According to the sacred Maya book, Popol Vuh, after several attempts, the gods finally created man and formed him from Corn.
In Mexico “Corn” is the basis of all our gastronomy, it is and will continue to be the food par excellence for all of Mexico. Corn is “King” from Baja California to the Yucatan peninsula and down to Central and South America.
In our Yucatan region, Corn is considered vital, an element of the worldview of the indigenous peoples, it is loaded with symbolism, history, legends, and creation, corn is tradition, and it is life.
The Maya farmers in our región thank the god Kili’ich Ixi’im (god of corn) for the first harvest of corn in a ceremony offering corn foods such as sa’ (atole), Chakbil naal (boiled corn) and Pibil nal (corn cooked underground) in a ritual of ancestral Maya customs.
Corn is life, it is art, flavor, smoke, aromas, traditions, and culture, it is past, present, and future… How many delicious dishes and drinks have been created out of Corn?
So many memories come to mind, so many different foods, and as a good Yucatecan, I hope I don’t omit any. Yucatecan people are proud of our recipes and traditions, some of them vary by municipality.
I will start with the basic tamales, try to mention some of their base ingredients, created from corn dough, freshly ground, lard, salt, banana leaf, holy leaf, corn leaf, chaya leaf, pork or chicken, annatto or in some cases x’pelón (small and tender bean).
I love the Vaporcitos (those little birthday party tamales) delicious whether they are made with ground meat or just X’pelón.
Chachacua (strained tamales).
Tobiljoloch (with corn husk).
X’pelon tamale, the pibihua.
Xmakulan tamale (hoja santa tamale).
Dzotobichay (chaya leaf tamale).
Parboiled corn (Chakbil naal) corn cooked underground.
Queen’s arm (Brazo de Reina).
Mucbilpollo, muk (bury) bil (twist), or pib (baked or cooked underground) or as we know it.
I don’t think I will go into much detail since each of these stews deserves a complete chapter and I hope I haven’t omitted any (no Yucatecan would forgive me for such a mistake).
When it comes to corn drinks, Yucatán has quite a few:
Saka´ (sacred drink)
Puukbijuuch´ (thinned dough)
Isi sa´ (atole with sweet potato)
Ts´anbil xi´ím (soaked corn atole)
Chax bi xi´im (parboiled corn atole)
Choko sakan (dough atole)
Sikil sa´ (atole with seeds)
Labi sa´ (old and chopped corn atole)
K ´eyemel k´uum (atole with pumpkin)
K´aj (pinole), x-is uul (new corn atole)
Kobi sa (chopped corn atole)
Pozole or pozol with habanero chili and
salt, pozol or pozole with coconut.
And finally the corn tortilla, the most iconic element of the Mexican Gastronomy.
Thank you Mother Earth for such sacred food “CORN”.
By Chef David Cetina
Chef David Cetina is faithful to the tremendous culinary education imparted at an early age by his grandmother and later by his professional training. Today, he is a reference to Yucatecan culture in the field of gastronomy. In his long career, he has cooked for significant personalities, from presidents, ministers, and ambassadors to showbusiness stars. He has cooked alongside international chefs, who have surrendered to David’s talent and the extraordinary richness of our ancestral Maya food.
Chef David Cetina has established himself as an Ambassador of Traditional Yucatecan Gastronomy by jealously guarding the ancestral procedures and promoting them worldwide, obtaining important recognitions.
Try his cooking at his restaurant “La Tradición”, across the street from the US Consulate in Merida.