I just had a two week holiday in New York and Mexico, and to say that I’m bummed out that it’s over would be to put it mildly. Mexico is one of the best places I’ve ever visited, with lovely friendly people, amazing food, beautiful beaches, interesting historical sites…the whole shebang really. My awesome friend J Headen Esq and I travelled around the Yucatan coast, which is on the Caribbean Sea. I could blather on endlessly about the turquoise waters, the great snorkelling, the white beaches, the cheap and delicious cocktails and so forth, but will stick to the food, to stay on topic as well as to avoid plunging myself into an even deeper depression.
In ten days, we didn’t have one disappointing meal, which must be a record. Even an emergency pizza turned out to be delicious, and was also about the size of a flatscreen tv. Some of the things that really stood out for me were the breakfasts (Mexicans do amazing things with scrambled eggs), the fresh fish and shellfish and the delicious Mexican soups. I’ve found some recipes for two dishes that I tried for the first time over there and fell madly in love with: Ceviche and Sopa di Limon.
Ceviche is fish or shellfish marinaded in lime juice, chilli and salt, so that the fish is ‘cooked’ by the acids in the lime. The shrimp ceviche that we ate on the beach in Mexico came with tomato, fresh coriander and onion in the marinade, and was light, refreshing and delicious.
Safety note: the lime juice gives the fish a cooked texture and opacity, but will not kill bacteria. Use only the freshest and cleanest fish you can get, or if you’re nervous, cook the fish first.
- ½ red onion
- 2-3 cups small to medium size shrimp
- Juice of 2-3 limes
- 1 chilli pepper
- 1/2 cup cilantro leaves, washed and dried
- 3 large ripe avocados
- 1 mango
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cut the onion into the thinnest possible slices, slicing it with the cut side facing down so that the slices are semicircular in shape.
- Place the onion slices in a bowl of cold salted water, and let them soak for 20 minutes.
- If you want to cook the shrimp, bring a pot of salted water to a boil, and add the juice of one lime to the pot. Boil the shrimp for one to two minutes, until just cooked. Drain shrimp and rinse with cold water.
- De-vein the shrimp and trim off the tails, and place in a bowl. Finely mince the pepper (removing seeds and veins) and place in the bowl with the shrimp. Add the juice of 2 limes and toss.
- Cut one avocado and the mango into bite size cubes, and add to the shrimp.
- Drain and rinse onions, then add to the shrimp. Toss mixture briefly with the cilantro, reserving a few leaves for garnish.
- Chill for about 30 minutes or until ready to serve. Serve ceviche in avocado halves. This ceviche is best eaten within an hour of its preparation.
Serves 4. Recipe from About.com.
Sopa de Limon
Sopa de Limon, or Lime Soup, is a Yucatan speciality. It’s a chicken broth with lime juice, chilli and coriander, and we had it served with tortillas in the bowl. The flavours are fresh and reminiscent of Asian food, and because of this it’s perfect to eat even in very hot weather.
Check out this excellent recipe with pictures at HispanicKitchen.com.
There were a few standout places that we visited, if any of you ever decide to go there (go there!):
- Velazquez, Isla Mujeres – a very basic, no frills restaurants right on the beach that served up the most delicious simple grilled fish. A huge platter that comfortably fed two of us was only 75 pesos (about €5).
- El Meson del Marques, Valledolid – a lovely hotel in an old colonial building, with a gorgeous swimming pool and a delightful restaurant. The rooms were small, but cost less than €30 a night. The restaurant was excellent value as well.
- Hotel Villa Rolandi, Isla Mujeres – one of the first and best of many spectacular Mexican breakfasts.