Cochinita Pibil, Yucatan Delicacy

Cochinita pibil is the most famous dish originated in Yucatan. The extraordinary gastronomical variety of this region resulted from combining the Mayan traditions with European influences. For a long time, the Peninsula of Yucatan had very limited access by land, because of this, it was kept isolated from the rest of Mexico; but its ports and commercial treaties kept it in constant exchange with Europe. This great mix resulted in a delicious combination of Spanish pork with pre-Hispanic condiments and cooking techniques, enjoyed in our time as cochinita pibil.

This dish is prepared with pork meat marinated in achiote and wrapped in banana leaves; traditionally it is cooked underground over hot stones, pibil in Mayan means “under the ground”. This preparation, as well as many other Mexican recipes, has pre-Hispanic roots and still preserves the technique of cooking within ground ovens, holes with stones heated for hours over firewood.

Achiote or annatto is a tree original from Central America and Mexico, able to grow on different types of soil and endure prolonged droughts. It produces a fruit in the form of a capsule, 2 inches long, when it matures it uncovers red seeds, these are mixed with other spices to form an orange paste, which is the condiment characteristic of extraordinary dishes. Curiously, in addition to its culinary value this condiment was used by the Mayas as bug repellent and colorant for dairy products, paints and textiles. It was also used as body and face paint in religious rituals. It is known for therapeutic properties as an astringent, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and healing agent.

The traditional cochinita pibil recipe demands lining a tray with banana leaves and placing the pork on top. Achiote is dissolved in orange juice and spices are added, this is poured over the pork until the meat is fully soaked. This is left to marinate for at least eight hours. Later, the meat is covered with the banana leaves and slowly roasted underground until meat is completely tender.

This delicacy is enjoyed in tacos or sandwiches, garnished with pickled onions and the traditional Habanero salsa, one of the hottest peppers in the world.

Artículo Producido por el Equipo Editorial Explorando México.
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