted.
Our class was small that evening – just me, a charming mother and young daughter visiting from Germany, Lina, and her assistant. We were shy with each other at first as we roasted the plump green peppers and red tomatoes on an earthen plate over an open gas flame. We took turns turning the vegetables over with tongs until they were soft or blackened.
Lina and her sister learned recipes from their mother and grandmother’s kitchen in Oaxaca, one of the chief culinary regions of Mexico. It was no surprise, therefore, Lina spotted a kindred spirit and budding chef in the 10-year-old German girl who was curious and eager to taste everything. She taught the girl to peel and cut the mango that served as the main ingredient for the mango and coconut flan we later enjoyed for dessert.
Every ingredient served a purpose. Corn was used to make tortillas, and its husk cradled the tamale dough in which we scooped a blend of roasted poblano chile and cheese. We then folded the sides of the shell so that the dough surrounded the filling and creased the bottom of the husk up and secured it by tying a thin husk strip around the tamale.
During the evening, the individual members of the class became a cohesive group much like tomatoes, onion, garlic, cilantro, avocado, chipotle chile, and cheese can become tortilla soup.
We spent more time lingering together and revealing bits of our story during the pauses in between courses. We learned, for example, that Lina lived in Germany with her then-husband, before moving to Tulum, where she has lived for more than 20 years. The mother and daughter shared their adventures of traveling to Myanmar and taking cooking classes around the world as a way of learning more about local people and culture.
Late afternoon yawned into late evening. Together, we prepared and shared sweet potato and cheese empanadas, tamales, Mexican mango and coconut flan, corn tortillas, and Sopa de tortilla. I left the class with a full belly and contented heart.
As a recent ex-pat in Mexico, I live in a bubble. I mostly speak English. I take my time in forming friendships. Rarely, do I get a glimpse into an authentic Mexican kitchen with its secrets and recipes. My warm and open experience at Lina’s taught me that anything is possible if I try hard enough — even folding the perfect tamale.
Lina’s Mexican Kitchen is a personalized cooking experience. Her classes are perfect for individuals and small groups of people who are eager to learn more about Mexican culture. Classes are approximately four hours.
The menu changes regularly. However, she can accommodate vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free tastes.
Cost for the class is about $115 USD/$2,100 pesos per person. Half is requested before the class to secure your class while the remaining 50 percent can be paid when you arrive at the class.
Lina’s classes are very popular. A two-week advance recommendation is recommended.
Inspired to try Lina’s Mexican Kitchen or other authentic Mexican cooking classes? Contact Paulina, our concierge, who can help with questions, secure your spot in a class, and plan the foodie vacation of your dreams.