What an amazing past week! Some of my cooking class students and I traveled to the beautiful region of the Yucatan peninsula. While enjoying the warm weather, we took lessons in typical Yucatecán cuisine, visited several stunning haciendas with ancient trees and the charming and historical neighborhood of Santiago. Most importantly, however, we got to discover the amazing culinary offerings that this region has to offer. We learned how Yucatecan cuisine has strong European and Mayan influences so very present in each of their authentic dishes. The peninsula was hard to reach for the rest for Mexico but had several ports where the Europeans could bring in commercial goods. Isolated from the rest of Mexico, a very different culinary tradition was born. Yucatán became home to many Dutch, French, and Spanish travelers. This impacted the people and the local cuisine to the point that no other region in Mexico has the flavors and seasonings found in Yucatán.
We cooked with smoky hot chiles, (the infamous habanero) saw the components of the outdoor-underground ovens called pibils, and tried the juice of the tart sour orange that is so extensively used for cooking in this region. During a visit to the local market for ingredients we tried local honey, from the Melipona bee, long hailed for their superior quality honey. The Melipona bee is smaller than the average bee and does not have a stinger. Typical Yucatecán dishes like Poc Chuc, Papadzules, Cochinita Pibil and Sopa de Lima were offered and tasted in every traditional restaurant we visited. It is safe to say we used our tasting time wisely! Of course, we also made time to visit the museums, haciendas and cenotes, between meals that is!
Our favorite restaurants for the delicious fare and service were Hacienda Teya, for it’s beautiful grounds and age-old trees. KuuK, a casona or traditional house where the different rooms are turned into dining rooms and dinner comes with a culinary tour of the inner-workings of the kitchen. Museo de la Gastronomia where typical Yucatán cuisine is served by the staff who are dressed in traditional huipiles that are gorgeously hand-embroidered. A whole room in this restaurant is dedicated to explaining the origins of the Yucatecan cuisine through a museum-like experience.
A secluded wellness resort in Chochola called Chablé,where all local ingredients grown in their Ka’anche’s or Mayan gardens are used in their cuisine as well as their amazing wraps and wellness treatments.
Casa TOH, room after beautiful room for shopping within a beautiful casona for their curated selection of fine gifts and clothing, right on the Paseo de Montejo in downtown Merida. The fact that they serve bubbly on the terrace doesn’t hurt, either.
Hotel Rosas y Xocolate, perfectly located just six blocks away from the historic center of Merida.
Cenotes Santa Barbara, where you can bike from one stunning cenote (sub-terranean caves or sinkholes) to another, and see the beautiful limestone bedrock exposed underneath.