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This healthier take on Yucatecan kibis will impress your guests

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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. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
Like most dishes, kibis are best when homemade. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants in the 19th century, the noble kibbeh fast became one of Yucatán’s favorite snacks. 

But in reality, kibis, as they are known in Yucatán, are not a single snack but rather is a family of dishes based on grains, spiced ground meat, and onions. 

Popular varieties of kibi in Yucatán include traditional middle eastern kibis made with minced mutton, as well as the raw (unfried) kibi crudo.

Kibi and a variety of other Middle Eastern dishes are served in Mérida’s famous Café Alameda. Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

But as often happens when cuisine travels from one part of the world to another, Yucatán has put its own spin on it.

Yucatecan kibis are almost always served with habanero peppers, as well as a healthy serving of finely chopped pickled cabbage (repollo), and often stuffed with the region’s favorite cheese, the Dutch Edam

Kibis can be found in restaurants all over Mérida, not just Lebanese ones, and are also a fan favorite at sporting events and at the beach.

A kibiero makes the rounds on Progreso’s boardwalk selling his delicious wares. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Kibis are also an extremely popular botana and are served up for “free” to patrons at bars when ordering drinks. 

But there is one undeniable truth about these deep-fried treats that is hard to avoid — they are not exactly healthy food.

But if you really get down to it, other than the deep frying, Yucatecan kibis do not contain anything that unhealthy and could even be considered rather balanced.

Though it is possible to bake kibis instead of deep frying them, there is no denying that no matter what you do, that crispy outer shell can only really be achieved by submerging the kibi in boiling oil. 

Now, we are by no means saying that the following recipe is truly healthy, but it does considerably reduce the amount of oil needed while still achieving that desired crunchy mouth feel. 

Yucatán-style kibis

Yields 10

Like with any recipe the quality of the ingredients you choose is the most important factor. The wheat is particularly important though fortunately it can be purchased in most city markets. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Ingredients

  • ½ kg wheat
  • ¾ kilograms of ground meat, almost any kind but not poultry
  • 1 large white onion
  • Handful of peppermint 
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Handful of chopped olives (optional)
  • Handful of raisins (optional)
  • 1 large tomato 
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Pepper (to taste)
  • Powdered cinnamon (to taste)
  • Powdered paprika (to taste)
  • 1 bottle of olive oil
  • 1 habanero pepper 
  • One-quarter ball of grated Edam cheese 

The main difference between this and other similar recipes is to cook the meat separately to avoid the need to fry the kibi all the way through.

Begin by cooking two thirds of the meat of your choice with a dash of olive oil in a pan or pot. Add finely chopped onion, garlic, tomato, and optional ingredients like olives and raisins. Make sure to cook properly but not to dry it out. 

Take the remaining third of your raw meat and mix with cinnamon, paprika, chopped peppermint, salt, pepper, and your wheat (after washing and drying it.)

Edam cheese really adds a fantastic Yucatecan touch and really adds to the overall flavor. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Once the meat is ready, it’s time to mold the kibis together by hand. Take a small ball of the uncooked seasoned meat, make a hole in the middle and fill it with cooked meat and grated Edam cheese. Close the shell and set it aside for frying. 

The exact shape of your kibi is not all that important, but most people in Yucatán preferer an oval form, resembling an American footbal. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Preheat a dry pot and add oil once it is extremely hot. This is to make sure the olive oil takes on the right temperature almost immediately (this is key).

It is important to make sure not to fry more than three or four kibis at a time unless you have a huge pot. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Once your kibi starts to turn golden, remove it from the pot and set it aside on a paper towel to drain the excess oil. 

Garnish your delicious kibis with chopped onions, pickled cabbage, chile habanero, and enjoy.

And there you have it, delicious and crunchy homemade kibis with roughly one-third the deep frying. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine
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