Guatemalan food, embracing local flavors

Guatemalan Food

¡Oye chicos!  Many will agree with me that for those who are living abroad, aside from family & friends, one of the things that certainly being missed back home, is the food. You may have tasted the most sumptuous meals of different cuisines all around the world, yet, the flavors that scream home still linger in your mouth. Food that you grew up eating with, that nourished you, and gave you comfort. Thanks to fast changing time and migration, food back home becomes accessible to mostly anywhere in the world. Whatever nationality it is, people find products from their country to where they are now based.

Part of the adjustments in living abroad, is embracing local cuisine and lifestyle.  Discovering and indulging into local food is something I enjoy. Before living here in Guatemala, we lived in Montreal, a culturally diverse city. In every corner, you’ll find restaurants of different cuisines. From Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Italian, Vietnamese, Greek, Lebanese, Creole, Romanian, Mexican, Filipino and a lot more, everything is so accessible. Then, things changed when we moved in Guatemala. I basically cook and eat what Guatemalans cook and eat. Living far from the city, access to Filipino products and other international cuisines became limited. I started using local produce, spices & herbs indigenous to the country, embracing Guatemalan food culture in general.

Though there are many similarities between Guatemalan and Filipino food all in all, there are things that until now I’m still trying to get used to, like having tortilla everyday. Corn plays an important role in Guatemalan food menu. Many Guatemalan meals are corn-based, like tamales, chuchitos, atol and the most important one, tortilla. If you’ve been to other Latin American countries, you’ll notice that they have the same food but each country have their own take and twist on it. Here are some Guatemalan food that I learned to love and somehow became my comfort food too. Some food are quite familiar to my taste buds that makes Guatemala and Philippines have something in common. Let me take you to a virtual Guatemalan food trip.

Starting the day right

Guatemalan food
Typical Guatemalan breakfast

Morning always starts with a hearty meal. Tortilla, scrambled egg, cheese, home-made tomato sauce, black beans and of course Guatemalan coffee.

Oh my hot Tamales!

Guatemalan food
Tamale

Saturday is tamales day for our family. Made of “masa de maiz” and stuffed with chicken or pork meat. Usually served during special occasions and taste extra delicious when accompanied with café or hot chocolate drink.

Keep warm, have some atol!

Guatemalan food
Atol de elote

Atol is a hot beverage perfect for cold weather. A corn-based drink, topped with corn tidbits and cinnamon powder, usually consumed in the morning and during cold weather season.

Stuff it up

Guatemalan Food
Rellenitos de platano

A simple dessert made of smashed plantains with cinnamon &  filled with black beans. It so simple to prepare but the process is pretty lengthy. With a little dash of sugar at the end, and you are good to go with your rellenitos de platano.

Meat lover’s delight

Guatemalan food
Churrasco

Grilled meat, guacamole, black beans, cheese, chirmol (sauce made of tomatoes, onions & cilantro) & cabbage wrapped all together in flour tortilla, sounds and tastes delicious…uhmm, yummers! Served with grilled potato and onions on the side. It is like burrito and shawarma, a feast for meat lovers out there, Churrasco.

Good food in a small package

chuchito, Guatemalan food
Chuchito

Chuchito is more of a daily meal compared to tamales which is more for special occasion. However, chuchito is made of maseca (corn flour), instead of real corn dough or “masa”. Chuchito is also stuffed with some chicken meat.

Guilty pleasure

Chicharrón, Guatemalan food
Chicharrón

Oh boy! Make sure your blood pressure is under control before having the crispy, crunchy chicharrón. That sinfully, greasy, deep-fried pork meat and skin…yes!. Guatemalans enjoy their chicharrón by wrapping it of course in corn tortilla and with yucca on the side.

Let’s have some gastronomical break. Come back and take the second part of our virtual Guatemalan food trip. Make sure to subscribe to our mailing list, follow us on Facebook, Twitter or join us on Google+ to get and read our latest scoop.

Hasta la próxima amigos!

Love,

Imelda

 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any photo(s) without express and written permission from The Mixed Culture is strictly prohibited. For any photo related interest, please contact us.

 

The golden fruit of the Philippines: Manila Mango

Philippine mango

      Succulent, meaty, sweet, nutritious and deliciously tempting, these are just some words to describe Philippine Mangoes. Mango or mangga in Filipino, is the national fruit of the Philippines and is then third most important fruit crop of the country next to banana and pineapple. In Philippines alone, different varieties of mangoes grow, which locals enjoy tremendously. The most common variety of mango in the Philippines is what Americans refer to as champagne mango. It is also called Manila mango, Ataulfo mango (named after its Mexican grower) and Honey mango.  For Filipinos it is manggang kalabaw (carabao mango) while for commercial trade, the Philippine government refers to it as ‘Manila Super Mango’ and is the country’s top export variety and is considered one of the best mango varieties in the world. Manila Super Mangoes are meant for export, 12 hours after harvesting they go to a factory for Vapor Heat Treatment. In VHT chamber, mangoes stay for about five hours from pre-heating to cooling. No chemicals are sprayed on them; they are merely steamed. In 1995, the Guinness Book of World records listed the Carabao mango variety in the Philippines as the sweetest fruit in the world, specifically the Guimaras mango. Guimaras Island is located in the Western Visayas region in the Philippines.

Photo credit: Jay Javier http://eastofherewestofthere.blogspot.com
Manila Mangoes
Photo credit: Jay Javier
http://eastofherewestofthere.blogspot.com

With its golden color that signifies richness and a heart shape that symbolizes a very important part like in human anatomy made Manila mango to be the national fruit of the country. Mango has been known too as the “Fruit of the Gods”. The Manila mango has a yellow-orange skin and more slender compared to other large mango varieties. The flesh or the meat of manggang kalabaw has an almost velvety buttery texture and really sweet. For Filipinos, the best way to eat ripe Manila mango is by slicing it lengthwise, making three flat slices, the middle slice containing the large seed. With the outer slices, where the fleshy part is, you either scoop out the flesh with a spoon or make cubes using the “hedgehog” method (make a crisscross grid with a knife), turn the flesh out with your hands and then scrape off the chunks.  Furthermore, Filipinos love to eat green , unripe mangoes  (manggang hilaw) and dipping it in rock salt or with shrimp paste (bagoong). The naturally delicious golden fruit of the Philippines: Manila Mango.

Photo disclaimer: The Mixed Culture does not own the photo(s) used in this post, however, proper permission to use the photo(s) above was given to The Mixed Culture. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any photo(s) without express and written permission from the artist and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For any photo related interest, please contact the artist directly by visiting the webpage provided or leave us a message.

Homemade alcoholic beverages of Salcajá, Quetzaltenango, Guatemala: Rompopo and Caldo de frutas

Rompopo and Caldo de frutas: Salcajá , Quetzaltenango, Guatemala
Rompopo and Caldo de frutas: Salcajá , Quetzaltenango, Guatemala
Rompopo and Caldo de frutas

Getting drunk is not new in Guatemala, or anywhere in the world, everybody have their own version of “happy hour/moment”. For many years , Salcajá has been the best reference for the production of homemade alcoholic beverages in Guatemala. Salcajá is a town in Quetzaltenango, western highlands of Guatemala, located five kilometers from the city of Quetzaltenango.  Rompopo & caldo de frutas, are Salcajá’s two famous homemade alcoholic beverages.

Caldo de frutas

The caldo de frutas (fruit wine) is a fruit drink that villagers of Salcajá  produce all throughout the year. The production of the beverage dates back during the colonial times, sometime around in 1524, when the Spanish conquistador Pedro de Alvarado appointed Captain Juan de León y Cardona to lead the town,  who happened to have the knowledge of wine-making. Fruits that occur in different seasons , such as apple, peach , nance , cherry, mamey , grape and others, are fermented for several months. Cinnamon , sugar and liquor are also added into the fermentation. The knowledge of wine-making provided to the Salcajeños was to develop a drink based for different classes of fruits brought from Europe, fruits that  American lands can’t produce . Initially, this brew was exclusively for the persons belonging to the upper hierarchy of the villa. However, as time passed by, they began to prepare caldo de frutas in every homes in the community and became a typical drink of the municipality and became a source of income for families afterwards.

Rompopo

Another unique alcoholic drink from this town is the Rompopo, a drink like eggnog , which is made based on milk, sugar or honey, egg yolk, cinnamon, nuts and alcohol. Like caldo de frutas, this drink is usually shared among with family and friends, and because of its fame for several years, Rompopo is available in other departments.

Contrary to what happened with the caldo de frutas, which is produced by any resident of the town, the eggnog, at present, is produced only  by two small businesses in Salcajá. One of which is through the store of Elsa Marina Alvardo de Rodas, owner of Fabrica de Rompopo La Salcajeña, says most of their product is purchased by people of Huehuetenango , Chimaltenango , Quetzaltenango , the capital and by tourists from the United States, Japan , France and Italy. The recipe and process of brewing rompopo are strictly kept, though store owners may specify some ingredients to others but never the quantities and the process. The formulas have been passed down from generation to generation and have changed a little.

Rompopo: Salcajá, Quetzaltenango, Guatemala
Rompopo store in Salcajá, Xela, Guatemala
Photo credit: Jette Møller Moller
for http://www.themixedculture.com

Production of intoxicating drinks in the country dates back to pre-Hispanic times , when the Maya elaborated drinks like the “chicha”, a uniquely pre-Columbian in origin, was produced from the fermentation of corn, of which an own product of Mesoamerica. The cusha, extracted from the chicha, was used during rituals of the Maya and other peoples who inhabited the region. Salcajá, pioneering homemade and unique Guatemalan alcoholic beverages. Brewing culture, history and authentic Guatemalan flavors: Rompopo and Caldo de frutas.

Extreme eating: Pinikpikan

Pinikpikan Photo credit: Israel Formales
Pinikpikan
Photo credit: Israel Formales

     Pinikpikan is a controversial yet a famous native dish from the highlands of Cordillera, northern region of the Philippines. For some, it is an extreme eating, but looking closely to the end product, it looks pretty simple and delicious. If it intrigues you and want to try it, make sure you see how it is prepared. The flavors of the dish come from the coagulated blood, the burned feathers and skin, plus the special ingredient Etag, which is a cured and smoked meat, aged and kept underground in earthen jars.

     And what makes Pinikpikan controversial?  It is how the chicken is slaughtered. It is said that the preparation of the chicken violates the Philippine Animal Welfare Act of 1998. The preparation involves a live chicken beaten up with a stick before cooking.  But before you get totally freaked out,  in reality, the preparation is a ritual performed by the Cordillera tribes to decide the right courses of action and their fate. It takes hours of careful work to prepare an authentic Pinikpikan. The chicken is “battered” to keep the blood inside and if it is properly “battered”, it will not be bloody when it is cut. Also, none of the bones should be broken during the process of beating or even in slicing. The process of light beating or “pikpik” is where Pinikpikan gets its name. 

     So the next time you visit the northern region of the Philippines, makes sure you include in your itinerary, to visit the Cordillera tribes and see for yourself how they do the ritual, to understand the story and the culture behind the dish. Most importantly, to taste the controversial dish Pinikpikan.

Photo disclaimer: The Mixed Culture does not own the photo(s) used in this post, however, proper permission to use the photos above was given to The Mixed Culture. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any photos without express and written permission from the artist and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For any photo related interest, please contact the artist directly by visiting the webpage provided or leave us a message.

Image

Soup it!!!

Soup it!!!

Those moments when a craving hits you, the savor and flavor that scream…HOMEeee. And tonight, is one of those moments, which I simply have to eat something that will remind and bring me back home, right here, right now. So, I raided our pantry and there it was….Macaroni!!!. Aha! Sopas!. Though in Spanish, “sopa” means soup, in the Philippines it refers just for specific dish called Sopas. Thanks to my mother, who is an awesome cook, she taught me some basic Filipino dishes and tonight I cooked my sopas to satisfy my cravings. Sopas is commonly served breakfast time, but for this specific situation, it is my life saving dinner. Since it is a very simple and easy to cook dish, I decided to write something about it, and it might be helpful for Filipinos abroad who miss the flavors of home and for those who would like to try a new dish. It is so easy-peasy to prepare, a perfect meal for your busy schedule. Here’s my quick and easy craving fixer recipe of sopas with a Guatemalan twist.

Worries go down better with soup.  ~Jewish Proverb

Ingredients

  •  Macaroni
  • Carrots (diced)
  • Green bell pepper (cut into strips)
  • Onions (chopped)
  • Water
  • 1 egg
  • Evaporated milk (for the creamy milky flavor)
  • Salt & black pepper
  • Chicken stock/flavoring ( I used powder based flavoring )
  • Cilantro (this yummy leafy veggie is my Guatemalan twist, it is widely used in many dishes here, so I always have it on my fridge and use it often now)

*Note: You can add chicken or other veggies you like (if you think it goes with the flavor, go ahead 🙂 )

Only the pure in heart can make a good soup. – Ludwig van Beethoven

I too have a busy schedule; this is how I cook and enjoy my sopas in 30 minutes:

  1. Boil water in a casserole, with the egg on it.
  2. While waiting for water to boil, I slice, chop and cut the veggies.
  3. Once the water is boiling, add the macaroni.
  4. Add the veggies.
  5. Pour the evaporated milk
  6. Put salt, pepper and chicken flavoring to taste
  7. Let it simmer
  8. Add cilantro towards the end.
  9. Put sopas into a bowl, peel off the egg-shell
  10. Slice and place the egg on top and enjoy (of course….don’t forget to blow it because it’s hot!!)

Reminder: I don’t measure ingredients. Everything is under your discretion, besides you’ll the only one who’ll know exactly how much you will need and how you want it to taste like. Voila!!! My sopas… 😀 Exactly the way I remembered and used to eat it.

Food is a lot of people’s therapy – we say comfort food, we really mean that. It’s releasing dopamine and serotonin in your brain that makes you feel good – Brett Hoebel

Warning: I’m no pro…I cook based on how my reliable taste buds remember the flavors embedded into my system. Cook at your own risk.  If you decided to cook some, enjoy and let me know what you think about it. I think sopas is one of my comfort foods, what about yours?

Por el Amor al Arroz

Rice field in the Philippines
Rice field in the Philippines

Ser de las Filipinas y crecer con arroz todos los días, sin duda; puedo decir que los filipinos disfrutan el arroz en cada tiempo de comida. Digamos arroz por la mañana, arroz al mediodía  y arroz en la noche, sin mencionar los postres a base de arroz. Una comida para los filipinos no está completa sin una porción de arroz, es una necesidad. ¿Y por qué los filipinos aman el arroz? Para los filipinos el arroz es el alimento básico, es parte de la cultura, es una identidad, del mismo se obtiene la  mayor parte de carbo-hidratos, lo cual es perfecto, sobre todo para los que hacen el trabajo duro y por supuesto, el mismo acompaña cualquier comida. El arroz es el cereal más consumido en las Filipinas. En Filipinas, se pueden encontrar muchas variedades de arroz, en cada provincia del país; usted  verá campos de arroz en todas partes. Sin embargo, con las variedades de arroz disponibles en el país, Filipinas sigue importando arroz de los países vecinos. El país se dice que es el mayor importador de arroz del mundo. ¿Por qué Filipinas no puede producir suficiente arroz para alimentar a su gente?

Drying process
Drying process

Según el Instituto Internacional de Investigación del Arroz (IRRI), una investigación independiente sin fines de lucro y organización de formación situada en las Filipinas, estableció tres factores principales que explican por qué el arroz sigue siendo importado en Filipinas;

  • Superficie territorial: Filipinas tiene alrededor de 300.000 kilómetros cuadrados , de los cuales alrededor de 43.000 kilómetros cuadrados de superficie cultivable se utilizan para la producción de arroz. Como la mayor parte del país es muy montañosa  y se compone de muchas islas pequeñas , las tierras aptas se limitan a aumentar la producción de arroz en tierras húmedas, sin que afecten  bosques o zonas de producción de otros cultivos. Además,  Las áreas urbanas también continúan expandiéndose rápidamente.
  • Crecimiento Poblacional: La población de Filipinas se estima en 97 millones. Su tasa de crecimiento anual de alrededor del 2 % – entre los más altos del mundo – significa que sólo para mantener el ritmo de la creciente demanda del país tendría que aumentar la producción de arroz  a un ritmo pocas veces visto en la historia.
  • Infraestructura: Infraestructura de riego no se usa y no se mantiene la forma más eficiente, lo que reduce el potencial de la productividad. La infraestructura de transporte; en particular, carecemos de  carreteras de buena calidad, lo cual por consecuencia, afecta el transporte del arroz y obstaculiza el comercio de éste.

A pesar de la predicción audaz en curso del Gobierno de Filipinas de alcanzar la autosuficiencia en arroz en 2013, el país se encuentra en la importación de 187.000 toneladas métricas de arroz para el año. Cualquiera que sea la situación, los filipinos continuarán su historia de amor con el arroz… todo por el AMOR al arroz.

Para obtener más información sobre el arroz en las Filipinas, se puede ir a estos sitios web:

http://www.nfa.gov.ph/index.php?lt=3

http://pinoyrkb.com/main/resources/rice-varieties

http://irri.org/

For the Love of Rice

Rice field in the Philippines
Rice field in the Philippines

Being from the Philippines and grew up eating rice every day, I can certainly say that Filipinos LOVE rice, each and every meal time. As in, rice in the morning, rice at noon & rice in the evening, not to mention the desserts made of rice.  A meal for Filipinos is not complete without a serving of rice, it is a must.  And why Filipinos love rice? For Filipinos rice is the staple food, it is part of the culture, it is an identity, it gives bulk of carbohydrates which is perfect especially for those who does hard labor and of course it goes with any meal. Rice is the most consumed grain in the in the Philippines.  There are many varieties of rice that can be found in the Philippines,  and in every provinces of the country you will see rice fields everywhere.  However, with those varieties of rice available in the country, Philippines still imports rice from its neighboring countries. The country is said to be the largest importer of rice in the world. Why Philippines can’t produce enough rice to feed it people?

Drying process

According to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), a nonprofit independent research and training organization located in the Philippines, the three main factors explain why Philippines still imports rice;

  • Land area: The Philippines has around 300,000 square kilometers, of which around 43,000 square kilometers of harvested area are used for rice production. As most of the country is very mountainous and consists of many small islands, suitable land is limited to expand rice production into without affecting wetlands, forests, or areas producing other crops. Urban areas also continue to expand rapidly.
  • Population growth: The population of the Philippines is estimated at 97 million. Its annual growth rate of around 2% – among the world’s highest – means that just to keep pace with growing demand the country would have to increase rice production and yield at rates rarely seen in history.
  • Infrastructure: Irrigation infrastructure is not used and maintained as efficiently as it could be, thus reducing productivity potential. Transport infrastructure, particularly good-quality roads, is lacking in the Philippines, which affects the transport of rice and hinders the rice trade.

Despite of the bold prediction of the current Philippine Government of achieving rice self-sufficiency in 2013, the country is in importation of 187,000 metric tons of rice for the year. Whatever the situation is, Filipinos will continue its love affair with rice…all for the LOVE of RICE.

For more information about rice in the Philippines, you can go to these websites:

http://www.nfa.gov.ph/index.php?lt=3

http://pinoyrkb.com/main/resources/rice-varieties

http://irri.org/

Halo-halo and Granizada, you’ll ask for more!

Halo-halo
Halo-halo

During summer time in the Philippines, the number one food that every single Filipinos crave for is Halo-halo. Halo-halo is from a Tagalog word “halo”, which means mix. Though widely available throughout the year as a dessert, it earned its fame that quenches the summer heat. Halo-halo is a mixture of shaved ice and evaporated milk with various fruits and boiled sweet beans added and served in a tall glass or a bowl.

In your tall glass of halo-halo, you’ll have the following ingredients; boiled kidney beans, garbanzos, sugar palm fruit (kaong), Saba banana caramelized in sugar, jackfruit (langka), coconut sport (macapuno), gulaman (gelatin), tapioca, nata de coco and sweet potato (kamote). All the fruits and sweet beans placed first then sugar comes next, followed by the shaved iced. Usually topped with leche flan and purple yam (ube) or added scoop of ice cream for a different version. Then, evaporated milk is poured in upon serving and pounded crushed young rice (pinipig) as an extra topping.

Granizada
Granizada

Now, on the other side of the world, Guatemala, there is a refreshment called granizada that resembles closed to halo-halo. Though the ingredients are less compared to halo-halo, granizada also can beat your thirst during hot summer days. It also comes with fruit tidbits normally with banana, papaya, pineapple and sweetened tamarind. The shaved ice goes in first then fruit tidbits afterwards. Fruit syrup poured in and topped with condensed milk and more sweetened tamarind. Halo-halo and granizada, refreshments from two different countries that will surely quench your thirst and will leave you ask for more.

Halo-halo y Granizada, usted va a pedir más!

Halo-halo
Halo-halo

Durante el tiempo de  verano en Filipinas, entre los alimentos que cada filipino anhela esta halo-halo. Halo-halo es una palabra en tagalog; “halo”,   significa mezcla. Aunque se encuentra ampliamente disponible en todo el año como un postre;  que ganó su fama como un intermediario para calmar el calor del verano. Halo-halo es una mezcla de hielo picado y  leche evaporada a la que se agregan varias frutas y frijoles dulces hervidos, el mismo se sirve en un vaso o un plato.
En el vaso de halo de halo, tendrás los siguientes ingredientes, frijoles cocidos, garbanzos, azúcar de palma fruta (kaong), saba plátano caramelizado de azúcar, sandía (langka), coco (macapuno), Gulaman (gelatina ), tapioca, nata de coco, batata (kamote). Todas las frutas y granos dulces se colocan primero y luego se añade azúcar, seguido por el hielo raspado o granizada. Se remata comúnmente con leche flan y  yam púrpura  (Ube) o una bola adicional de helado para una versión sofisticada. Entonces, la leche evaporada se vierte;  al mismo tiempo se agrega arroz machacado (pinipig) como un ingrediente adicional.

Granizada
Granizada

Ahora,  al otro lado del mundo, Guatemala, existe una especie de refresco llamado granizada que se asemeja lo suficiente  al halo  halo. Aunque los ingredientes son menos en comparación con halo halo, granizada también puede considerarse un postre y/o  vencer la sed durante los calurosos días de verano. También suelen agregarle pedazos de frutas, entre ellas: banano, naranja, papaya, piña entre otros; además, tamarindo azucarado. El hielo raspado se coloca primero, se añaden las frutas picadas. Luego el Jarabe de fruta se vierte encima, al mismo tiempo se agrega  leche condensada y esencia de tamarindo dulce o la que sea del gusto del cliente. Halo-halo y granizada, refrescos de dos países diferentes que seguramente saciarán su sed y lo dejarán pidiendo más.