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Yucatecan and Regional Food
Because the Yucatan Peninsula was surrounded on 3 sides by water and by an impenetrable forest on the fourth southern side, the Yucatan was influenced more by the Caribbean islands and Europe than by Mexico.  As a result, Yucateca food is distinct and separate from what is commonly called Mexican  food.

Be adventurous! Don't be afraid to try some of these unique, delicious region foods!
  • Carne Asada - charcoal grilled pork or beef
  • Ceviche - fish, shrimp, conch (or a combination) marinated with limon, vinegar, onions, tomatoes and cilantro.
  • Chuleta Yucateca - Pork chop marinated in red adobado then grilled and smothered with sautéed onions
  • Cilantro - the spice known in the USA as coriander
  • Cochinita Pibil - pork marinated in a sauce of achiote, natural orange juice and spices, wrapped in fresh banana leaves, and slowly steamed to perfection.
  • Flan - a slightly burnt and delicious form of custard
  • Frijole con Puerco - A delicious local dish normally served on Mondays consisting of soupy black beans cooked with chunks of pork.  It's served with chopped radish, avacado, onion and cilantro as garnish and steamed rice.
  • Horchata - a cold soft drink made of rice or barley, almonds, sugar, vanilla and water
  • Huachinango - red snapper - usually served whole
  • Jamaica - (ha-MY-ka) a delicious soft drink made from brewed flower petals
  • Mero - fresh grouper usually served filet style
  • Mojo de Ajo - fish, coch (konk) or shrimp served in butter and garlic sauce
  • Mole - chicken or turkey meat or enchiladas baked in a thick spicy brown sauce made of almonds, chocolate chipotle peppers and peanut oil
  • Platano Frito - greasy but tasty fried bananas
  • Queso "Gallo" -  a Holland cheese (we call it Gouda) that has been imported to the Yucatan for so many years that it is now considered indigenous to the area. 
  • Queso Relleno - seasoned, ground pork/beef formed into a round "loaf", completely surrounded in softened Queso Gallo and then wrapped in cheesecloth for cooking. Served in round slices covered in cream sauce.
  • Tamales - chicken wrapped in a heavy dough and cooked in banana leaves
Insider's Secret Preparations!
Ixnepech (Dog Snout) Salsa
A Mayan salsa (schnee-peck) that supposedly gets its name because it's so hot that it can make your nose run. 
It is best prepared fresh daily and appears daily on most Yucatecan dining tables to accompany all meals.

2 fresh chopped habenero peppers or 2 fresh jalepeno or 3 serrano chiles
  ( stems and seeds removed)
2 medium tomatoes - chopped
1 medium purple or white onion - chopped
1/3 C. fresh squeezed lime juice
3 Tablespoons fresh cilantro

Combine all and let stand 2 -3 hours for best flavor.

Agua Fresca

If you have traveled through Mexico, you have probably seen these refreshing fruit drinks sold on street corners. We've used melon in this recipe, but almost any fruit can be used. Just be sure to adjust for the amount of sugar, which will depend on the sweetness of the fruit.

3 cups of cubed fresh melon (cantaloupe, honeydew, or watermelon)
4 tablespoons of sugar
3 tablespoons of lime juice, fresh preferred
1 quart of water
Melon sliced for garnish

Watch for new recipes!!

Background on Pibil Style Dishes

Throughout the Yucatan chicken, pork and fish will often be prepared "pibil" style which means the meat has been flavored with a red seasoning paste or recado rojo. Recado rojo consists of several local spices including red annatto seeds which adds the red color and a unique flavor. Recado Rojo is available commercially in most latino style markets and will be known as as achiote paste.

Cochinita Pibil

One of the most famous dishes from the Yucatan is Cochinita Pibil or Pork cooked pibil style. Traditionally this pre-Columbian dish called for wild boar to be covered with local seasoning and spices, wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in a stone-lined, coal-filled pit. This method of cooking would bake/steam the boar while at the same time infuse the meat with the flavor of the banana leaves and spices.

Cochinita Pibil remains one of the most popular dishes in the Yucatan despite the fact that it is generally not prepared in the traditional method. Ovens have replaced pits and domesticated pig introduced by the Spanish has replaced wild boar but the seasonings remain virutally the same and most households/restaurants still wrap the meat in banana leaves before cooking.

10 whole black peppercorns
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
5 cloves garlic
3 Tbs achiote paste [common in latino markets]
1 tsp dried Mexican oregano
2 bay leaves
1/3 C. bitter orange juice OR lime juice
2 lbs. lean port cut into 2 inch cubes
3 fresh banana chiles
1 sliced purple onion
String Banana Leaves or Aluminum Foil
  1. Place peppercorns & cumin seeds in grinder and process to a fine powder.
  2. Combine the powder with the garlic in a blender/processor and puree.
  3. Add to the puree the achiote paste, oregano, bay leaves and orange/lime juice and blend well.
  4. Pour this marinade over the pork cubes and marinade for at least 3 hours or overnight if possible.
  5. Cut 2 pieces of string long enough to fit around a roasting pan.
  6. Lay the strings on the bottom of the pan Cut the banana leaves in pieces to fit the pan and line the pan with them.
  7. Place the pork, including the marinade [discard bay leaves] on top of the banana leaves.
    Top with chiles and onion Fold the banana leaves over the meat and tie the strings.
  8. Cover the pan and bake at 325F for 1.5 hours.
  9. Serve with tortillas, refried beans and habanero salsa.
SERVES: 4-6 servings
Recipe courtesy of Nancy & Jeffrey Gerlach - Foods of the Maya
Fun Classes You Might Enjoy During Your Visit!
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If you truly want to experience one of the region's best kept secret adventures, spend some time exploring the dazzling tastes that Cozumel's island foods have to offer. Food is a fundemental element of every culture. In all of Mexico and here on the island, much of the daily routine and tradition still revolves around the ritual of preparing and eating food. Since local food dishes are a mixture of influences and cultural combinations, island cuisine can be earthy or refined, mild or spicy, exciting or soothing, sometimes surprising but never disappointing.

In the Island Cuisine Cooking Classes, rev up your taste buds and get ready to embark on a delicious, tantalizing journey as many talented islanders, including chefs and former restaurateurs, are delighted to share their favorite Yucatecan/Mayan/Island dishes with those visiting the island. Classes are always fun and offer the opportunity to meet others who share a passion for cooking and eating various types of regional foods.

Learn to Prepare Authentic Regional Cuisine from Local Islanders & Chefs!

 Cozumel Island Cuisine Cooking - Tasting Session
In this "Demonstration" class, you will watch the chef/instructor prepare all the dishes and enjoy "ample samples" as you follow the recipes and ask questions along the way to ensure that you don't miss a thing!
From US $75 to US $95 Per Person

Cozumel Island Cuisine Cooking - Tasting Session

Cozumel Island Cuisine Cooking - Tasting Session
Personal Experiences
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A quick note to say how much our entire family enjoyed the Island Cuisine "Parade of Salsas" cooking class! The recipes were demonstrated and explained well by the instructor and all of the helpful tips provided in the demonstrations have really come in handy now that we are back home and using your cook book. Everything we prepared was delicious and the best part was sharing the salsas afterward as we relaxed by the pool. The class was great and we can't wait to come back and try the Main Course class next time! Thanks again for a great experience for our family. L Byars ~ Dallas TX

Our Family took both Island Cuisine Cooking Classes and we learned several basic salsas and entree items. We were able to add new Mexican dishes to our table at home. Sherri, offers wonderful cooking classes for couples, friends, and families that want to learn about Mexican Cuisine. We learned to make Mango Black Bean Salsa, which is a wonderful treat with chips, baked chicken or as a summer salad. We prepared fresh Pico de Gallo and Salsa Verde just like Mexican Restaurants. We, also discovered how to make a traditional Chicken Pibil. We enjoyed eating all of the wonderful food that was created in class. These authentic Mexican Dishes have been added to our Family Cookbook. Art, Pam & Andrea ~ Portland, Oregon
Demonstration and Hands-On
For the Demonstration class or the Hands-On class one of these delicious traditional Mayan/Island dishes can be prepared or you may contact us with your special request:

Cochinita Pibil - A lean pork roast marinated in a tantalizing and surprising blend of Mayan spices which is then wrapped in banana leaves and slow cooked until succulently tender.

Pollo Pibil - Delicious fresh chicken smothered in the same tangy pibil style sauce used for pork then wrapped in banana leaves and oven roasted.

Tik'nxic - Fresh red snapper dusted with a dazzling array of Mayan spices and covered with sour orange juice then grilled to perfection.

Taquitos Dorados Con Pollo - Juicy, spiced cooked chicken and other ingredients rolled inside fresh tortillas, then deep fried until crispy and covered with a tangy red or green tomato sauce. This traditional plate is then garnished with thinly sliced lettuce, onion and radishes and topped with a final sprinkle of fresh cheese.

The Island Cuisine Cooking Tasting sessions offer students samples of a variety of items in a particular food category. Topics can include salsas and sauces, ceviches, and local sweetbreads or others upon request such as wines or local cheeses. Popular choices for Tasting sessions include these suggestions or you may contact us with your special request:

Parade of Salsas - With at least 60 different types of chiles grown throughout Mexico, salsas are a compliment to every meal in this region. Sample a variety of dazzling salsas of both green and red varieties prepared by different methods and served with fresh homemade tortilla chips.

Ceviche Mixtos - A crisp, fresh-tasting method for Mayans/Islanders of preparing various types of seafood. Sample a variety of seafood including shrimp, conch & octopus prepared in this fashion in order to differentiate tastes of the different seafoods when prepared in this fashion. Ceviches are served with fresh homemade tortilla chips and crackers.

Island Pastries - With over 25 privately owned bakeries on the island this is a "sweets" lover's delight! Sample freshly baked pastries prepared by traditional bakers of the island who use locally available fruits and sugars to highlight their convections. [recipes not available for this category]
All Island Cuisine Cooking Classes use the finest products available from local suppliers.
Private Chef and Catering Services

Relax in the comfort and intimacy of your vacation home while our talented and creative chef takes care of everything from food shopping to kitchen cleanup.

Whether it's an intimate dinner for two or a large group of friends and family, our talented local chef's combination of friendly service and cooking artistry come together to create a truly unforgettable dining experience.

EMAIL US Now to book your private chef or catered event!
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