What to eat in Yucatan

We have to confess. Our time in Mexico was way more than broken bikes, Mayan ruins and days of good luck. Mexicans love their antojitos (I love that name, it means “little cravings”), their comida corrida (which sounds way better than “fast food”) and their aguas frescas (which are only partly water). The truth is that, once we set foot in Yucatan, we forgot the word of doctors and parents and ate on the streets and in restaurants that needed a bit of a clean. And not only did our stomachs survive: they loved every single meal. And so did our wallets, by the way… Most of the dishes we will describe below cost us less than 1 or 2 €, which made eating out almost cheaper (and definitely more delicious) than cooking in.

Almost everything we ate in Mexico was a bit of a discovery for us. We had had enchiladas or quesadillas before, but some other things were nothing like we imagined… and we had never even heard some names before. So we decided to make a little summary of EVERY little thing we ate and drank during our days in Yucatan:

Agua de frutas: Best thing ever. They are just fruit blended with cold water. We had no way of telling whether the water was bottled or the fruit was freshly cut, but we were drinking them nonstop and didn’t get sick at all. You can get them for a prize that’s usually cheaper than most sodas and they’re way nicer.

Chilaquiles: It was the logical thing to do. Why use pasta, like the Italians, when you can do the same with tortillas? I only had them because I saw the name on the menu and didn’t know what it was, and I got a plate of chopped tortilla with tomato sauce and cheese (and loads of chicken which Samu was happy to take off my plate). Very tasty!

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Enchiladas en primer plano y chilaquiles a la derecha. Al fondo un vasito de agua de frutas, en este caso de sandía.

Enchiladas: They are quite famous in Europe and we totally understand why. They are rolled tortillas with meat or cheese inside, covered with tomato and onion sauce and more cheese. The result is amazingly tasty. It’s like caneloni but using tortilla instead of pasta.

Gringas: They are basically wheat tortilla with pastor (amazing way to treat meat in Mexico), cheese and whatever you want to put on them. I read that you are supposed to cover them with another tortilla and add pineapple. There are a lot of versions about the origin of the name. There’s one that says that in the 70’s, in Ciudad de Mexico, a couple girls from the States used to go to El Tizoncito (one of the first taquerías that started making tacos al pastor) and they used to ask for quesadillas with the filling of a taco al pastor. So the locals that saw them asked for the same saying: We want the same thing as the ‘gringas‘. Thank you guys.

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Quesadillas y soda para Alba. Gringas y horchata para Samu.

Quesadillas: Those are famous all over the world and we didn’t find them that different from the ones we had had in Europe except for the price (less than 0.5€ each), but definitely a tasty and safe choice for vegetarians!

Jamaica/Horchata: of course we had to speak about the drinks we had in Mexico, because they really caught our attention. Jamaica and horchata are sold in most fast food restaurants and are bottled in sealed but untagged plastic bottles, which made us slightly suspicious. Jamaica is a red, sugary but also a bit sour beverage that we didn’t love that much. Horchata has nothing to do with the drink from Valencia: it’s made with rice, milk, and lots of sugar. We differed on this one, Samu prefers the Mexican one but Alba doesn’t like it at all.

Huaraches: These were the first thing we had in Mexico in our very first night. It was in a place close to the main street but incredibly cheap (just look for the places where there aren’t any gringos around). Huarache is the name of the kind of sandals some indigenous Mexican people wear, and we laughed about it before seeing how it related: the masa (wheat dough) of the huaraches used to take the shape of the sandals!

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Huaraches en primera plana. Un poco más grandes que los originales. Aunque todavía se adivina la forma de sandalia. También se pueden ver los tacos que regalan en muchos restaurantes al comer allí, junto con sus recipientes para salsas picantes.

Machacados: Alba’s current favourite food. It’s something you can mostly find in Chetumal and it’s very sugary but soooo good: you choose a fruit and they smash it in a plastic cup, they put some crushed ice on top, looooads of condensed milk and they top it off with some more ice, more condensed milk and wafers. Delicious.

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Mujer machacando mango para el machacado de Samu.
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Los machacados no son de este mundo.

Marquesitas: When we met a gastronomy student from Chetumal, she let us know that the amazing marquesitas were invented there and that we should get one. She was right. Marquesitas are a very very big wafer they make in front of you, then they fill it up with grated cheese and some kind of sweet sauce such as dulce de leche, marmalade or hazelnut chocolate cream (I couldn’t believe it at first but I swear the mix is good) and then roll it up for you to eat.

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Marquesita y un hotdog deconstruido con patatas.

Hotdogs: This is something we did not expect to find here. Let me tell you, in Central America hotdogs are a must. They are simple but delicious, depends on the place they have more or less stuff inside. The sausages are cooked differently than we do in Europe and they add different stuff to it, like avocado, bacon, ham, cheese, onion… They were awesome! In addition, they cut them up for you and you still get fries (which Alba loved).

Cocos fríos: The name says it all. Just coconuts people take down from the palm trees and then sell. They cut their tops with a machete and let you drink the water, and once you’re done drinking they open it up for you to eat the “flesh”. Very fresh and very refreshing!

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Estábamos al borde de la deshidratación cuando apareció un vendedor de cocos, justo a tiempo de salvarnos la vida.

Paletas: They are like delicious homemade ice creams they make with fruit. They’re so natural you can even feel the fruit texture and sometimes you may find bones. As we always like to try the ‘weirdest’ things we asked for tamarindo and guanabana. We have to say that the guanabana one was incredibly tasty but using tamarindo to make ice creams should be forbidden.

-Tamales (Brazo de reina): Alba had heard about the Mexican tamales being different than the ones in Guatemala, so we definitely wanted to taste them before crossing the border, but we couldn’t find them anywhere. But then, as we were heading to the bus station in Chetumal, we found a house with a little poster that said “Tamales“. We asked for two, and the woman said “¿Brazo de reina (queen’s arm)?”. We said yes, having no idea that we had just asked for the most traditional tamal in Yucatan, with a tortilla made with corn and chaya leaves and filling made of hard boiled eggs, pumkin seeds and tomato sauce, all wrapped up and steam cooked in banana leaves. They cost us around 0,20€.

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Compramos el tamal en una casa particular y lo comimos sentados en un bordillo de Chetumal. En la foto se aprecian las hojas de chaya mezcladas con la masa de tortilla, el huevo duro y la hoja de banano con que se envuelve.

Tacos: Forget about Taco Bell and the taco emoji. The tacos you can find around Yucatán are not deep fried and definitely not hard. If you ask for tacos, you will probably get around three small wheat tortillas with some beef or pork minced meat, onion and sauce on top.

Licuados: Milkshakes, but with more fruit choices and around 4 or 5 times cheaper than the ones you can find in Europe.

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Un licuado de melón y una agua de papaya en frente al lago de Cobá. Tenían un precio de menos de 0.50€ cada uno.

Tortas: they are just like sandwiches but way tastier. They get a piece of bread, they fill it up with whatever you ask (cheese is an option in most places!!!) along with tomato, lettuce and sauces and then put it on a pan for a bit to get the bread deliciously crunchy. It’s great to eat it warm, but saving it for later it’s also an option.

So this is it! And we have to say that, despite all we ate and drank, we didn’t get sick or broke in Mexico (this is not something we can say about Guatemala!). We can’t wait to go back to Mexico for more huaraches and chilaquiles!

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