Guatemala, chilis!

Dried chilis and spices
Dried chilis and spices

While Guatemalans, in general, don’t enjoy very spicy food, they do use a wide variety of chilies in cooking. The above spread of dried chilies and spices illustrates ingrediants used at the restaurant La Fonda de la Calle Real in Antigua. Every single time we ate in Guatemala we received a chili sauce different than any other we had seen. I only began documenting the diversity of salsas about midway through our trip, and I missed some of my favorites, but I can easily say that I enjoyed them all.

chili bowl
chili bowl

The one on the left had a bright, medium spicy flavor with cilantro.

bottled chili sauce
bottled chili sauce

Every comedor as, at a minimum, a bottle of this green chili sauce. I used it as liberally as ketchup. Medium-spicy, it has a complex flavor.

Salsa Fresca
Salsa Fresca

This salsa had a light, mild flavor similar to a salsa fresca, but was made with lightly cooked plum tomatoes.

pickled chilis
pickled chilis

Barely more than pickled peppers, carrots and onions, I piled this salsa on chips and the vinegar ran down my palms.

chili-4

This salsa was both spicy and had a strong, sweet flavor, similar to an Javanese sambal, but with a reduced tomato flavor.

rich salsa
rich salsa

At the same time spicy, oily, and full of a bright vinegar flavor, I could’nt get enough of this complex flavor.

chopped salsa
chopped salsa

This fresh, chopped salsa (seen behind Senor Lanky’s meal at the Chichicastenango market) was simple sliced green chilis and onions in vinegar. Wonderful, fresh and simple.

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Guatemala, Almuerzo y Cena

cimg1096I love to visit markets in different parts of the world where I can see how people buy the food that cook. The above photo was taken at the Saturday morning market in Santiago Atitlan. Many villages in this area of Lake Atitlan grow the small onions you see above, meticulously cleaning them at the lake shore before transporting them to market in large baskets.

Vegetables with Pepin Sauce
Vegetables with Pepin Sauce

Vegetarian lunches and dinners were easy to locate in Guatemala. While larger tourist centers offer a wide range of international food, there are also traditional Guatemalan dishes that have no meat. The above is a dish that I ordered at La Fonda de Calle Real in Antigu – potatoes, green beans and chaote in pepin suace, served in a banana leaf with a side of rice pilaf. Pepin suace is made with roasted pumpking and seseme seeds, cloves, cinnamon, and roasted plum tomatoes.

Rice
Rice

Rice is usually prepared with finely diced carrots and green peppers, peas or green beans. This preparation is so popular, you can buy carrots and beans pre-diced, in bulk, at any food market.

Plato Vegetariano
Plato Vegetariano

This plato vegetariano from Comida Tipica Kaquikel (a type of people in and language in the Lake Atitlan region)in Panajachel incorporates many of the food items the also appear in breakfasts – rice, beans, cheese and guacemole. Rice and beans is perhaps the most common dinner in Guatemala, but this “plato” added steamed vegetables, a half of a boiled plantain, and a dab of mayonaise (which I skipped). It was just the right amount of food!

Cucumber Salad
Cucumber Salad

This basic cucumber salad with onions and yogurt gets dressed up with the addition of black sesame seeds, tomato, and a sprig of cilantro.

Corn Tortillas
Corn Tortillas

It’s not a meal without a basket of hot, fresh, handmade corn tortillas. The smell amazing, and the quick grilling on a large griddle sears them with a toasted corn flavor.

Fresh Salad
Fresh Salad

Cucumber, vine ripened tomatoes, avocado, onion, red onion, grated carrot, and just a dash of oil and vinegar. Heaven.

Schezuan Eggplant
Schezuan Eggplant

The restaurant at Posada de Santiago does international food right. While my schezuan eggplant was’nt at all spicy, it was coated in in yummy sweet soy sauce and the pieces of eggplant were still firm with an almost thick, yet still tender skin.

Thai green curry
Thai green curry

On the other hand, international food can go horribly wrong. This green thai “curry,” served at La Casa del Mundo, was the only dissapointing meal I had my entire trip. It was not spicy, it did not taste at all likely curry, I don’t know where the “green” description came from, and it was served on a bed of spaghetti. This meal is a perfect example of why I avoid “international” food when traveling – what the locals cook best is food traditional to the region.

Cheese Quesadillas
Cheese Quesadillas

Not at all native to Guatemala, the cheese quesadillas, picked up in Zona Viva, Guatemala City, were still a tasty late dinner for Senor Lanky, served with an assortment of salsa, mild grilled green onions, guacemole and fresh pineapple.

Guatemala, bocadillos

Cow on Pacaya
Cow on Pacaya

Snacks are plentiful in Guatemala. Many of them lean towards the sweeter side as Guatemalans, especially city-dwellers, typically take an afternoon snack and coffee break. But savory snacks (more my style) are also popular. Tostadas, little sandwiches, and my favorite (and sadly unpictured) the licuado, or fruit shake with yogurt, ice, or milk. Pictured above is a cow on the mountainside of Pacaya, an active volcano between Guatemala City and Antigua. Perhaps it is having late-afternoon grass snack?

Michaladas
Michaladas

Mmmm, michaladas. One of my favorite afternoon snack, the michalad (lime juice, beer, tomato juice, salt and chili) is one of my favorite afternoon snack, extra spicy please. Shown here with Gallo, lo mejor cerveza in Guatemala.

Soda in a Bag
Soda in a Bag

Guatemalan sodas are made with pure cane sugar – not that corn syrup crap we pour into everything here. The real sugar makes it much more delicious (especially in cola form). If you buy a soda¬† “to go” at a small store, they will pour it into a bag and give you a straw for it. That allows them to recycle the glass bottle. Nice and also fun. Shown above is a Rica soda in pineapple flavor.

Fruit Cart
Fruit Cart

Fresh fruit, served mixed in cups or chopped in bags, can be purchased off of fruit carts, like the one pictured above, or at tables in the market. I love fresh pineapple or mango sprinkled with salt and cumin.

Icies
Granizadas

Eating fresh ice in Guatemala can be a little risky, but if you’re up to it, these fancy little hand-powered machines with grind the ice fresh, and then you can choose a (real sugar) syrup to pour on top.

Tamatillos
Tamatillos

Tamatillos, or little tamales, are a perfect snack served with spicy tomato sauce. These little goodies are made of white corn, filled with roasted red pepper and cheese.

Helados
Helados

There’s always room for ice cream. Helados come in wonderful flavors in Central America. I love coconut.

Snack Cart
Snack Cart

Little carts like these, also seen as box tiendas and even baskets that enterprising Guatemalan carry around heavily populated areas, sell home-made candies, chips, gum, lollipops, and cigarettes. The one above also sells granizadas, or icies.

Black bean and cheese dip with blue corn chips
Black bean and cheese dip with blue corn chips

Anglicized, for sure, but this black bean and cheese dip with hot, fried, thick hunks of blue corn tortilla were delicious.

Guatemala, Desayuno

Chicken Bus
Chicken Bus

I’ve returned from Guatemala, and am still adjusting to the cold, rainy weather of Philadelphia. While the above photo isn’t of food, the “chicken bus” or public bus is commonly used to transport food from villages to town markets, and then back again, either inside the bus or in large baskets attached to the racks on top. The above bus is in the market at Antigua, and heads to San Lucas.

Desayuno Tipica
Desayuno Tipica

Breakfast is the easiest meal for vegetarian in Guatemala. The desayuno tipica, or typical breakfast, consists of eggs (in some style), black beans, fried plantains, cheese (though I got the above breakfast, at Las Brisas comedor in Santiago Atitlan, with guacemole instead).

Huevos Revueltos
Huevos Revueltos

Scrambled eggs, especially with tomato and onion, are called Huevos Revueltos. And fried potatoes in Guate are not messing around. Just look at those hunks of deep-fried goodness. Serves with salsa, and Senor Lanky’s singular “side” of bacon.

Huevos Rancheros
Huevos Rancheros

Huevos Rancheros, or Mexican-style eggs, are usually just fried eggs served with a side of tomato salsa, and not at all spicy. You have to add your own chili sauce, and I added it plentifully. Shown here shaded by a palm tree at a little place called Posada de Jabailito in Jabailito, Lake Atitlan.

Desayuno mas typica
Desayuno mas typica

I ordered this very basic breakfast at a small food stand in the center of the Sunday market at ChiChicastenango. Just beans, scrambled eggs and rice with salsa, and of course, fresh corn tortillas. And sweet, instant coffee. Delicious, and around $1.20.

Crepes
Crepes

More exciting, these crepes (which are very popular in Guatemala, perhaps due to the international expat scene) were served to me at La Iguana Perdida in Santa Cruz. Sweet, and stuffed with black beans, eggs, and cheese (are you picking up on a theme yet?)

Macademia Nut Pancakes
Macademia Nut Pancakes

Guatemalans LOVE pancaques, or pancakes. We hiked two hours outside of Antigua to Valhalla, and experimental macadamia nut plantation, for the beauties. Studded with nuts, topped with fresh macadamia nut butter and blueberries, and served with a side of fresh papaya, they were worth it.

Blue Corn Pancakes
Blue Corn Pancakes

The hotel Posada de Santiago in Santiago Atitlan is famous for their blue corn pancakes, and rightly so. I ordered two of these beauties, served with macademia nut syrup, and two fried eggs, which, alongside a bowl of fresh fruit, got me through a long drive to Guatemala City. Notice how orange the yolks of the eggs are. It’s called free-range, and not corn-fed, and infinitely more tasty.

Fruit Bowl
Fruit Bowl

The fruit, especially the papaya, bananas and fresh pineapple, are out this world. I miss it already.