Sunday, November 2, 2008

Guatemalan Food

Tonight I did something a little different for dinner: I prepared some Guatemalan dishes for my family. Guatemalan cuisine is similar to Mexican, but generally the dishes have more subtle tastes, they are not as spicy, and in some cases they are sweeter. So tonight I prepared: tacos de Guatemala, rellenitos de platano, and torta de maiz.

The tacos de Guatemala dish is not exclusive to Guatemala, as it can be found throughout central America, but it is close enough. The filler is ground beef with onion and diced potatoes, which is served in a corn or flour tortilla. The salsa verde (green sauce) is what makes this dish extra special: a blend of tomatillos, garlic, cilantro, and avocados. The salsa is also supposed to have jalapeƱos, but my wife doesn't like that much spice so I left it out. The dish was surprisingly good, with a taste that's very different from the kind of tacos we are used to.

Rellenitos de platano consists of fried plantains with some refried beans inside. Plantains are similar to bananas, but aren't as sweet and a bit harder to work with. Plantains are a staple food in Guatemala and much of central America. To prepare the dish I cooked then mashed several plantains. I heated up some black refried beans (thanks to La Preferida) and added some sugar and a bit of salt. I took a ball of plantain mush, created a hole and put some of the bean mixture in the middle, sealed it all up then dropped it in the fryer. After about 5 minutes the ball was brown and crispy on the outside. I think this was the least succesful dish. Plantains taste bland, and there's really no way around it. Even the sweet beans in the middle can't entirely make up for the blandness. I understand this dish is very popular in Guatemala, but for me it was only okay. Next time I may try to sweeten the plantain mush a bit, although a Guatemalteco would cringe at the thought.

Torta de maiz, or corn cake, was an complete hit. The recipe was not very traditional as it relied on some prepackaged mixes, but the result was awesome! The dish is a yellow cake with some pudding added for moistness, eggs, corn, and some vanilla. Everyone loved it. It is really more a dessert than a side dish.

We all enjoyed Guatemalan night, and I got a chance to cook with some things I have never touched before (plantains and tomatillos). The food prep took a long time, so it may be awhile before I try this again.

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