During my recent visit to Cancun the food at the resort was plentiful, fresh and delicious. But this foodie loves to experiment a bit and dine on some local dishes when possible. And I certainly made it known that I was interested in sampling some of the local Yucatanian food.
One might think that in Mexico, local food options would consist of burritos, quesadillas and nachos. Well, think again. Cancun is located on the Yucatan peninsula and it turns out they have some specific dishes that I’d never heard of.
We were lucky enough to take a trip to the Mercado 28, a local market in downtown Cancun. While wandering around we came upon a few restaurant stalls.
Our guide was quick to point one out that served some of the local specialties that I was hoping to try. The menu at Restaurant Margely was overwhelming, so it was nice to have Julio, our Mexican guide, take control of the situation and order a few things for us to sample.
He ordered a few dishes that were on my *must-try* list while our group of eight took over a table and waited eagerly for plates to arrive.
First to arrive was the conchinita pibil, which is a slow roasted pork, marinated with fruit acids (lemon, lime or orange) and achiote, served with refried beans, rice, purple onions and a stack of warm tortillas. The pork is very tender, flavorful and spicy, but not hot.
Next came the panuchos, fried corn tortillas stuffed with beans and topped with more of that tender, succulent pork. This is served with a hot and spicy sauce that I passed on after two of our group who tried it complained of a five-alarm fire in their mouths. None for me thanks.
Salbutes was next up. It’s basically the same as panuchos, minus the beans in the center. Equally delicious.
We finished up with some Camarones, which were simple fried shrimp served with rice, lettuce and tomato. Nothing special with these really.
We washed it all down with a horchata, a non-alcoholic rice water drink. It was slightly sweet, milky and surprisingly refreshing. I imagine it would help take the sting out of the hot sauce.
I was a bit nervous about drinking something at the market with water, but Julio assured me that everything there was made with filtered water and was perfectly safe. I was further impressed to find out that this well-established fixture of the market has been here for 23 years.
As we were enjoying our buffet of Yucatanian specialties, we were serenaded by a Mariachi band that was circling the market. It was a nice touch for a song or two, but I would tire of it after that. Luckily, they didn’t linger.
Our huge feast cost a mere $25, which also included a few other drinks – an absolute bargain in my opinion. And I am happy to report that I had absolutely no tummy troubles after dining at the market. Next time you’re in Cancun, give them a try!
Disclosure : I visited Mercado 28 in Cancun as part of press trip hosted by Royal Holiday, and as such my meal and transportation costs were covered. The opinions expressed here are my own.