Assignment 9: Guatemala

Guatemala

Location: Central America on the southern border of Mexico
Population: 16.5 million
Capital: Guatemala City
Geography: Mountainous, with small areas of desert, and having coastlines on both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans
Language: Spanish
Signature flavours: Tomato, corn, chilli pepper, cocoa

The Menu

Guatemalan cuisine is highly influenced by the country’s neighbour to the north, Mexico. Many of the recipes I came across were familiar to me from years of enjoying Mexican food. Things like tamales and tacos are regularly eaten in Guatemala, but often with a twist. The stuffed peppers I chose to make were finished with a topping of whipped egg white, which was something I had never come across. I opted to accompany the peppers with plantain (which I love) and mole sauce (which I’ve never tried). I wanted a third little dish to finish, and chose to make tostadas with guacamole, because they’re quick and delicious.

Plátanos en Mole (Plantains in mole sauce): Plantains fried golden brown, served with a thick cocoa- and tomato- based sauce with notes of cinnamon and sesame.

Prep and cooking time: 60 minutes
Difficulty: 4/5

seeds
Toasting sesame and pumpkins seeds for the mole

Chiles Rellenos (Stuffed Peppers): Roasted bell peppers stuffed with a mixture of sautéed beef (I used vegetarian ground soy protein) and vegetables, and topped with meringue.

Prep and cooking time: 60 minutes
Difficulty: 3/5

meringue
Meringue in progress

Tostadas with Guacamole: Crunchy corn tostadas with a side of garlicky mashed avocado for dipping.

Prep and cooking time: 5 minutes
Difficulty: 1/5

The Shopping List

Our neighbourhood boasts a fantastic local supermarket with a huge selection of foods from around the world. Despite my initial thought that tomatillos for the mole might be hard to track down, we found canned ones beside the salsa in aisle ten. Plantains were right there between the bitter melon and the cassava. (Fun fact: They were grown in Guatemala!)

plantain.jpg
Fried plantain

The Meal

I was a bit intimidated by the mole sauce and its three-hundred-ingredient list, not to mention the part of the recipe that said, “Cook on high, stirring constantly, for two years.”  But actually, despite the amount of ingredients and steps, it wasn’t all that complicated. The plantains gave me a bit of trouble: Being green, they didn’t want to peel very easily. An article on plantain peeling gave me a few tricks, and I had those guys naked and frying in no time. They fried up beautifully, and tasted excellent. The mole had an initial chocolate-y kick and finished up tomato-y. Eric, who has had mole before, declared it a success.

mole
Mole sauce: A chocolate, tomato, tomatillo concoction

The stuffed peppers were very good. The meringue on top had very little flavour on its own, but leant the pepper a spongy exterior that was really enjoyable to eat. The stuffing was very tasty, although next time I would probably throw in a couple of hot peppers for extra spice.

pepper
Stuffed bell pepper topped with meringue

And how can you go wrong with guac and tostadas? Nope, you can’t.

guac

Links
http://www.latina.com/food/recipes/platanos-en-mole
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1TxLfJ1v0w

Disclaimer: I’m not a professional chef. I’m just a passionate cook with a curiosity for flavours I’ve never tried. For great recipes from gifted local cooks, follow the links above.

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