Rosalia Chay Chuc: an authentic Mayan culinary experience
If you have watched Chef's Table: BBQ on Netflix, you definitely know about Rosalia Chay Chuc's traditional Mayan culinary experience. She is one of the most renowned chefs of the Yucatan Peninsula, popular for her famous traditional Mayan dishes.
After watching the show, we decided to get in touch so that we can too, taste the Cochinita Pibil. Read more to find out about our experience.
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Rosalia chose not to have restaurant, and she mentioned on the show that she doesn't want the fame. What she desires most is to preserve and pass on the traditions of the Mayan culture.
Therefore, if you want to visit, you will go to her home in Yaxunah, Yucatan. It is one-hour ride from Valladolid, in the center of the peninsula.
You will be received in a lovely palapa, a tall wooden structure that helps keep the heat away on sunny days. Inside there is a table set for around 10 to 12 people. As soon as you arrive, you will be offered fresh yellow watermelon juice, which is refreshing and delicious (we drank a lot).
About Rosalia Chay Chuc
She has lived her entire life in Yaxunah, a very small village in Yucatan. She has learned all the Mayan traditions from her ancestors, including cooking, embroidery and wood carving.
Rosalia is a modest Mayan woman, whose main purpose in life is to preserve the traditions passed on by her ancestors. She sows her huipils (traditional Mayan dresses) herself, and one can take even one month to make if embroidered by hand.
This lovely chef has four children, three boys and one girl, and her entire family helps her in the house. Her native language is Mayan and has learned Spanish from her grandfather.
Who discovered her you ask? Some renowned chefs, who wanted to show the world how this real Mayan dish actually tastes like. Rosalia's Cochinita Pibil is the absolute perfection on this.
The Mayan experience
Before getting to the Mayan culinary experience, you will get to see the location where the food is cooked. You will go to the back part of Rosalia's yard, where you will find a traditional oven in the ground.
This is a Pib, a Mayan word referring to a traditional cooking method. It is a hand dug pit in the ground, about 1 m deep lined with hot stones and wood at the bottom. Many dishes are cooked like this. However, in our pib,there were two big pots with some of the best pib food you can have. Inside the pib, the pots are covered with banana leaves and earth, and all is left to cook overnight (around 12h). You cannot rush this process.
They will remove the earth and the banana leaves and clean out the pot. Meanwhile, you will be invited to their open-air kitchen, to see how the corn tortillas are made. The technique looks easy, but it is not (we tried it!). You have to tap with your fingers of one hand, while continuously rotating the tortilla with the other. Then, you have to make the shape as round as possible, and tap the tortilla with your palm. Next, you put the tortilla on the hot tray to cook, and, then finally you throw it in the fire. It will get very puffy, so once you remove it, you have to tap it fast, so that the hot air comes out. After the tortillas are cooked, they are kept in a special container that keeps them warm and prevents them to dry out.
Rosalia only uses ingredients that she and her family cultivates on their land, all naturally grown since the Mayan times. These hand-grown, unprocessed ingredients make a truly unique Mayan culinary experience.
The main ingredients are fresh corn, annatto, red onion, sour orange, garlic, Mayan oregano, and cloves. Regarding the pork meat, this is not any type of pork. It is cerdo pelón (hairless pig), and it is the same as the one used in Spain to make jamon Serrano. The legend says that when the Spaniards arrived in Mexico, they brought with them 4 of these pigs. Mayan people cook their dishes with the meat of the pigs that multiplied since those times.
The Mayan culinary experience
During our Mayan culinary experience at Rosalia's place, we tried panuchos for appetizers, and Relleno Negro and Cochinita Pibil as mains.
Panuchos are corn tortillas filled with a black bean paste, with different toppings on top. We had them with chicken, onion and habanero salsa. They were the best ones we've ever tasted.
Cochinita Pibil and Relleno Negro have the same way of cooking, underground, but they have a different sauce. They are both made with pork meat, and cooked for 12 hours. The difference is in the ingredients. Cochinitais made with a paste with annatto, which gives it the reddish color. By contrast, the Relleno Negro's paste is made with cha'wa chili peppers or Yucatán chilies. These are roasted until they turn black, hence the name of the dish.
Although surprisingly, our favorite was the Relleno Negro, but Cochinita wasn't far either. The mix of ingredients gave both a delicious smell and taste, and the meat was cooked to perfection. It was the best food we've had in Mexico by far!
If you are ever in the Yucatan Peninsula, it is definitely worth the drive to try Rosalia's culinary experience. You can find her on social media and then book by e-mail. Right now, she only has availability on the weekends, at 11 AM and 3 PM. We drove all the way there in the middle of a hurricane, and we don't regret it one bit!