Film crew from China documents the secrets of traditional Yucatecan cuisine

The Chinese production team spent a week in Tekax capturing the experience of the Chab family. Photo: Courtesy
A Chinese production team spent a week in Tekax capturing the experience of the Chab family. Photo: Courtesy

A family from Tekax is starring in an episode of a Chinese documentary series focusing on seeds.

The series, “Once Upon a Bite,” looks at food from a Chinese perspective.

Series producers arrived in Tekax to meet with Miguel Chab and his family in the Tixcuytún district where they work as traditional farmers in the milpa.

The Chab family demonstrated on camera how they cultivate and harvest ibes, a type of white legume used in many traditional dishes such as polcanes

The Chabs also made a mucbil pollo, which is prepared by wrapping banana leaves around a corn mixture with ibes and pork and then slowly cooking it all for several hours in an underground pit. 

The documentary producers originally came to the community wanting to capture the cultivation process of black beans, but as that Yucatecan staple was not in season they ended up focusing on ibes.

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Filming took a week and was aided by Tekax’s tourism authority, which helped the production with some scouting and logistical issues. 

The documentary series has been praised for its use of difficult-to-capture seed microphotography. In one past episode, the team was able to record the opening of microscopic fungi that lasts only 10 seconds on film but took four months to get on film. 

The episode filmed in Tekax will be part of “Once Upon a Bite”‘s third season, which does not have an official launch date as of yet. 

The series streams on Netflix and several other entertainment platforms in different markets. 

This is not the first time international film crews have made their way to Yucatán to capture the magic of the region’s cuisine. Last year the Netflix documentary series “Chef’s Table” made its way to Yaxunah to film traditional cook Rosalía Chay Chuc as she demonstrated how to prepare Yucatán’s most famous dish, cochinita pibil.

Samin Nosrat’s Netflix series “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” also included Yucatán in 2018 to witness the power of acid in cooking.

Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway.