Prepared Just for You by Juan Carlos Cab, One of the Yucatan’s Best Home Cooks, Using the Best Regional Ingredients and Salsas
Home-Cooked Yucatan Meal in a Colonial Home
“This resilience, and the region’s remoteness, helped to preserve Yucatán culture, though the people have been flexible enough to absorb influences from the Caribbean, the Dutch, the Lebanese, and the Spanish. In the centuries since, Yucatán cooks have learned to stuff peppers with Dutch Edam cheese and have taken to serving Lebanese kibbeh with salsa. Today, Yucatecos eat plenty of turkey, cook with a variety of recados or spice mixes (more on these in a moment), and make tamales that Diana Kennedy says put the rest of Mexico’s to shame.”
Serious Eats Website
Juan Carlos Cab, the Chef
My business partner, Juan Carlos Cab, is an excellent cook. He has a tourism degree and has catered to many Yucatan events. He takes great pride in creating memorable meals and is fond of creating one-of-a-kind decorations for special events.
I first met Juan Carlos during the Pandemic. Since most restaurants were only open for deliveries and I am not a good cook, I ordered food from Uber Eats daily.
Juan Carlos asked me if I knew anyone who needed a cook, I thought about it and realized I could probably hire him to cook for me for not much more money than I spent on Uber Eats. I also thought he would help me improve my nutrition and provide needed companionship.
I am glad I made that decision. My diet has improved, and I enjoy his delicious food. He also helps me keep my house in order and has become a steadfast advisor and friend.
Juan Carlos learned how to cook from his mother, like most Mexicans from humble origins. She believed it was important to teach her children how to prepare delicious meals for little money so they could always have nutritional food, even when times were tough. She also taught her children how to cook so they would always have a marketable skill no matter what happened.
Juan Carlos discovered early that he loved to cook. He enjoys preparing innovative meals that make people happy. He also enjoys using food to highlight and teach others about his Mayan roots.
Traditional Home-Cooked Rustic Yucatan Meal
Juan Carlos and I offer a typical rustic home-cooked Yucatan meal for one to six people at the Casa Los Dos Gallos.
The menu changes to meet your needs, the best seasonal ingredients, and showcase the best dishes from the Yucatan peninsula. Some typical dishes may include:
- Relleno Negro (Stewed Turkey in Black Sauce)
- Sopa de Lima (Lime Chicken and Tortilla Soup)
- Castacan (Pork Bellies)
- Queso Relleno (Stuffed Edam Cheese Balls with Ground Meat, White Sauce, and vegetables)
- Poc Chuc (Grilled Pork Cooked in Sour Onions)
- Vaporcito Tamales (Steamed Tamales with tomato sauce)
- Cochinita Pibil (BBQ Pork with Sour Orange and Achiote)
- Frijoles con Puerco (Beans and Slow-Cooked Pork)
- Salbutes and Panuchos (Yucatecan tacos)
- Octopus and Mango Ceviche
- Tacos with Yucatecan salsas
I love Yucatecan food and look forward to sharing it with guests at the Casa Los Dos Gallos. I hope you’ll enjoy being in a colonial home setting and even spend time with the world’s best dog, Lobita. I also am excited about showing you Yucatan’s rich and unique mixture of Mayan, Mexican, Lebanese, and European flavors.
Juan Carlos is also happy to show you how to prepare the dishes or provide requested recipes.
What Makes the Yucatan’s Food So Unique?
In 2018, when Samin Nosrat developed her groundbreaking Netflix series “Salt, Fat, Acid, and Heat,” she filmed her acid episode in the Yucatan to highlight the regional cooks’ adept use of excellent sour oranges, limes, and other citric products to create one of most tangy cuisines on Earth. She, like many foodies, was particularly impressed by the region’s excellent recados (spice blends).
While anyone familiar with Mexican food will easily recognize that Yucatan cuisine shares many of the same dishes, ingredients, and cooking styles as the rest of the country, visitors and expats are often surprised by the unique nature of many Yucatan dishes.
Why? For one thing, the Yucatan still retains much influence from the Mayas. The ocellated turkey and duck have been a part of Yucatan’s kitchen for 100s of years. Some of the world’s best wild honey (Mellipona, a stingless bee) and pink salt have been cultivated, mostly in similar ways as used by the ancient Mayans, in the Yucatan for 1000s of years.
Moreover, for most of its history, the Yucatan was separated from the rest of Mexico by mountain ranges that were difficult to traverse until the advent of the car and airplane. Due to this isolation, the Yucatan became heavily influenced by Cuban culture. (Havana is, to this day, only a 45-minute to 1-hour flight from Merida and Cancun). In addition, with the economic dominance of henequen fibers (the spines of blue agave plants provide the base of the world’s strong natural fiber for anchors and pulleys), many people settled in the Yucatan from Korea, Lebanon, and Western Europe.
Some of the remnants of this migration are featured in everyday Yucatan dishes such as Kibi (inspired by Lebanese cuisine, Kibi features bulgur and ground beef patties with mint and pine nuts, often served with yogurt), Longaniza Valladolid (a chorizo-like sausage with achiote, commonly made in Valladolid, from Portuguese origins) and Queso Relleno (Dutch Edam cheese with mincemeat in white sauce often made with olives, raisins, and almonds).
Some people find traditional, rustic Yucatecan food a bit acidic and heavy. If you have problems with this type of food, please let us know, and we will try to accommodate them as much as possible while still preparing traditional dishes. We can accommodate vegetarian requests but may not be able to accommodate other special requests. (Note: we may also feature Mexican instead of Yucatecan dishes to fit the guest’s needs better).
Eat at Casa Los Dos Gallos
Casa Los Dos Gallos (built around 1900) is a comfortable, recently renovated, 2-bedroom, 2-bath house (around 1400 square feet, 150 square meters) complete with modern appliances, tile floors, mamposteria (stone) walls, tiled floors, and antique, wooden carved doors. The house is in Merida’s trendy Parque Mejorada area within a five to fifteen WALK of Centro’s major attractions, restaurants, and shops.
Everyone who enters the Casa Los Dos Gallos comments on the house’s decoration. One of the things I love about Mexico is the country’s joyful quirkiness. I hope the house captures this spirit and look forward to sharing the house with students.
I love Mexican popular art and spent the first three years after buying the house collecting various pieces of art representing the diversity of Mexican regions, artists, and artistic mediums. Some of the objet d’art are elaborate and expensive, and others are simple and inexpensive. I enjoy mixing and matching art objects in unusual and, hopefully, fun combinations.
I also contracted an extremely skilled designer. He know what I wanted without even having to discuss it with me. Often, I would leave for a couple of weeks and return home to a completely revamped bathroom or bedroom. Even though his services were not cheap, I am glad that I trusted him to deliver a product that was totally different but better than I imagined.
The Main House
Meals are served in the dining room. The house has high-speed WiFi, air conditioning, and fans and seldom gets hot.
Bright, ventilated areas. Meals, classes, and workshops are also held outdoors, weather permitting.
Cost of the Meal
The dinner costs $30 (600 pesos) per person and lasts between one and three hours.
When you sign up for the “Rustic Home Cooked Meal,” you’ll schedule a time to contact us to discuss your needs and expectations and to plan the meal. (While Yucatecans typically eat their main meal at 1 and 3 in the afternoon, we can schedule a lunch or a dinner meal to fit your schedule).
The Yucatan Culture and Society Workshop costs only $15 (300 pesos) if taken along with the Rustic Home Cooked Yucatecan Meal and is 3 hours long. The Workshop cost is the same for 1-6 persons. (The Yucatan Culture and Society workshop normally costs $30).
You can drink as many non-alcoholic drinks as you’d like with the meal The home-cooked Yucatecan meal will include two complimentary alcoholic beverages per person. (Additional alcoholic beverages will be available for 50 pesos apiece).
Want More Information About Traveling and Living in Mexico?
I highly recommend the James Beard Award Winning, comprehensive cookbook “Yucatan: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition” by David Sterling