Like most of the country, the Gulf Coast region is fond of mezcal and tequila, but the heat there will make you crave something cold and refreshing. Try an agua – water flavored with sweet lime, sour orange, or pepper chocolate – as well as liqueur made from cacao, sugarcane or habanero peppers.
To whet the appetite
In both Tabasco and Veracruz, stuffed plantains are extremely popular as a snack or accompaniment to a meal. For this recipe plantains are boiled, mashed and made into a kind of dough. That dough is then wrapped around fresh cheese, seasoned ground beef or beans, and then deep fried. They’re served with a dollop of either a tomato salsa or cream on the top.
Jaiba en Ceviche
Ceviche, raw fish cooked in lime and mixed with various fresh ingredients, is found up and down the Gulf Coast. Every chef has his or her own recipe and the type of fish or seafood can also vary. Common ingredients are tomato, onion, catsup, pepper, salt, sometimes oregano and cilantro, and even a chipotle pepper or two.
These small corn tortillas are spread with salsa and fried quickly in lard. In the Gulf they are most commonly topped with shredded pork, grated cheese and sliced onion, but you can also find them with shredded chicken and fried potatoes or occasionally with shredded beef.
The soup course
Huatape is a thick seafood soup made from a base of water, corn dough, and chiles. It’s often seasoned with the Mexican herb epazote, ancho chile, tomato, onion and garlic. In northern Veracruz look out for versions with prawns and river shrimp.
On the side
A super-thin tortilla made with corn dough and pork lard, in Tabasco the dough can be mixed with coconut, beans, sweet potato or beef fat. In Veracruz they make a version called the totoposte del viento (of the wind) that’s even thinner!
La Joya Veracruz is known country-wide for its famous smoked cheese. A trip to this region wouldn’t be right without trying some.
Hearty main plates
A hearty beef and vegetable stew, the Tabasco version includes beef, beef bones and bone marrow as well as garlic, onion, chayotes (sometimes called vegetable pears), creole zuchinni, sweet potato, yuca, taro, corn, carrots and potatoes.
Mantaraya al Pibil
Found along the coast of Tamulipas, stingray is a delicacy and comes in various shapes and sizes. Stingray al pibil means that the meat of the stingray is rubbed with the juice of sour oranges and achiote – a sweet, slightly peppery red sauce made from a plant found in the tropics called annatto seed – wrapped in banana leaves and slow-cooked in an underground pit. Pibil is good on everything else, so why not stingray?
Arroz a la Tumbada
Tipical of the Sotavento area of Veracruz, arroz a la tumbada is a soupy rice and seafood dish, similar to Spanish paella in its basic concept but with a very distinct flavor. The dish has oregano, garlic, tomato and epazote in it and can include shrimp, octopus, crab, oysters and clam. It’s accompanied with bread or tortillas.
For a sweet tooth
Dulce de Pataxte
Pataxte, or Theobroma bicolor, is a type of cacao found only in mesoamerica – the southern parts of Mexico, in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The tree’s seeds are white and fatty and their pulp is mixed in Tabasco with piloncillo to make a traditional dessert.
Budin de Calabaza
A kind of zuchinni bread, this budin de calabaza is made with a yellow zuchinni in Tabasco with raisins and sugar mixed in. In Veracruz, it also has vanilla added.
These little beauties come in all forms, but their basic recipe is grated coconut, cooked in water with sugar or piloncillo. In Tabasco they are often mixed with fruit like pineapple or sweet potato and in Veracruz they are decorated with raisins on top.