Chaya Maya : Traditional Yucatan Food in Merida

I’m currently at Mexico City airport waiting to board the plane back to London (sob sob). I’ve had the most fabulous two weeks here and have absolutely fallen in love with the country. We only really scrapped the surface, visiting 4 regions during our trip, so I am definitely hoping to come back one day to see some other parts of this fabulous country.

I doubt it will come as a surprise to you that many of my best experience during my trip have involved food, so I thought that as I have an hour or so to spare, I would put it to good use and pass on some of my recommendations. I am hoping this will also take my mind off my extremely itchy mozzie bites!

I will keep this one quick but it really does deserve a mention. We ate at Chaya Maya twice during our time in Merida and both times the food was absolutely fantastic. In general Mexico has been a lot more expensive than we had anticipated but here the food was excellent value; 2 margaritas, 2 beers, water, starters and main course all for for around £15.

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It’s a cosy restaurant with a nice atmosphere, serving traditional Yucatan food. Merida is is the capital of the Mexican State of Yucatan afterall.

Each region in Mexico has its own regional dishes and the Yucatan cuisine is influenced by the Mayan culture.

Each night we were presented with tortilla chips and a selection of salsas and beans. Inevitably we scoffed all of these in about 5 minutes, intermittently commenting on how spicy some of them were and then giving in to the addictive nature of salsa and having just one more dip.

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Over our two visits, we tried a number of traditional dishes including:

Panuchos, which are pre-cooked corn tortillas stuffed with refried beans and then topped with shredded turkey or pork (we tried both) and garnished with lettuce, pickled red onion and avacado.

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Poc Chuc
, which is thin slices of pork marinated in sour orange, grilled and served with a tangy sauce, refried beans, buttery rice and pickled red onions.

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As with most things in Mexico, this was served with fresh warm corn tortillas.

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Soup di Lima, which is made with shredded turkey (much more popular than chicken in Yucatan food), bits of fried tortilla, and lime juice. This tasted so much better than it looks, it was really wholesome and zingy.

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My favourite and a dish you have already heard about, Cochinita Pibil, which is sucking pig marinated in annatto and sour orange juice then wrapped in banana leaves and baked for hours, traditionally underground. Cochinita means pork and pibil means cooked underground.

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Then last but certainly not least, Tikin Xic. Not much to look at here but when we unwrapped this banana leaf there was a fillet of white fish stuffed with squid, shrimp and clams. Seriously gourmet! This is also marinated in annatto and sour orange juice then baked in the banana leaves. It was served with served with refried beans, rice, pickled red onions and the obligatory pot of fresh corn tortillas. A serious feast.

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Chaya Maya is most definitely worth a visit and depending on the day of the week, you may also be lucky enough to see some traditional music and dancing taking place in the square when you finish your meal!

http://www.lachayamaya.com

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