Sunday, August 28, 2011

Guatemalan Food

I am seriously missing Guatemalan street food... Even though the doctors will tell ya, DON'T EAT FROM THE STREET VENDORS before you go abroad AND then proceed to give you more shots and medicine that you ever thought you needed-once you get there, you WILL want to eat. Especially if everyone else around you is chowing down on something that looks and smells delicious and it happens to be lunch time and your tummy is rumbling loud enough to rival a summer thunderstorm.

I went to the market, and lo and behold there are tons of people selling everything under the sun. Including food. And drink. It couldn't get any better than that, people. But although I do love street food (similar to our own Fair food lol...)I DO have some standards.

I saw some wonderful smelling dobladas at the market, but on closer inspection noticed that they were cooking in a frypan, in their own grease, and while they may have smelled (and probably tasted) wonderful-I had no desire for a full-blown gallbladder attack later that evening. So if you can look for items cooked on a BBQ type grill where the grease drips down that is helpful. My mother in law told me that the reason those particular dobladas were so darn greasy was because the meat they were using was the cheap, greasy type-lucky for me we found a vendor close by that sold them every other day, going house to house selling them with a cart-that were great tasting and not greasy at all.

Also high on the standards list-look around to see if the vendor cart or cooking area, utensils, condiments, etc... appear to be clean. If you are looking at a grill or cooking surface that hasn't been cleaned in awhile, or condiments containers with baked on, caked on ketchup, mayo etc... then you are asking for trouble later on. I don't add mayo to anything myself, hubby does though on his mixtas (hotdogs with a bunch of condiments rolled in tortillas) but sometimes a dish you order MAY include mayo and you don't know it. Make sure the mayo is fresh and refrigerated! One thing I noticed there is that they have margarine that is made from veggie oil, which does NOT need to be refrigerated. I was a little shocked to see margarine sticks in my mother in laws house lying on the table etc... but after reading the label I was less alarmed. All in all, it was a bit of a different taste from the "dairy" type of margarine sticks here (which they do sell there as well) but I really couldn't tell much of a difference when it was on my buttered corn on the cob or used to cook with.

Another thing to remember-flies. If the vendor covers up their items with saran wrap or aluminum foil, kudos to them. But if flies are buzzing around and landing on the food, it totally grosses me out. That being said, I know I did eat several times from vendors that had flies buzzing around their stands. Even at relatives houses, flies were a normal way of life in the kitchen as they do not have screened windows or doors. I made a mental note to buy those yellow fly strips on my next visit to keep in a corner of the kitchen to hopefully cut down on the fly population. In the meantime, I just grinned and ate After all, I eat out here in the US a lot, and we don't really know what happens in those restaurant kitchens now, do we?

Salt. It is totally different down there. Yes, they have the kind of salt we use here in the US. But over there, all of the vendors I saw and relatives we visited kept a baggie of salt next to their ovens and also on the table. People just reached in and grabbed a pinch or two with their fingers and sprinkled it on their foods. But the salt there tended to stick together, and it was clumped together more and felt different. Almost like it was humid or slightly wet. I was concerned that it was spoiled, but that wasn't the case. When sprinkled over the food, it tended to be clumped together, and at times I wished for the salt we had back home that spread out more over the food. I don't think this type of salt could be used in a traditional shaker as well, since it would tend to clump up at the top and not come through the holes. Other than the different texture and clumping issues, it tasted the same.

I am one of these people who is a finicky eater. I do not like to try lots of new things. Hubby has a way of getting me to try new things without knowing it-like the time he told me our Brazilian friend Joao was serving a nice roast beef-and only after I had eaten it up and said it was delicious did he confess to me I had eaten deer meat. Oh the horror of eating Bambi! I could have KILLED him! Same in Guatemala, I will try something if it appeals to me visually but I prefer NOT to know what I am eating...or at least what animal/part of the animal I am eating. I tried a lot of great tasting things down there, and hubby was pretty darn good about keeping a secret too ;) (or at least keeping his mouth shut!)

As I wrap up this post, I will leave you with a pic of hubby eating from a traditional street vendor. (note the firewood they use to cook their food over) We all ate from this particular vendor, and what she was selling was chicharrones and cheese inside of thick handmade corn tortillas. They were delicious, not greasy at all, and CHEAP!

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