La Flor de Yucatan
At the tender age of thirty, I made my first trip to Cancun for a day. No it wasn’t because I squandered my youth studying and was then trying to recapture my youth as an old fart. Trust me, thirty in Cancun is old. I was there with my wifey, then girlfriend, and we danced until the sun came up, then we slept in and stayed in a little too late before packing up the car and heading down to Playa del Carmen. Now being thirty and staying Playa was fun. They even have a Walmart there. The hotel Basico was the perfect little place in a overran by tourist quaint little town. What I remember wanting to try was the cochinita pibil. Even though we never got out of town to really try it, we did have it at the all too popular Yaxche and I remember not really caring for it. The best tacos in town were from some stand near the bus stop with a killer habanero sauce. Here in LA, Chichen Itza is supposed to be the go to place for Yucatan peninsula Mexican food, don’t know, haven’t been there. Guisados even has some cochinita on their menu, but it was rather uninspiring.
So what is it supposed to be? Literally it means buried suckling pig. Like most cultures, the cooking tradition goes back before conventional gas/electric ovens, you know in the “before” time. The mayans would take a suckling pig, marinate it in seville oranges and achiote paste, wrap it in banana leaves, and bury it with some hot stones. The Hawaiians do something similar called Kalua pork. This cooking technique makes for a very tender pig broken down by the citric acid with a deep red and slightly smoky flavor from the achiote paste.
I really enjoyed the beach in Playa, but I really like the cochinita pibil in LA. The pork was soft, tangy, smoky, and most importantly porky. The pickled red onion was redolent of the acid in the pork while the salsa verde gave it a little roundhouse kick. The whole leaf cilantro brightened up the whole taco, while the generic tortilla helped to temper the whole dish the way any good carb is supposed to. I really liked this taco, but I still don’t prefer my pork cochinita pibil’d.
La Flor de Yucatan
1800 S Hoover St
South Los Angeles