Yucatan, where the food mile philosophy comes natural

Discovering the flavours of the Mexican peninsula: fresh ingredients and Slow Food culture dominate

23-10-2016
Francesca Zanetti went in search of the aromas and

Francesca Zanetti went in search of the aromas and flavours of Yucatan, the Mexican peninsula dominated by fresh ingredients and recipes dating as far back as the Maya people. She tells Identità Golose about her craveable experience

I’m just back from a trip exploring Yucatan, in Mexico: from Cancun to Campeche, Merida and Tulum, tasting local dishes, full of spices and fresh ingredients. A holiday in Yucatan offers the chance to relax completely in areas outside the touristic routes but also enjoy some hectic activity by visiting cenotes, beaches, and many delicious destinations too… Being able to mix all this is a rare opportunity.

Yucatan is the part of Mexico further to the South-East, and it divides the Caribbean Sea from the Gulf of Mexico, and Central from North America. It is therefore in a unique and special position with a very ancient history. It is a very popular tourist destination thanks to its beautiful beaches, the tropical forests, the cenotes and the underground rivers, the Maya ruins, the ancient cities as well as the excellent food.

The Sopa de lima

The Sopa de lima

The region offers an incredible range of accommodations: beautiful and huge all-inclusive resorts, ancient historic haciendas transformed into hotels and museums, hotels dedicated to sustainable tourism without electricity and small boutique hotels on the beach, with no TV. My exploration offered me the opportunity to try all these options.

At Playa Del Carmen the choice of restaurants with different menus offers the chance to taste fresh local ingredients, the real fil rouge of all the area, as we’ll see: fruit, vegetables, fish and pork. Then starters with raw fish, guacamole in different versions, fish grilled on the spot with vegetables on the side, including cactus. And then: energising and detoxing fresh vegetable and fruit juices, ice creams, sorbets and incredible cakes with freshly cut fruit.


Crab claws overlooking the sea

Crab claws overlooking the sea

In Campeche Hacienda Uyamon, from the late 17th century, is an example of elegant colonial architecture, renovated respectfully of its original beauty. It was born as an ancient factory of rope fibres: in 2000 they transformed it into an elegant hotel with 15 rooms. Here the cuisine is typically Mexican, with a special focus on Yucatan food, with fresh products, especially the drinks with hibiscus flowers, or those with fruits and vegetables, pork dishes and most of all the sopa de lima, an ancient recipe which they say dates back to the Maya people: light, refreshing, with a pinch of lime giving an extra oomph to chicken soup with tomato, pepper, coriander, tortilla chips and other ingredients creating a sensational flavour. The meals are always paired with very good local beer or a cocktail, tortilla and small corn cakes, small buns. Or, a surprise by the chef, an entrée of scampi with tamarind and then dulce de leche with fruit. The area however also offers other specialties, such as boiled crab and excellent fish ceviche.

One of the recurring themes throughout the journey was fresh local ingredients. Over here getting food from far away is not easy, due to costs, refrigeration, availability. So relying on the food mile philosophy and enhancing the good local products is almost mandatory. Let’s say Slow Food was a necessity even before Carlin Petrini took his first steps.

Chef Luis Alberto Aban Pech

Chef Luis Alberto Aban Pech

We spent the last days in a small boutique hotel with only 8 rooms on the beautiful Xpu-Ha beach. Here I had the chance to meet chef Luis Alberto Aban Pech: I chatted with him about the food of Yucatan and most of all I visited his kitchen. Pech is committed into finding the right balance between territory, nature and products from Yucatan (he was born here) and the desires of the guests, mostly American or European and hence often wanting dishes closer to their sensitivity. Hence, visiting his pantry, you move from numerous and colourful spices to extra virgin olive oil, both Italian and from South California, up to high quality Italian pasta. When leaving, however, a tasting of fresh papaya and orange juice was a must.


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