Courtesy of visitguatemala.com
In Guatemala, Heart of the Maya World, the wonderful climate is favorable for different activities throughout the year. Its fertile land offers all the benefits for cultivating countless products such as fruits, vegetables and spices commonly used in the preparation of various dishes that are a blend of Maya, Spanish and contemporary cuisines. This makes Guatemala a destination that offers a unique wealth of food and drinks to the international market, as the country has one of the richest cuisines in the continent.
Historical data shows that, before the XV Century, the Maya made stews from legumes and venison, or rabbit and domestic birds’ meat. It is also known that they drank a hot drink in the morning and a cold one during the rest of the day. The coming of the Spaniards further enriched their gastronomy through the blend of flavors and aromas.
Why is Guatemalan gastronomy valuable?
Thinking about Guatemalan cuisine brings to mind an incredible variety of aromas, combinations, colors, textures and flavors. This wealth in diversity greatly contributes to its gastronomy. One of the greatest delights comes with starting a meal with a hot soup, which complements any of the many delectable dishes made with locally-available herbs.
Spices and fresh or dried fruits are also combined to make hot or cold drinks, as well as many spirits and some of the best rums in the world: the perfect complement to our dishes! Guatemala is also the source of one of the most delicious and globally sought-after beverages, coffee, considered to be one of the best in international markets.
Guatemala offers a variety of regional dishes, beverages and seasonings, contributing to the diversity of flavors and the stories behind them. Some dishes, such as broth or soups, stews, salads, small or large tamales, sweets and desserts, and seafood are seasonal or prepared only for certain celebrations during different times of the year.
Products and region
Guatemalans enjoy certain dishes daily, but several others are specific to certain regions. For example, the “Tapado” is a dish from Izabal; “Kak’ik” is served in several regions but originated in Alta Verapaz.
These are some of the delectable dishes enjoyed in different regions or departments:
- Guatemala: Atol de Elote (gruel made of corn), Chipilín tamales, beef stew, rice with chicken, beans and tamales.
- Sacatepéquez: Red tamales, Head of Pig stew or “revolcado”, hilachas (pulled beef), Pepián (a spicy meat stew), hen broth, Molletes (bread dessert in syrup), Mole (plantains in a chocolate-chili sauce) and stuffed peppers.
- Chimaltenango: Güisquil chilaquilas and smoked ham.
- Petén: Bollitos, Palmito de Ternera and escabeche de pescado (pickled fish).
- Cobán, Alta Verapaz: Cobán-style tamale, chirmol (sour sauce consisting mainly of roasted tomatoes, onions and lime juice) and Kak’ik.
- Izabal: Sweet potato and coconut bread, tapas and flour tortilla.
- Escuintla: Seafood Broth, Stuffed Chilies, Duck Broth and Turtle Soup.
- Quetzaltenango: Potato tamales (paches), Sweet Tamales, Chuchitos (small tamales), Fruit Broth, Chicken with Green Jocón sauce, Buñuelos (fried dough balls in syrup).
Four Guatemalan dishes have been declared Cultural Heritage of the Country, due to their four-centuries’ long history and their fusion of ingredients that originated in pre-Columbian Guatemala, mixed with Spanish-Arabic ingredients brought by Europeans to the new world. These dishes are:
- Hen meat Jocón
- Plantain mole
These dishes reflect a festive national culinary tradition, where corn is a staple that has a cultural meaning inherited from the Maya Civilization. Also, each destination has a hallmark dish that uses unique spices.