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Monday, January 24, 2022
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Yucatán’s top 8 street junk food favorites

…beyond tacos, panuchos, and hotdogs

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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.

Walking through virtually any city or town in Yucatán a wide range of food vendors can be seen peddling goodies out of push carts, mobile stands, food trucks, and just about every other configuration you can think of.

This is especially true around town squares, parks, and during special festivities or the weekend. 

A line for esquites in Parque de las Américas, so long that it did not fit in the frame of the camera. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

As everyone knows we Mexicans are taco crazed (it’s a stereotype but also true) so we will be keeping these, and other obvious offerings, off the list to ensure we make room for some less familiar goodies. 

Marquesitas

It’s easy to understand why marquesitas are so popular as they taste great and deliver an extremely satisfying crunch. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

These days it feels like you can’t walk a city block without seeing at least one marquesita. These delicious snacks resemble a crispy wrapped crepe. They are filled with Edam cheese, known locally as queso de bola, and are often smeared with other ingredients such as hazelnut spread, chocolate, or caramel. 

Marquesitas are said to have been the creation of a Santiago local by the name of Leopoldo Mena in 1910 — but many dispute this claim. 

Esquites

When it comes to esquites, their quality ultimately comes down to their ingredients but also achieving the correct ratio of cream, mayonnaise, and cheese. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Like marquesitas, esquites are ubiquitous. They are made by taking corn kernels and placing them in cups filled with ingredients such as cream, mayonnaise, and cheese. If this sounds rather heavy, well it is. Additional ingredients such as nuts, meats, and chili powder are common additions. 

Everyone in Yucatán has an opinion about where to find the best esquites (usually near their home) and disagreements often boil out into full-fledged debates. 

Tostilocos

If the mere sight of this gastronomic beast makes you feel queasy, then stay away. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Unlike marquesitas and esquites, tostilocos are much more contemporary. This nacho-like snack, if you can even call it that, is made using a base of corn chips (usually Tostitos) covered with different kinds of cheese, hot sauces, peanuts, jalapeño peppers, and optional ingredients such as bacon bits. 

Tostilocos are delicious, and some would say the ultimate junk food — but make sure to limit yourself to one. Otherwise, your digestive track will be in for one heck of a ride. 

Chicharrones preparados

Chicharrones preparados are very inexpensive, coming in at 15-30 pesos depending on size, and can most often be found in and around city markets. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Translating as dressed pork rind, this type of snack takes the form of a large plaque of crunchy pork rind, covered in toppings such as hot sauce, powdered cheese, and lettuce. Some vendors will add even more toppings for an additional charge. Oftentimes the base is not made out of real pork rind, but rather a flavored flour-based alternative. They are also quite good, but if you can get the real thing, all the better.

Churros

Churros may not be from Yucatán but can be found just about everywhere, from Starbucks to street stalls, to fancy restaurants. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Unlike some other items on this list, you are likely already familiarized with churros. A churro is of course a type of fried dough snack originally from Spain. But they are also commonly found in Latin America and other former colonies like the Philippines.

They have a doughy consistency and are covered in sugar and cinnamon. They are also often served with caramel or chocolate dipping sauces. In many countries like the United States churros and Canada are sold frozen in packages, trust us, they in no way taste the same; so go and treat yourself if you have never had a fresh churro before. 

Kibis 

If you see someone selling kibis and would like to purchase some, just yell out “kibero” in a loud voice and they will come to you. Not only is this not rude, it’s expected and somewhat of a ritual. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht. 

Kibis, sometimes spelled kibbeh, are a popular import from Lebanon. They are made out of cracked wheat, onions, and spices which are then molded into a round or oval shape and fried. In Yucatán, they are often stuffed with meat, cheese, and chile habanero.

Kibis can be found in many places in Yucatán but are especially traditional at the beach and at sporting events — especially baseball games where they are considered traditional fare. Many in Mérida agree that the best kibis in town are sold by a vendor known as “La Güera” just outside the entrance next to first base. 

Fritangas

Platanitos fritos or fried plantains are one of the most popular forms of fritanga and for good reason. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Fritanga is a catchall term that refers to a variety of fried foods ranging from french fries, sausages, plantains, and just about any other food you could conceivably get into a fryer. It is also common to find other junk food staples like corn dogs at fritanga stands. 

As with any fried food, the key to the flavor has everything to do with temperature and crispiness; there is nothing worse than soggy cold fried food. 

Paletas and helados 

Sure you have had ice cream before, but have you had pork and bean ice cream? Photo: Courtesy

Ok we admit it, ice cream and cold popsicles are not exactly uniquely Yucatecan — but we can guarantee that you are bound to run into some fairly exotic flavors you had never even thought of before. 

Along with your typical flavors such as chocolate or coffee, ice cream vendors in Yucatán serve up a variety of local fruit flavors including mamey and pitaya. Some places have truly bizarre flavors, such as Pola’s helado de Frijol con Puerco (pork and beans), which attempts to replicate this regional dish in ice cream form. Other cold treats including sorbetes, bolis, and granizados are also available year-round but are of course most popular during the hot months — which in Yucatán is most of the time.

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