Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pitahaya or Dragon Fruit

 Food In Isla Mujeres


Pitaya (English), Pitahaya (Spanish), Wob (Maya),chac wob” (pitahaya roja),  Hylocereus undatus, Cactaceae Family. "Dragon Fruit
     Pitaya vines grow in the tropics worldwide and are native to Mexico. It grows wild across the peninsula, but not in coastal areas. It is cultivated mostly in gardens, and has commercial potential as an agricultural crop. Agricultural production has been very successful, but there have been problems with marketing.
The cactus flowers at night in June and the aromatic colorful fruits are harvested until October.
      They have a meaty skin and a delicate translucent creamy flesh full of small edible seeds, similar to those found in a kiwi. It is eaten raw, is mildly sweet, and naturally low in calories. Its juice is used to make popular drinks  and it is served in fruit salads.. Its juice is used to make tasty ices and popsicles .(nieves and paletas). Fruit drinks that in English are 'ades' (mixtures of juice, water, and usually a sweetener) are called aguas or aguas frescas in Spanish.
There are two other varieties grown in the Yucatan. One is similar in size and taste, but plain yellow in appearance. The wild version is called pitahaya romaine ("xiquín" in Mayan), is more variable in size, and usually is not available commercially. 

Horchata or Iced Sweet Rice Milk

Food In Isla Mujeres

   In Mexico this beverage is made from rice, water and sugar, flavored with cinnamon and vanilla. It is served cold as a popular type of "agua fresca". It is traditionally made by hand, but commercial preparations are also available. Its ingredients vary in other countries. Say:  "or CHAH tah"
   Here is a recipe that makes 2 quarts:

  • Rice -- 2 cups
  • Water -- 6 cups
  • Cinnamon -- 1/2 teaspoon
  • Sugar -- 1/3 cup
  • Vanilla -- 1 teaspoon
  1. Soak the rice overnight in 3 cups of the water. Add the rice, soaking water and cinnamon to a blender and puree until smooth, 2-3 minutes.
  2. Strain into a pitcher through a fine-meshed sieve or several layers of cheesecloth. There should be no grit or large particles in the liquid.
  3. Stir in the remaining 3 cups water, sugar and vanilla. Adjust sugar to taste and serve well chilled.

Mamey: A Tropical Fruit

Food In Isla Mujeres

Mamey   Mukuy ha'as (Maya), Mamey sapote  Pouteria sapota
Ripe fresh Mamey pulp is great for smoothies, mousses, creams, sorbets and other great tropical recipes   The Yucatan produces half of the mamey fruits sold in Mexico. The large native hardwood grows over 100 ft. tall with a broad lush canopy. The fruits are football shaped and 3-6 inches in length, with a rough brown skin and orange aromatic flesh that has the texture of a soft avocado. I love its slightly nutty flavor which is  reminiscent of sweet potato pie, and similar to an apricot. Its taste is compared to almonds, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, apricots, raspberries, and mangos, and is also described as slightly musky. In Isla it is commonly made into delicious liquados (smoothies), ice cream (helado & gelato), paletas (popsicles or icees), and sherberts. It is often flavored with cinnamon. 
   Mamey has many medicinal uses (Wikipedia claims it is an aphrodisiac.) It produces a lather used for dandruff that makes hair shiny. It is used for diarrhea, indigestion, and stomach pain. The seeds are used to treat wounds, cough, asthma, and heart disease, while the leaves are said to help alcoholics avoid alcohol.
     Locally, they are commercially harvested from January through June, while other varieties ripen in the fall.  This video tells how they are grown and harvested, and explains how to choose, prepare, and store them. You are likely to find Mamey liquados at loncherias and other places where residents dine.

Panuchos & Salbutes or Chicken Chalupas

Food In Isla Mujeres
Panuchos & Salbutes

The main difference between these two snacks is that the tortilla of a panucho is puffy, and may have white flour added to the masa and a salbute lacks refried beans. The marinated onions are essential and if they are authentic, they are prepared using the juice of a sour (Seville)orange. The meat is usually chicken, but can be turkey. Lettuce or cabbage and sliced tomatoes and avocado are garnished atop and you may notice a drizzle of media crema ( half milk/half cream) or a slice of hard boiled egg. They cost about a dollar each.
Here is a very authentic recipe.

Tamarindo or Tamarind

Food In Isla Mujeres

Tamarids are so common in Yucatan, they grow wild around rural villages and ornament urban streets.Tamarind (English) Tamarindo (Spanish), Pah-Ch'uhuk (Maya)  
The large tree, which originates in Africa, was brought to this area during colonial times, and its fruit is very popular among the Maya. The fruit pods hang in clusters up to six to eight inches long. The trees bear great amounts of fruits pods from April to July. When they ripen the outside skin becomes a brittle, easily-cracked shell and the pulp dehydrates naturally to a sticky paste. Their tartness overpowers their sweetness, making them an addictive snack for some who eat them fresh, while others prefer them sweetened in drinks and candies.They are aromatic and used in savory sauces. In the US they are an ingredient in Worcestershire sauce, in Mexico you will find them in chamoy sauces and snacks.
  In Isla Mujeres, you will find the popular beverage aqua de tamarindo and a variety of tamarind candies (dulces de tamarindos) such as  pulparindo, which contains sugar, salt, and chili peppers, making it simultaneously tart, sweet, salty, and spicy. A popular version is squeezed out of the 'head of clown' creating 'hair'; made by Hershey called Pelon Pelo Rico . That roughly translates as Bald Guy with Delicious Hair. There are also cocktails made from tamarind. (I have seen one at Mango Cafe.) Here is a Mexconnect article with recipes and more tamarind information.

Poc Chuc or BBQ Pork

Food In Isla Mujeres

Poc Chuc

Slices of pork marinated in sour orange juice and achiote recado, grilled, and served with a tangy sauce and pickled or grilled onions. 
  Recado: spice paste with some combination of cloves, cinnamon, black pepper, oregano, cumin, garlic, coriander, vinegar, and sour orange. Comes in many variations, of which the most common is achiote recado.

Achiote: from the seeds of the annatto plant, used for flavor in some recados and to add deep golden color to other dishes

Achiote is used in most traditional Maya cooking
Annatto ( English), 
Achiotl / Ku'u up (Maya), 
Achiote (Spanish),  
Native to Mexico, now grown in many countries for its great taste and natural coloring qualities.

 Su'uts' pak'aal (Maya) 
 Naranja-Agria (Spanish)
Green, with a thick bumpy skin, often used in sauces; tastes like a combination of lime and orange.

In Isla Mujeres, Kash Keken Chuc is a popular place to buy Poc Chuc al carbon (meaning it is grilled over charcoal), which they sell until 4pm, mostly to go, by weight. It is located on the west coastal road (Rueda Medina). If you are coming from downtown, it is at the first road that turns east (left), before the large speed bump. 

Tino "The Rib Man" is also well known for his version of this specialty, which he sells on Sunday mornings from a courtyard on Matamoras Avenue downtown, until he runs out. To find it, follow your nose.                                   

Saramuyo or Sugar Apple

Food In Isla Mujeres

Saramuyo tropical fruit is enjoy by endemic birds at the Bird Refuge of Hacienda Chichen.Saramuyo (Spanish), 
Sugar Apple (English)
  Tropical fruit tree blooms from February to April, by June fruits are ripe and ready to eat. It has a soft scaly skin,and is also called a sweetsop. The aromatic transparent white pulp includes many hard black seeds, making it difficult to eat. The seeds are usually strained out forming a subtle, light, vanilla custard-flavored puree is which is often made into drinks,  popsicles and other cold treats.

The tree grows and produces fruit rapidly. My friend in Guadalupana planted one and was eating fruit and enjoying shade within three years, in Isla Mujeres.

Agua De Jamaica or Hibiscus Tea

In Isla Mujeres Food  
Agua de Jamaica

Hibiscus and other tropical flowers feed humming birds at the Hacienda Chichen
flor de Jamaica  Dried hibiscus calyces.
Hibiscus (English), Tulipanes (Spanish), Caanché (Maya). It is an indigenous species of Florida and Central America; the Hibiscus furcellatus flowers bloom with deep red five petal flowers or bright magenta petals. Many commercial hibiscus hybrids are now found in every tropical region of the world as ornamental bushes. Pistils have both sexes and are pollinated by humming birds, bees, and other insects feeding on the nectar.
    Hibiscus tea has a tart, cranberry-like flavor, and sugar is often added to sweeten the beverage. Four studies quoted in Wikipedia concluded it was effective at reducing hypertension, with one showing it to be as effective as captopril. It is also used as a mild diuretic by people who tend to retain water and is popular in the US for its high Vitamin C content.
    Agua de Jamaica has lately been adopted by creative Mexican chefs for use in a variety of both sweet and savory dishes, including marinades, sauces, sorbets, jellies and trendy cocktails. Its intense color and tart flavor are just the kind of characteristics chefs look for in the constant quest for originality. 
Agua de Jamaica Recipe
  • 2 cups dried hibiscus flowers
  • 8 cups water
  • 3/4 cup sugar or equivalent amount of sugar substitute 
  • Rinse and drain the hibiscus flowers in a colander.
Put them in a saucepan with 4 cups of the water and the sugar.
Stir and bring to a slow boil, lower heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.
The flowers will have lost their color into the water, which will be a deep red color. Let the liquid cool, then strain it into a pitcher. Discard the flowers, add the rest of the water, stir and chill.

Passion Fruit

Food In Isla Mujeres
Maracuya flower and fruit, enjoy a fresh organically grown smoothie after a day visit to Chichen Itza.
Passion Fruit (English), Poch'il (Maya) Maracuya (Spanish) Passion fruit vines have tendrils and climb They are nicknamed the Patio Plant because they are popular providers of shade in patio areas.They attract bees and butterflies, and the flowers are aromatic. . Fruits ripen in May and June; whose soft pulp contains seeds and is in drinks, desserts, and sauces. Locally they are often yellow, while in the US the purple variety is more common. They were given the name "passion" by colonial era Spaniards who found many symbols related to Christ in the formation of the flowers.

                The fruit pictured above has been cut open to reveal its many semi-hard seeds embedded in the pulp.Passion fruits are good to eat, but the yellow variety is can be tart to eat without adding sweetening. A delicious drink is made by blending the fruit pulp with ice, water, sugar, and a pinch of bicarbonate of soda. The juice is an excellent source of Vitamin C. Here are some recipes.


Food In Isla Mujeres

     Pepitas are pumpkin seeds, which means they are squash seeds since pumpkins are a type of squash. Pepitas may be hulled or not, roasted or not, salted or not, and are often accompanied by chile and lime. They are ground and used to thicken pipián sauces and moles, and sprinkled atop dishes as a tasty garnish and made into sweets.
    Pepitas come from one of the "three sisters" of ancient agriculture in the Americas: Maize (corn), beans, and squash, meaning they are one of the three plants first domesticated in the Western Hemisphere, as well as an essential part of traditional diets in this area. The seeds are a good source of protein with a fat content that can vary from 11% to 51%.
They are used in with eggs in papadzules, in dzotobichay (a chaya tamale), and with poultry and other meats as atoles, and moles. Pepitas are ground and mixed with oils, tomatoes, chiles, and spices to create a wide variety of dishes. They are used in marzipan, popsicles, candies, and desserts.   These recipes using pepitas translate well with an online translator. 
  Maria is a popular pepitas vendor on Playa Norte and those are her tasty pepitas with chili and limon.

Sikil Pak is one of my favorite pepita dishes

  • 3 tomatoes, charred

  • 1 cup pepitas, toasted

  • 1/2 large white onion, charred

  • 1 roasted habanero chile, seeded

  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves

  • 1. Char all sides of the tomatoes, onion, and habanero chile. Wear gloves or use utensils with the habanero, heat liberates its oils.You can char the vegies, using a very hot dry cast iron skillet or comal, or with oil in the oven. The pepitas can be toasted in the hot skillet or in the oven, if they are raw. 2. Put the pepitas in a food processor or blender and process until the seeds are well ground into a paste, adding water as needed.
    3. Add the roasted tomatoes, onion, habanero (seeded), and fresh cilantro. Pulse until well blended.
    Salt to taste and enjoy with chips!


    Food In Isla Mujeres

    Sopes  and quesadillas in the Yucatan
    Sopes are in the foreground, with empanadas on the back half of the plate.

    Sopes  ("SOH Pays") are panuchos topped with ham or chorizo and cheese. Their tortillas are puffy and thicker and can be greasy. Usually white flour (harina blanca) of wheat is added to the masa. This link takes you to my post about panuchos.  Snacks like this are called “antojitos”or "botanas. They cost about a dollar each.

    The sope is on the left, with a nopal salad on the right.