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Say goodbye to Doomsday, welcome the new Maya Era with traditional Mayan food

One of the 118 chefs at The Royal Playa del Carmen resort in Mexico is preparing a fresh grouper in the style of the Ancient Maya people.
By Terri Colby

The hype about the end of the world being linked to the end of the Mayan calendar has come and gone, with the only damage being to some ruins that endured too many tourists on Dec. 21.

So take a deep breath and begin to celebrate the new Mayan Era, the 14th baktun, by enjoying some of the fabulous food that is cooked Mayan style.

The Real Resorts in Mexico, taking advantage of the increase in tourism spawned by the increased interest in the Mayan people, hosted weekly celebrations all fall leading up to the end of the Mayan calendar. Traditional Mayan dishes served buffet style, often on the beach, proved popular with guests and the hotel may continue the practice into the New Year, or make that the New Era.

Among my favorite Mayan style foods, enjoyed over the years during my visits to the Riviera Maya in Mexico, are the lime soup and fresh fish. But also worth noting is a liqueur called Xtabentun (shta ben tun) made of honey and anise, that is said to have been invented by the Maya. With a licorish flavor, it is smooth but not too sweet, and a decidedly different choice for an after-dinner drink.

Taking advantage of the plenitude of fresh fish from the region, as did the Mayans, the Real Resorts, offer a grilled fresh fish dish called Tkinxic.

According to the resort, Tkinxic is a traditional Mayan inspired regional dish that is prepared in the ancient style of cooking found throughout the Riviera Maya region of Mexico. The dish celebrates the fresh fish of the region and herbs and spices common to Mayan style cooking.

The chefs insist this delicious meal is not too difficult for a home cook to tackle, so here’s a recipe to give a try.

Real Resorts Mayan Style Tkinxic

Grilled and Seasoned Fresh Fish

One whole fish or four fish filets may be used (serves two to four people). Appropriate fish can be red snapper, grouper, sea bass or any preferred white fish. Clean and dry fish or filets.

Prepare the Rub:

2/3 cup of Achiote Paste

Achiote paste is made with a mixture of equal parts of the first eight ingredients:

1. Annatto (Mexican Oregano). This is available in a Mexican grocery store or Bodega.

2. Cumin

3. Clove

4. Cinnamon

5. Black Pepper

6. Allspice

7. Garlic

8. Salt

9. One orange

10. One tablespoon of thyme

11. One-quarter cup of diced red onion

12. One-quarter cup of diced sweet pepper

13. Two garlic cloves

14. Salt and pepper to taste

  • Combine the first eight ingredients into a dry rub. (The Annatto is a red seed and is typically ground with a mortar and pestil but can be ground in a spice grinder if you prefer.)
  • Rub half of the dry mix on the fish and refrigerate the fish to marinate for at least two hours.
  • Take the other half of the dry rub and mix it with the juice of an orange, the thyme, red onion, sweet pepper, garlic cloves and salt and pepper. Blend together to form a paste. Rub the paste on the fish filets or on the inside of the whole fish and bake for about 20 to 30 minutes in a 325 degree oven. Fish should be flaky and cooked through the center but not dry.

Serve with rice and grilled seasonal vegetables.


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