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Panucho festival in Ermita de Santa Isabel is Merida’s latest food event

Church guild honors one of Yucatan's favorite antojitos

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The Santa Isabel church guild is organizing a panucho festival. Photo: Diario de Yucatan

Yucatan is getting crowded with its single-focus food festivals. There’s one for ice cream, one for salbutes, one for huevos motulenos, and of course the wildly popular one for chicharra in Xcalachén.

Now the capital city, through the Santa Isabel church guild, is honoring one of Yucatan’s favorite dishes, the panucho.

Merida’s first-ever Panucho Fair will bring crowds to the La Ermita de Santa Isabel park, Calle 77 and 66, Centro, starting 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12.

A panucho is like a tostada, but uniquely Yucatecan. It is a refried tortilla stuffed with refried black beans and topped with chopped cabbage, pulled meat of some kind — normally turkey or pork — with tomato, pickled red onion, avocado and pickled jalapeño pepper.

It is considered an antojito, literally “little craving,” and like a taco it is more of a street food or snack than part of a meal.

Expect some of the 10 “panucherías” to come up with some wacky twist on the snack food. Organizers promise affordable prices.

Another new twist: As Yucatan prepares to go green, no exhibitor will use plastic or foam containers. Only brown paper and cardboard will be on hand. Visitors who want to take some panuchos home should bring their own containers.

A more established foodie event, the third edition of the Pib Fair, will follow on Oct. 27 in San Sebastián park.

The history of the humble panucho

The panucho is closely linked to the neighborhood of La Ermita, which was a hub for travelers on the Camino Real, which led to the city of Campeche.

As legend has it, in the mid-19th century, a group of travelers arrived late at night, tired and hungry. An innkeeper named Don Hucho improvised a sandwich with leftovers in his kitchen — bread, refried beans, some pork and pickled onions.

The creation caught on, and soon everyone wanted to try the famous “Pan de ‘Ucho.” Mayans would ask “Dzaten Pan Ucho” (Give me a Pan Ucho) — and eventually the bread became a tortilla and the name of the now-popular antojito morphed into “panucho.”

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