This is not my first visit to Mexico but, it sure won’t be my last. Merida is the capital of the Yucatán and it is a beautiful city full of culture, friendly people and hot and humid weather. I decided initially to visit this city to try and learn a little more Spanish and to enjoy the great food and culture that Merida is known to offer and I have not been disappointed after my first week stay. If you appreciate architecture, art, beaches, cenotes, archaeological sites and gastronomy this city will have it in spades and is central to many famous attractions like the 8th wonder of the world, Chichén Itzá.
If you enjoy spicy food and the flavours of Mexican cuisine you will definitely love the food here. You don’t realize how much of the distinctive flavours, dishes and spices you are missing in Canada until you come to a city like Merida to try some of their authentic Yucatán and Mexican food. I was lucky enough to be able to have the opportunity to attend a Spanish Language and Education Center called Habla to try and improve my Spanish (español) during my stay in Merida. Staying at a homestay for a week also immersed me a bit more into the culture and the family life of Mexicans. One other great benefit of learning at the school was that they have an amazing cook who makes a variety of meals for the students during their visit to the school. Her breakfasts usually included a fresh fruit platter with mangoes, papayas, kiwis, watermelon and cantaloupe and at lunch, there was always a nice surprise after a few hours of class.
Weather you are eating tacos with chicken, pork or beef it is always served with salsa. My favourites are salsa verde and the hottest salsa de habernero they can make. Chiles and tomatoe based salsas are a staple to many Mexican dishes along with onions, beans, gaucomole, avocado and mole. The flavours are vibrant, just like the colours of the ingredients used in their food.
My homestay host also made some meals that were also delicious and kept me from trying some of the many restaurants and taqueria food nearby and downtown (el centro). Home cooked food by residents of Merida or smaller taquerias was a great way to start my visit to Merida. Cochinita (pork) tacos are very popular in the Yucatán and I recommend you try them because they are delicious and the pork is shredded like pulled pork. And who wouldn’t enjoy a good garlic sauce with your chicken tacos?
The unique dish I have eaten so far that was so different from the traditional tacos with meat (usually pork or chicken) was actually vegetarian. Papas de rellanas stood out because of the fresh flavours of the potatoes and corn with some mild spices. It was topped with avocado and a cream sauce (crema) that complimented the potatoes (papas) really well.
If you are the type of person who enjoys good food, great people and culture that is beyond some of the more touristy cities in Mexico I highly recommend that you visit this city to experience the Yucatán culture and living. This city architecturally reminds me of some places I have travelled to previously such as Havana and Puerto Rico but, the food here seems richer and filled with the Mexican’s love of spices. Including my favourite one, chiles. I am looking forward to finding more hidden gastronomic gems in Merida.