Menu of the Day: Chiapas and Mexico's Southern Cuisine

Chiapas Market │
Chiapas Market │ | © tatogra / flickr

The state of Chiapas is one of Mexico’s most biodiverse regions. The state’s vast indigenous population, its incredible flora and fauna, and sheer size make for extremely varied and delicious cuisine. While the original peoples of this area have long had a diet with corn at its center, included in the daily menu are wild game, seafood, insects, coffee and herbs like mint, cilantro and hoja santa (Mexican pepperleaf).

Cocktail hour

Chiapas has some incredible corn-based drinks like atole, pinole, and tascalate, but they are also known for their pox—an aguardiente made from corn, sugar cane and wheat, and comiteco mezcal, a type of mezcal made exclusively in Chiapas.

To whet the appetite

Tamales de Azafran

Tostados are similiar to the concept of tortilla, corn-based, but slightly thicker and crispier. These tostados are topped with mixtures of meat and veggies traditional to Chiapas—ground beef marinaded in lime juice, with onions, tomatoes, cilantro, salt and pepper.

Saffron Flower │

Soup and salad course

Caldo de Xote

A dish that is specially made to commemorate Good Friday and Jesus Christ’s final supper with his apostles, Caldo de Xote is made with a type of fresh-water snail common to the lakes of Chiapas and Tabasco. It is cooked with the Mexican herb epazote, chimborote peppers, tomatoes and onions.

On the side

Los pickles

A special treat for Patron Saint festivities in August in Comitán, Chiapas, los pickles constitutes a pickled vegetable salad of carrot, cauliflower and jalepeño peppers. Added to this are candied onions that have been misted with olive oil and cooked over a low flame with vinegar, bay leaves, oregano, allspice, cinnamon, salt and a pinch of sugar.

Pan de Indio

While not a very politically correct name, Pan de Indio is a wildly popular bread in Chiapas. This is an artisanal bread, made simply with yeast, flour, sugar and red food coloring and is popular in San Cristobal de las Casas.

Main plates

Cabeza de Pobre

To make this traditional dish first a leg of pork and a pig’s head are boiled. Ancho chiles, tomates, tomatillos, and onion are blended with a little bit of the resulting broth and the meat is then added to the mixture. It’s then seasoned with thyme, oregano, bay leaf, onion, garlic and salt. This is then cooked until the broth evaporates.

Cerdo en Momo

Commonly encountered in Tila, Chiapas, pork is cooked in a large pot with tomatoes, onion and hot green chiles. The dish is covered with a type of cooking cloth and a layer of hoja santa (Mexican pepperleaf), it’s then topped with banana leaves and the pork cooks in the fragrant vapor of the other ingredients.
Entrevistando a @chefmartazepeda sobre #cocinachiapaneca @quelujo #viajequelujo #dia24
Una publicación compartida por Luz Divina Merchán Díaz (@luzdimer) el Jul 11, 2011 at 12:21 PDT

For a sweet tooth

La Cajeta de mango

These sweet treats are popular in Comitán during the August festivals. They are made by cooking pieces of manila mango in a sugar syrup with peanuts or almonds. Then they are served cold.

Flan de Frutas

Flan is a classic Mexican dessert and this one has a little twist—it includes orange juice, chopped candied lemon, raisins, and cherries, along with condensed milk, eggs and carmelized sugar.

Delicious extras

Cheese course

Chiapas has quite the cheese culture and if you get a chance you must try the regional crema tropical (a mild, smooth cheese you will recognize by its yellow aluminum foil wrapper); Queso de bola de Ocosingo (a round, ball-shaped cheese with a crust of hard skim milk on the outside of a creamy cheese in the middle); and Queso de sal (a cow’s milk cheese that is very salty—once a way of preserving it in the tropical heat).

Queso de Bola de Ocosingo │

Coffee

Chiapas is one of the best regions in Mexico for coffee growing, so you’ll find some great coffee here. If possible, go straight to the source and visit a local coffee plantation for a taste.

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