Cancún's restaurant scene is not a place for the gastronomically indecisive, there's too much on offer. With an abundance of international restaurants serving European, Asian and American food, finding authentic Mexican dishes takes some work, unless of course you're looking for seafood - which is everywhere. When fish is this good and this fresh it's best kept simple and is usually fried whole and served with a squeeze of lime and a salad. Red snapper( huauchinango) and grouper( mero) most commonly end up on the menu. Other seafood, including lobster, clams and shrimp gets a similar treatment, often with the addition of a few cloves of garlic to the pot. A Yucatecan speciality is Tikin Xik ; whole red snapper marinaded with orange juice and oregano, is grilled over banana leaves and served with a tangy salsa.
The remainder of Cancún's cuisine reflects that of the rest of the country, and rests on the same three cornerstones, corn, chilli and beans. Corn is commonly fashioned into tortilla to form the backbone of most dishes. Chillies come in more than 100 varieties and in the Yucatan they like them fiery(travel round the coat and you'll reach the state of Tabasco). The final staple is frijoles, or beans, often refried to concentrate their flavour. The most distinctive regional ingredient is achiote, a paste made from crushed annatto seeds, which Mayans have been using to flavour and colour food for centuries.
Mexicans obey their stomachs, and consequently love to snack. Antojo means 'little whim' or 'fancy' and Antojitos are found everywhere. They can be eaten either as a snack - the Mexican answer to fast food, or as a collection of appetisers - similar to Spanish tapas. Typically they include empanaditas (similar to a mini Cornish pasty), quesadillas (tortilla wrapped round cheese then fried), tostadas (tortilla chips served with refried beans, avocado, chicken, onion, and salsa) and stuffed deep-fried chillies.
Main dishes are often shrunk to become antojitos, but there are a few that refuse to be tampered with. Tamales present you with cylindrical corn husk or banana leaf wrapped around a steamed corn dumpling stuffed with meat, and a favourite in the Yucatan. Tacos are tortilla rolled round meat, cheese and fish, topped with guacamole and sour cream. Enchiladas more of the same but drenched in a rich tomato sauce.
Puchero Yucateco is a winter hotpot that's so popular it's now a permanent fixture on menus the length of the Yucatan. Into the puchero(a style of pot imported by the Spanish) pork, beef and chicken tenderise with yam, carrots and corn, before a liberal garnishing with coriander and spearmint. A similar fate befell Mole Poblano, once reserved for special occasions but now everyday fare. Mole is a bittersweet sauce thought to be the handiwork of a nun that dates from colonial times. Recipes differ, but the 25 constituent ingredients include, nuts, chilli, and dark chocolate. The poblano is a native turkey onto which the sauce is poured.
There are few vineyards in Mexico, which may come as a disappointment to wine lovers, but on the upside a conspiracy of climate and spicy cuisine makes beer the perfect culinary accompaniment. Cancún's international flavour means that wine is available, as are all spirits, but you'll have to pay for it. Mexican beer( cerveza) is good enough to be exported all over the world and is often served with a squeeze of lime in a glass with a salted rim( michelada).
For something a little stronger Mexicans look towards the cactus-like maguey plant. Distilled, the plant's sap is the main ingredient in tequila and mezcal.Tequilla is the more refined version of mezcal and is generally served straight, as a shooter, with a pinch of salt and a bite of lime. A bottle of mezcal is easily recognised by the pickled worm that lingers on the bottom, said to be proof of the drink's alcohol content.