Updated: Mar 30, 2020
The Yucatan region has very distinct food from the rest of Mexico. Primarily based on Mayan food with influences from the Caribbean, Central Mexico, Europe (especially France) and Middle Easter Cultures. One of the main spices of the area is the Annatto Seed, it gives food a reddish color with a slightly peppery smell and a hint of nutmeg. Also popular here is recados, a seasoning paste based on the achiote chile or a mix of habanero and chirmole, both used on chicken or pork. Pibil, the Mayan word for 'buried' is a common cooking technique to this area where food is wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in a pit oven.
Using a mortar & pestle to grind your spices gives you an awesome opportunity to create more flavor in your dish. You can save yourself some time using a coffee grinder but this way is more fun.
Unwrapping the banana leaves is like unwrapping a present.
This is one of the single most aromatic dishes I've ever made.
Thank you to the Mayan's for helping me get my Pibil on!
CHOCHINITA PIBIL Yucatan Style Pulled Pork
Yield: 12 servings.
8lb Pork butt/ shoulder, cut into 3-4” cubes
2 white onions thinly sliced
5-6 banana leaves
6 tbsp annatto seeds
1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
8-10 whole allspice peppercorns
6 whole cloves
2 tsp cumin seeds
2” stick Mexican cinnamon
½ tsp oregano
12 cloves garlic
1 habanero chile, deveined & de-seeded
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup fresh orange juice
½ cup white vinegar
1. Using a stone mortar grind the spice mix ingredients until powdered: annato seeds, black pepper, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, cumin seeds, oregano.
2. In a blender combine the garlic, habanero, sea salt, orange juice and vinegar. Once blended, stir in your spice mix.
3. In a glass container place the pork and marinade, massage the pork pieces until well covered. Cover with parchment paper and plastic wrap. Refrigerate, let it rest over night.
4. The next day, remove your pork from the fridge while you prepare the pan. You want the marinated pork to not be refrigerator cold when you place it in the oven. This allows the meat to cook more evenly and it will be more tender.
5. Move your oven rack to the lowest position in your oven. Preheat the oven to 325. Place the banana leaves in the oven for 5-7 minutes. Afterwards they should be a little warm, and more pliable. Using scissors, cut off the hard middle rib of the leaves.
6. In a large roasting pan line the banana leaves in both directions, overlapping each other half way, completely covering the bottom of the pan. Place some leaves on each corner to ensure there are no leaks. Make sure to have the leaves overhanging, so you're able to fold them over the top of the dish to create the bundle.
7. On top of the banana leaves place a layer of thin onion wedges and the marinated pork meat in the roasting pan. Add the marinade juices and cover with the overhanging banana leaf. You want to make a bundle, make sure it is fully wrapped up. Cover the entire pan with foil and tighten the edges to fully seal in the heat and moisture. Place in the preheated oven for 3-3 ½ hours.
8. Pull the pan out of the oven and before uncovering it, let it rest for at least 30 minutes.
9. After resting, use tongs to unwrap the banana leaves. Using two forks, shred the pork. The pork should be fork tender, juicy, moist and fragrant.
10. My favorite way to enjoy is to have these as a Yucatan Style Street Taco with Corn Tortillas.
Check out my post about the Regional Cuisines of Mexico here.