The Yucatan was recently named one of Mexico’s top destinations for food tourism by Mobility ADO, one of the largest coach operators in the country.
Mexican cuisine is one of the most recognized in the world. Gastronomic or food tourism occurs when visitors spend 30 percent of their budget on food, according to the World Tourism Organization.
Yucatan cuisine has distinct ingredients and flavors. Its uniqueness earned the region a spot on the list of places ripe for food tourism, along with the Mexican states of Veracruz, Oaxaca, and Hidalgo.
Leading travel officials noted cochinita pibil, papadzules, Sopa de Lima, and Xtabentún as traditional Yucatecan dishes that defined the region’s culinary character.
“Cochinita” means “baby pig.” True cochinita pibil is made with suckling pig. But most modern recipes use pork shoulder or pork loin as a substitute. Juice from bitter oranges, lemons, and limes marinate the meat.
“Pibil” refers to the cooking method of wrapping the meat in banana lives and cooked in a pit oven. Traditionally, cochinita pibil was buried in a pit with a fire at the bottom to roast it. Achiote gives the dish its characteristic orange-reddish color and adds to the flavor.
Cochinita pibil is enjoyed with corn tortillas, red pickled onions, refried black beans, and habanero chiles. A later development is to include cochinita pibil as a taco filling.
Papadzules is believed to be one of the oldest, traditional, Yucatecan dishes and considered the Mayan take on the enchilada.
In its purest form, a chopped hard-boiled egg is stuffed into fresh tortillas and cooked or fried in tomato salsa. Papadzules are also considered a remake of flauta or taquito, a central Mexican dish stuffed with meat, deep fried, and served with salsa on the side.
Competing theories exist about the origin of its name. Food historian Diana Kennedy said the term “papadzules” derives from a phrase meaning “food of the lords” because it was reportedly fed to the Spanish. A second theory claims the word derives from the Mayan word “papak,” meaning to anoint, smear or drench.
Modern papadzules are prepared by dipping tortillas in a creamy, green sauce of epazote, ground pumpkin seeds, and broth. They are then stuffed with boiled eggs, rolled up, and “anointed” with more sauce. A sauce of tomatoes and habanero chiles (chiltomate) is draped on top.
Sopa de Lima
Sopa de Lima is a Mayan lime soup that dates back about 1,000 years.
It’s prepared with chicken, tomato, red pepper, cilantro, and tortilla chips. Sometimes it’s made with pork or beef. Lime is not the main ingredient, but it gives the soup its flavor.
Sopa de Lima as we now know it was reportedly created in 1946. Today, it is considered one of the most representative soups of Yucatan.
Xtabentún is a sweet, after-dinner digestif made from the local Moon flower and has a unique taste.
Meaning “vines growing from the stone” in Maya, Xtabentún is made from anise seed and fermented honey produced by honey bees from the nectar of flowers with the same name as the drink. Then add rum to the anise and honey mixture.
It’s challenging to find Xtabentún outside of the region so load up when you are in Campeche, Quintana Roo (Riviera Maya, Costa Maya) and the Yucatan.
Want to experience authentic Yucatecan food? Contact our reservations team to help you plan your perfect foodie vacation in one of the top destinations in Mexico. A delicious adventure awaits.