Spring Break Food Review – Viva el Mexico!

Although this post goes a little beyond the scope of the greater Boston area, but I had so many culinary adventures over the past week that I felt I needed to share them here. For those of you who do not know, I spent the past week in Cancun, Mexico, which is oriented on the Yucatan Peninsula and on the coast of the Caribbean. I had the amazing opportunity to eat at one authentic Mayan restaurant, which introduced my palate to some fiery stuff indeed.

After touring the ruins of Chichen Itza (one of the seven modern wonders of the world), my tour bus stopped at a small restaurant in the middle of the jungle. Now, Chichen Itza is nearly 3 hours southwest of Cancun, so we really were in the middle of nowhere. Food was served buffet style, and here is a summary of some of the more interesting dishes – 

  1. Fish soup – this had bits of shredded fish as well as tomatoes, peppers, and tortillas. It was delicious, especially with the “green” sauce. (see below)
  2. Iguana dumplings – yes, these had the meat of the local iguana. A note on the iguana, the ones we saw in the wild were about 4 feet long and could run at upwards of 15 mph – tough to catch. The meat was very, very reminiscent of lamb in terms of texture and taste, but I really did not enjoy the strong flavor. But this is a staple of local tradition.
  3. Chicken and wild rice – my favorite dish. Wild rice is difficult to cook, especially since the restaurant only prepares their food using what Mayans would have used – aka, open pit fires, wooden cutlery, etc. But the wild rice could not have been better – a moderate earthy taste coupled with soft grains. The chicken was plain chicken, no marination or seasoning.
  4. Dessert – some sort of rice pudding that probably was made with wild rice as well. The sugar grains in this were not ground especially fine, so it tasted very grainy and had a light taste to it. I believe they used goat’s milk as well, which is not for the light-hearted in taste AND smell.

There is one more thing to mention about this restaurant, and Mexico in general – Most restaurants and stores have what they refer to as “red sauce” and “green sauce.” The red sauce is derived from chile and cayenne peppers, and has a sweet and spicy taste to it. Very enjoyable when served on tacos, beans, etc.

This is what wikipedia has to say about Green Sauce – Green sauces are common in Mexican and Mexican-American cuisines. The basis of the green sauce (known as salsa verde) is typically pureed cooked or raw tomatillos, with chiles or jalapenos, white onion, cilantro, and sometimes lime added to taste. Salsa verde can range in spiciness from mild to mouth-searing. It may be warm, as in a chile verde, or cold, as a condiment. In Mexican-American cuisine, a green sauce is frequently used as a dip for tortilla chips and served with tacos, grilled pork, grilled meats and even fish.

HOWEVER, the green sauce that I tasted is ONLY MADE from habanero peppers – the hottest peppers in the world. To give you an idea of their potentness, the Mayan guide informed us to put a couple of drops on our tacos, but no more than that, unless we wanted “Montezuma’s revenge.” Not one to be outdone, I of course took an entire spoonful and placed it on my taco. It did not smell strong at all. Much to my dismay, when biting into my taco, my mouth instantly turned the temperature of molten lava and pain radiated down my throat. It took me over  5 hours to get the last vestiges of burning out of my lips. So, my recommendation is to use this stuff in moderation, because if you do, you really get a flavorful temperature to whatever you are eating. I liked it so much I brought back a small bottle of it, and as a reward nearly got detained in customs because I forgot that it was in my bag. 3 ounces of liquid, my ass!

Here are some links to relevant subjects:

Habanero Peppers

Chichen Itza

Mayan Cuisine

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2 Responses to “Spring Break Food Review – Viva el Mexico!”

  1. Burn/ATIC Says:

    My father introduced me to a hot sauce years ago. Its been ranked the hottest in the world on multiple sites. My friends and i used to to put it under the cheese of pizzas and prank our friends. i found a link to it:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave%27s_Gourmet

    enjoy

  2. […] Chris went to Mexico and wrote a spring break food review! […]

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