The food of the Yucatán peninsula is distinct from the rest of the country. It is based primarily on Mayan food with influences from the Caribbean, Central Mexican, European (especially French) and Middle Eastern cultures. As in other areas of Mexico, corn is the basic staple, as both a liquid and a solid food. One common way of consuming corn, especially by the poor, is a thin drink or gruel of white corn called by such names as pozol or keyem.
One of the main spices in the region is the annatto seed, called achiote in Spanish. It gives food a reddish color and a slightly peppery smell with a hint of nutmeg. Recados are seasoning pastes, based on achiote (recado rojo) or a mixture of habanero and chirmole both used on chicken and pork.
Recado rojo is used for the area's best-known dish, cochinita pibil. Pibil refers to the cooking method (from the Mayan word píib, meaning "buried") in which foods are wrapped, generally in banana leaves, and cooked in a pit oven. Various meats are cooked this way. Habaneros are another distinctive ingredient, but they are generally served as (or part of) condiments on the side rather than integrated into the dishes.
A prominent feature of Yucatán cooking is the use of bitter oranges, which gives Yucatán food the tangy element that characterizes it. Bitter orange is used as a seasoning for broth, to marinate meat and its juice (watered down with sugar) is used as a refreshing beverage.
Honey was used long before the arrival of the Spanish to sweeten foods and to make a ritual alcoholic drink called balché. Today, a honey liquor called xtabentun is still made and consumed in the region. The coastal areas feature several seafood dishes, based on fish like the Mero, a variety of grunt and Esmedregal, which is fried and served with a spicy salsa based on the x'catic pepper and achiote paste. Other dishes include conch fillet (usually served raw, just marinated in lime juice), coconut flavored shrimp and lagoon snails.
Traditionally, some dishes are served as entrées, such as the brazo de reina (a type of tamale made from chaya) and papadzules (egg tacos seasoned in a pumpkin seed gravy).
Street food in the area usually consists of Cochinita Pibil Tacos, Lebanese-based kibbeh, shawarma tacos, snacks made from hardened corn dough called piedras, and fruit-flavored ices.
Lime soup made of chicken or some other meat such as pork or beef, lime juice and served with tortilla chips. Panucho made with a refried tortilla that is stuffed with refried black beans and topped with chopped cabbage, pulled chicken or turkey, tomato, pickled red onion, avocado, and pickled jalapeño pepper.
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