- First and foremost I must mention habanero salsa. ‘A meal that is served without habanero salsa (even including breakfast!) is not Yucatecan – it is essential and features on every dining table...’ I learnt!
Habanero salsa is made from habanero chillies (scott bonnets in the Caribbean) which are small, fiery chillies. Unripe habaneros are green and then they turn orange to red as they mature. Typically habanero salsa is made with green habaneros. Mexicans blend habaneros, garlic cloves, some water and a dash of oil to make their salsa – be warned it’s hot! You can buy bottles of the ‘sauce’ which are tasty but not as authentic. I have to confess I snuck (fresh!) habanero chillies back in my suitcase so that I could make the real, authentic salsa at home as I’m mildly addicted!
- Mole Poblano de Pollo at Hacienda Selva Maya
This national dish, not strictly from the Yucatán, but further west in Puebla, is enjoyed throughout the country. Don’t let the fact that it is essentially chicken in a chocolate sauce put you off; it is extremely tasty (with only a faint hint of chocolate in the smell, not the taste!) I’m not going to pretend I have dared to cook this dish since having been back in the UK, as I believe it takes a good few hours to prepare and cook etc. However, I can say you must at least try it whilst exploring in Mexico. The dish is most commonly served at big family gatherings/parties when everyone chips in and helps with the preparation and the cooking – no matter who many people at the gathering the host will always cook double portions so that there is enough to go round for days!
- Tamales at Hacienda Selva Maya
An acquired taste... they’re a traditional dish made from a corn-based starchy dough, which is steamed and wrapped in a banana leaf. They come filled with either meat or vegetables. Their roots have been traced back to the Maya people who prepared them for feasts.
Perhaps I didn’t try a good one, but I found the corn texture a bit strange, and am not entirely sure what the filling was!
- Chilaquiles at Hacienda Puerta Campeche
By far my favourite dish I tried whilst in Mexico. Unusually, but it didn’t faze me one eats chilaquiles for breakfast! It is Mexican nachos (which are different and thicker than the ones I’ve come across in England), salsa verde (or salsa rojo – salsa verde is best in my view), small pieces of fried chicken topped with cheese. I can’t stop cooking this dish, although for lunch or dinner, not breakfast anymore! I bought a few tins of salsa verde back from a local supermarket in Mérida, Mexico.
- Huevos Rancheros at Hacienda Xcanatun
You’ve no doubt come across Jamie Oliver’s version of this popular Mexican breakfast, also known as ranch-style eggs, which consists of eggs, potatoes, chilli salsa, refried beans, avocado and chilli peppers served on a tortilla. It’s delicious, quick to make and apparently ‘the ultimate hangover cure!’
They were traditionally served to the farm worker as their mid-morning breakfast. Now their popularity has spread to all walks of life in Mexico as the renowned ‘Mexican breakfast.’
- Ceviche at Hacienda Uayamón
As an already established ceviche convert, I was delighted to be faced with a sea bass ceviche at Hacienda Uayamón. It was a sea bass ceviche, prepared in true Peruvian fashion with the raw sea bass marinated in lime juice and spices – such a refreshing lunchtime meal.
Given that the town of Campeche is on the sea, it is no surprise that fish (more recently ceviche) is a prominent feature on a typical Campechean menu.
- Huevos Benedictos at Rosas y Xocolate
Eggs benedict as we know them, with a Mexican twist and what is more Mexican than frijoles – refried beans. This gourmet dish consisted of refried beans as a base layer, delicately poached eggs, lashings of ham topped with the traditional salsa verde or rojo (again, I would opt for verde). It was absolutely delicious, lighter than our English version of eggs benedict.
- Tampiquena at Hacienda Mortero
Lesser-known, but no less scrumptious, this dish originates from Mexico City and consists of a fine, thin fillet of beef surrounded by frijoles – refried beans, guacamole (a stable out in Mexico), tomato salsa and a cactus salsa (made from the cactus leaves). It was hugely popular amongst the boys on our group as quite a hearty dish, but really tasty.
There are a few variations, of which not all include the cactus salsa, they add in chillies and onions etc (sounds more American!)
- Sopa Lima at Hacienda Temozón
A signature dish in the Yucatán served and enjoyed before most meals. It was one of my favourite dishes, I absolutely loved it.
As the name would suggest this is a lime flavoured broth (with onions, garlic, a bay leaf, chillies and oil), strands of chicken, and thin strips of tortilla at the bottom. Despite being served warm, it was so refreshing and I have endeavoured to recreate the same soup at home – although enjoying my finished product, I haven’t been able to quite capture the flavours so well.
If all this talk has heightened your senses (as opposed to push you away!) check out our Luxury Mexico: Yucatán in style holiday which features Mexico’s most prestigious properties, the fully-restored haciendas whilst exploring the capital and the archaeological sites of the Yucatán peninsula in the south.