Mexico is full of vendors on the road at the stop light, or lining the sidewalks at city centers, and they are always carrying something delicious to sell. Some have fruits doused with salty spicy flavorings popular with the natives, or crunchy fried corn or potato snacks drenched in hot sauces. Others have sweets galore. Throughout our travels in various large and cities throughout the Yucatan region and even making our way to the regional day of the Carnival celebration in Merida, we got a chance to try many of these tasty street treats.
These are goodies that speak to Mexican childhood and snack culture. These are crunchy addictive bites that come in corn or potato varieties. Chicharrones are puffy and light, crunchy and greasy at the same time. The vendor asks if you want spicy hot sauce or a popular snack sauce with a bit of heat. The sauce softened the Styrofoam chip like snack, making them wilt and heavy but extra addictive. I preferred the corn cousin to the potato. The corn chicharrones were stiffer and held up better to the hot sauces and the flavor was stronger. Either way, this snack was delicious, a perfect salty pick me up.
At the parade celebrating Carnival, my friend invited me taste this street food. The marquesita is an amazing mixture of sweet and salty. The goody starts off almost like a crepe, a thin batter spread in a circle on a hot surface. This is almost where the commonalities stop (except for filling). Unlike the French crepe, it was smushed between two hot plates, switched and flipped. Once the batter is secured in the shape of a circle, the vendor sprinkles a handsome handful of shredded cheese in its center. He then rolls the whole treat into a column and adds more cheese into the hole in the middle. I was told to wait until the roll cooled and the exterior was crunchy, before I devoured it. The magical treat’s crust was crunchy and crisp, sweet and sugary like a fortune cookie, malleable and almost flaky in a way. The inside was the salty melty popular Holland cheese, countering the texture and the flavor of the crust. It is genius and delicious, perfect for any mood.
Another example of street food that I had at the parade was something I have experienced at fairs here in the States, or on the high street in London; corn in a cup. Here at the little vendor booth, you could see the full ears of corn on the cob resting in their husks. The vendor also had a wild assortment of toppings and accoutrements ranging from mayo, to spices, to salt, and other goodies. I tasted my friend’s concoction including some of the above. It was warming, spicy, and tangy, the corn fresh, yellow and delicious. However, I really only needed one bite to get the idea.
The Mayan name for this delicious, snackable treat is pronounced why-é-tukee. This might be my favorite contender of the savory snack category, mostly because of its addictive nature and its almost nutritional content (beans are good for you right?). These tortilla goodies are made out of a lady’s house in Tekax, so they are not necessarily widespread, but they are extremely local eats. In between the two grainy tortillas there is a smear of spicy black beans, made like a creamy blue black paste. Each of these thin sandwiched snacks is smothered with a red tomato based sauce, mild, and acidic. The baseness of the beans, with its smoldering heat, counters the acidity of the tomatoes nicely, so that no flavor is too overwhelming. But the homemade tortillas dampen out the spice even more, increasing the snackability (for me and my heartburn especially). Somehow they end up feeling meaty, hearty and satisfying, even though, each on its own is thin and indistinct. Waye tu'kí comes in stacks, and peeling each unit, is like trying to separate two pieces of wet tissue paper, messy, difficult, and well worth the challenge. You can eat them like potato chips or popcorn, but they are much much heavier than that; too many can feel like a meal, but too few is not nearly enough to feed the addiction.
Stay tuned for the dark side (well the other side) of my Mexican snacking… the sweet side.