The state of Yucatan in Southeast Mexico is rich in indigenous gastronomic culture. The unique flavors of the Yucatan dishes come from a combination of love, patience, and authentic cooking techniques passed along from generation to generation. The Yucatan-based chef Rene Redzepi, who is now famously heading the kitchen of Noma, has returned to his roots aiming to rediscover the profile of Yucatan traditions, its way of life, and its culinary landscape. Here are a few Yucatan treats the chef suggests you must try while visiting the state.
Yucatan is famous for the indigenous dish Cochinita pibil, which is made with marinated and slow-roasted pork. The marinated meat is first wrapped in banana leaf and then cooked for hours in an underground fire pit. The stone-lined pit with charcoal gives this village dish its distinct charred smell and smoky flavor, with succulent fork-tender meat. According to chef Redzepi, understanding Yucatan culinary culture is incomplete without visiting a local village and savoring Cochinita pibil.
Salbutes is a dish made with deep-fried open-faced tortillas, which are topped with bean paste, pulled chicken, lettuce, pickled red onions, and avocado. This is the basic staple version of the dish, though you may find several different takes on the toppings. Salbutes are one of the most popular Yucatan antojitos, and also a favorite of Chef Redzepi’s. According to him, he can’t get enough of this amazing dish!
Papadzules is another delicious meal made with tortillas. The tacos are rolled with a filling of boiled eggs, and then are doused in creamy pumpkin seed sauce. According to chef Redzepi, the dish can go either way. If all the components are properly cooked, it’s an amazing treat. But, if the eggs are overcooked or the tortillas are dry, it can taste quite bad. Maybe that’s why Papadzules are a bit tricky to find compared to other local dishes. But, as the chef says, it’s always worth the chase!