Summary of the most important information:
What? Yucatecan kitchen experience – Learn how to cook Yucatecan food
Where? Hola Spanish School, Calle 53 #522 x 66 y 68, Mérida Centro
When? Bookable every Saturday, 9am – 1pm
How much? 600 pesos (app. US$30)
Language: English or Spanish or a mixture of both
Good for solo travellers? Yes. You’ll either be part of a group of up to 6 people or you may be the only participant, depending on how many reservations there are.
I’m not a foodie and I hardly ever cook. But I nevertheless decided to give it a try with a cooking class in Mérida. I love Mexican food but I also read that the Yucatecan kitchen is slightly different.
I’m not strictly vegetarian, means I do eat chicken or fish at restaurants. However, I don’t like the idea of preparing something with meat and therefore, I chose a vegetarian option.
Yucatecan kitchen class in Mérida
My class took place at Hola Spanish School in Mérida Centro. They offer cooking classes every Saturday morning for groups of 1 – 6 people. I was the only one who had signed up for the class on June 30 but that was no problem at all. My instructors Nidi and her boyfriend were very friendly and apart from cooking, we talked about all kind of things. They offer the classes in English or Spanish or a mixture of both languages so it’s also a great way to practice speaking Spanish.
Before making the reservation for the class, Nidi had sent me the menu to choose from by email. They offer Yucatecan as well as Mexican dishes and I hope to take another class choosing a typical Mexican dish before I leave Mérida in September.
Some Information about the Yucatecan Kitchen
Yucatán cuisine is a mixture of Mexico, Europe and Lebanon. Why is this so? Before the invention of airplanes, the Yucatan peninsula was separated by jungles and mountains from the rest of Mexico. Streets were in poor condition or didn’t exist at all. However, Yucatan had its numerous port cities which resulted in stronger connections to the Caribbean islands (which were mainly European colonies back then) and to Europe.
Secondly, there was a huge influx of Lebanese immigrants in the 19th and early 20th century. Many of them settled in the Yucatan starting as vendors and often becoming rich. Some of Mexico’s richest people are of Lebanese origin. Well, and they brought some typical Lebanese dishes with them.
What is the class like?
I was a bit surprised when I learned that the class would already start as 9 am. As I was the only participant, it DID result in an early lunch but for a group, it’s necessary to start that early.
First, we went to a small local market nearby to buy the ingredients. If your Spanish is not that good yet and you’d like to practice it in a real life situation, tell your instructor and she’ll assist you to have a conversation with a market vendor. I learned some new words (my kitchen vocabulary is not exactly very elaborated) but in general, I feel quite secure when speaking Spanish, so I just let Nidi buy everything we needed and enjoyed the atmosphere of the market. The price of the ingredients is included in the lesson price, by the way.
After we had bought everything, we returned to the language school and got started. We chatted quite a bit while we were cooking which was the main reason why it took us about 2 hours. Nidi and her boy-friend were very patient with me, explained exactly what I had to do and helped a lot. It wouldn’t have been difficult at all for someone who’s familiar with cooking but if even you’re such a hopeless case like me, you will manage and have fun.
As mentioned before, we had an early lunch at around 11:30 am but that was all right as none of us had had a real breakfast.
Nidi’s boyfriend was so kind to do the dishes and I said good-bye to them around 1pm. We hadn’t eaten everything and there were some ingredients left, too. They packed everything in a bag for me and so I had food for Sunday as well.
As mentioned above, I chose vegetarian dishes. However, Yucatecan kitchen normally consists of quite a bit of meat and chicken.
Kibis are of Lebanese origin and you will see them as street food all over the Yucatán. Normally, they’re not vegetarian but made with minced meat. Here’s a Spanish recipe for kibis. Simply omit the minced meat for the vegetarian version, the rest is the same.
Papadzules are “muy yucatecas”. They are traditionally eaten on Fridays (Nidi told me that there’s a typical dish for every day of the week in the Yucatan) and used to be called “food of the poor”. They look like enchiladas but the people here insist that they aren’t because they are served with a very special salsa. It’s made of “pepita de calabaza” which looks like this:
We bought this at the market but I had seen it before and already wondered what the heck it might be. It’s made of pumpkin seed and I doubt that you can easily buy exactly the same outside the Yucatan. However, all the other ingredients are easy to find and you can simply choose another salsa – well, perhaps, it’s no longer papadzules then :-).
So that was not only my first cooking class in Mexico but the first one in my whole life. But it surely won’t be the last one. I really enjoyed the experience.
Have you ever participated in a cooking classes while travelling? What did you cook and how did you like it? I’d like to hear from you in the comments.
Do you want to know more about the Yucatán and the Mayas? Check out my recommendations:
- Lonely Planet: Cancún, Cozumel and the Yucatán
- A Yucatan Kitchen: Regional Recipes from Mexico’s Mundo Maya
- A Forest of Kings: The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya
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