Mexican Micheladas

This drink has been our obsession all summer. Eric and I started drinking Micheladas at Big Star, a taco joint just down the street from us. At Big Star, a Michelada is made by squeezing lime and pouring hot sauce into the bottom of a salted-rim glass, then topping it with Tecate beer.


Michelada con Sol on the beach on Isla Holbox

When we went to Mexico this summer, we averaged two Micheladas a day, but in the Yucatan, they were different than what we were used to from Big Star. Different – and better. These Micheladas contained all sorts of goodies under that beer – Maggi juice, which tastes an awful lot like soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, lime, and hot sauce. When ordering, you specify the type of beer you want – we found most light beers to be pretty comparable – and they serve the beer alongside the glass so you can pour it in yourself.


Eric enjoying his Michelada

Let’s talk about the Maggi juice for a minute because this is important. Every single bar we went to used Maggi juice. There was no substitute. When I’d ask what Maggi juice was, I’d always get this same answer – “It’s just Maggi juice”. I found my bottle at a Mexican grocer. The viscosity is slightly thicker than soy sauce, but I’m sure soy sauce would add the appropriate flavor.


Sunset, swing, and micheladas

We found we liked them a bit heavy on the Maggi and hot sauce side. The one pictured above was heavier on the lime. There didn’t seem to be any exact proportions, but when we got home, we experimented with how we like them. Here’s how you do it:

Mexican Michelada

Nice, chunky sea salt
Maggi juice or soy sauce
Worcestershire sauce
Hot sauce
1 lime
Mexican beer like Tecate, Modelo, Sol, Pacifico, etc

Rub lime juice around the rim of your glass and them dip the rim into a plate of salt.

Add ice to the glass and pour in 1 teaspoon of Maggi juice, 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, 2 teaspoons of hot sauce, and the juice of half a lime.

Top it with beer.

Mix and enjoy.

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Sikil Pak – Mayan Pumpkin Seed Dip

We have had an extravaganza of food inspired by our travels recently. I ate a boatload and a half of ceviche in Central America, so I made a really simple (and great!) ceviche inspired by those great meals. And in Mexico, we ate this Mayan dish called Sikil Pak (in Maya) after a strenuous day of floating down a natural canal through mangroves. The dip, almost like hummus in its consistency, is really simple – our guide told us it was made of just pumpkin seeds (pepitas en español), cilantro, tomatoes, onion, and water.

The canal I mentioned is in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve in the Yucatan, Mexico, a short drive from Tulum. We based ourselves in a nice hostel in Tulum town (as opposed to staying on the pricier beach road) and were able to explore Sian Ka’an, Mayan ruins, and the numerous cenotes from this central point. To gain entrance to Sian Ka’an, you must go with a guide. We booked a tour through our hostel for $75 per person, which, after the tour, seemed really, really expensive. Either way, it was my birthday, and we wanted to see some nature. We also learned that the best way to float down a canal is to put a life jacket on like a diaper.

Sian Ka'an Collage


Ever wonder why you see so much of Eric on this blog? It’s because I’m always behind the camera!

Anyway, I recreated this dip this morning with only a tiny bit of experimentation. I had thought that tomatoes would provide enough water to provide the right consistency, but in the end I needed to add additional liquid. Instead of water, I added a bit of lime juice and some vegetable stock I had in my freezer, though water will work in a pinch (and should be more traditional). Oh, and of course I added garlic. Nothing is made in my kitchen without garlic.

This dip is traditionally made using a molcajete, of course, but in my lazy modern kitchen, we used a food processor.

Sikil Pak

3 cups raw pumpkin seeds, or pepitas
3 large tomatoes
1/2 cup vegetable or chicken stock
juice of 1 lime
3 cloves garlic
1 onion
cilantro, to taste
salt

Put the pumpkin seeds and garlic in a food processor and grind until you have a fine, sand-like consistency. Add in the onion, 2 tomatoes, stock, and a bit of cilantro and salt and process until the mixture turns creamy. Taste and add more salt and/or cilantro if necessary.

Chop the last tomato into a dice and chop some extra cilantro finely. Mix the diced tomatoes and cilantro with the dip. Optionally, you could process everything together for a very smooth dip, but I liked the added texture and color of the chunks of tomato and cilantro.

Serve with chips or crackers.

Heirloom Pico de Gallo + Mexico Pictures

Being in Central America all summer was pretty cool, I must admit, but I did miss a few things about Chicago. Namely, farmer’s markets. I never found quite the variety of vegetables in Central America that I find in Chicago – seems counter intuitive, since the fertile, sunny lands of that region seem ripe for producing some excellent veg. However, with the shear population of yuppies in the US, not to mention a perhaps new-found appreciation for farm-fresh products, the US boasts some pretty amazing produce. So when I was eating sad, mealy, flavorless little tomatoes in Panama, I could only think about the luscious heirlooms showing up at farmer’s markets at home.

The first Saturday I was home I went to the Green City Market in Chicago and bought about two pounds of heirloom tomatoes. My god.  Where did this flavor come from? I made this variation of pico de gallo featuring a variety of heirloom tomatoes, an onion, a jalapeno, and garlic – all fresh from the farmer’s market. And really, I think that’s the trick – the fact that everything came from the market is perhaps why it tasted so good. Also, though, I think there is something to be said for fresh farmer’s market garlic. I mean – wow! Wow! Have you ever had this stuff? It’s so juicy and pungent. I bought three types – I can’t remember the varietal names – but I labeled them mild, medium, and strong. I used the mild garlic for this pico de gallo, as I used it raw. It really added this silky, complex dimension that, in my opinion, really boosted this salsa to a whole new level.

Also, before my solo adventure through Central America, Eric and I spent a week and a half in Cozumel and the Yucatan in Mexico. Two very cool friends of ours were married on a beach in Cozumel, so we took the time to travel a bit after the festivities. To be honest, Mexico, or the Yucatan more specifically, has never been high on my travel priority list. I’ve always thought it was where Americans went who didn’t know how to travel anywhere else. Americans who were afraid of new cultures and languages (wait, they speak Spanish in Mexico?). You know the type. And while there were certainly plenty of those people – I mean, Playa del Carmen is practically Florida – we also discovered that Mexico is really, really awesome! I always say – it’s probably touristy for a reason – and that description is so fitting of the Yucatan. People have been coming to this part of the world for so long because it is downright beautiful. Take a look:


El otro lado – the other side – the East side of Isla Cozumel
Have you ever seen more inviting water? Whiter sand? A cuter butt?


Eric makes the snorkel in the Dos Ojos Cenote (aka sinkhole, or cave)


Fish feast in Tulum – ceviche, pescado a la plancha, y mas


Sunset on Isla Holbox


Streets of Isla Holbox – no paved roads, no cars, only golf carts!


A little video of snorkeling with whale sharks in the Gulf of Mexico


Eric practices his moves in the “stadium” at the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza


Church on the main square in Vallodolid


This is what Eric says is possibly one of the best meals of his life. Tortas and burritos in Valladolid.

And finally… a recipe!

Heirloom Pico de Gallo

Like I mentioned above, the fresh garlic made this dish a real winner.

2 pounds heirloom tomatoes, diced
1 onion, diced
2-3 cloves mild, fresh garlic, diced
1-2 jalapenos, diced
salt

Combine all ingredients and add salt to taste. Wait about 15 minutes before digging in to allow the garlic flavors to permeate the dish. Serve with chips.