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Chiapanecan Cuisine: Excellence Lies in Tradition

Panoramic view of San Cristobal, Chiapas
The Mexican state of Chiapas holds a wide diversity in regards to climate, regions and cultures; as such, its cuisine offers an ample variety of flavors. One just has to visit the area and let our palate enjoy the ride.

By Laura B. de Caraza Campos

Platanos Machos
Platanos Machos
Cuisine changes from region to region; nevertheless, there are dishes that can be found everywhere. We can name, for instance, the famous corn tamales, or the outstanding tamales de chipilín, or fried and sliced banana, or plátano macho, served with cream and cheese; we can’t bypass the delicious and aromatic coffee, or the delightful and foamy chocolatito, which are always excellent, regardless of where they are being served.

Each place has signature dishes and ingredients. In Palenque and Agua Azul, for example, encountering chestnut trees like the ones you can find in European climates came as quite a surprise. The Chiapanecan version is much more taller tree because of the tropical weather: the fruit is seasoned with salt and sold by little girls on the side of the road. In Ocosingo it is a mandate to buy the famous cheese “para quedar bien” (“to make a good impression”, the finest quality available).

As you go up to the region of Los Altos and the weather turns increasingly colder, dishes keep changing. In San Cristobal we encountered mestiza cuisine, with a greater Spanish influence, in which saffron is used regularly, as are raw and baked hams, the chanfaina and warm, readily baked breads. You can also find stuffed cheeses, chalupas coletas and all kids of candies, dessert dishes, aguardientes (a strong liqueur) and mistelas, which provide the necessary calorie intake to deal with the harsh, cold climate. In Chiapa de Corzo’s main square it is common to stumble upon street vendors selling pozol, red tascalate or chimbo eggs. In Comitán you can find other delicious dishes, like cochinito comiteco (pork), a comforting cocido, saffron tamales, panes compuestos (stuffed bread), prunes or the amazing animalitos de yema (animal-shaped cookies).

To round up our trip we visited Tonalá and Puerto Arista, where we ate some Chiapanecan eggs, a shrimp omelet and the outstanding dogfish (cazón) quesadillas. Pijijipan offers its famous double cream and stringy cheeses. The Soconusco region is also outstanding due to its lush vegetation: cacao, coffee, banana, copra, avocado, nanche, sweet potato, mangoes of the Ataúlfo variety (thus named because Ataúlfo Morales, who hailed from this region, cross-bred mango varieties and came up with this fleshy, juicy fruit), cashews and rice. In this region fishermen also catch all kinds of fish: sea bass, red snapper (locally known as pargo), dogfish and grey mullet (lisa). You can also find fresh or dry shrimp.

The Soconusco is also known for having some of the best bovine cattle in the country. In this region we can find a wide variety of dishes. There are Asian traits in the ones found in Huixtla and Tapachula, due to the great Chinese migration at the dawn of the 20th century. There are also fish and shrimp cooked in hundreds of ways, some of them seasoned with local herbs like hierbasanta, acuyo or momo. Chipilín is also important: it seasons dishes like chipilin with camarón y bolita, or juicy meat cuts which are frequently served with vegetables like carrots, cabbage and chayote. You can also find desserts like green papaya with honey.

Have you ever had Chiapanecan food? What have you indulged with?

Mexico Desconocido Magazine Cover This blog post is brought to you by Mexico Desconocido, “Guidebooks of the Unknown Mexico” – Over 33 years discovering Mexico’s best-kept secrets. These Mexican travel guidebooks have a wide variety of titles that delve into specific topics related to Mexico’s natural and cultural wonders. Because one of their greatest features is versatility, the guides are innovative and attractive, offering content that adapts to the needs of tourism promoters and service providers in different states throughout the country of Mexico.

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