Friday, August 16, 2013

Yucatan Dishes Daily In Isla Mujeres

Many of these foods are unique to the Yucatan, while some are Mexican dishes, often made in a regional style. Of course they also vary kitchen to kitchen. This is a list of specials collected over time from Manolito's, a loncheria near our B & B, with some explanations, recipes, and photos. You can visit Manolitos on FB here & see more photos of their tasty food.

*POLLO A LA CAZUELA  Chicken in a Pan (see Beef steak Cazuela)

*BISTEC A LA CAZUELA   Steak in a Pan (w sofrito  sauce)
*BISTEC     Steak
  ( baked tamales of espelon with loin, & colados style tamales which are served cold & the masa is made from fresh corn ground with milk. They also sell steamed tamales on special.) 
*POLLO ADOBADO  Chicken in roasted chile adobo sauce 
*PUERCO ADOBADO   Pork in chile sauce/adobe
*PICADILLO CON PAPAS  Seasoned ground meat with potatoes (photo below)
*CAZON A LA MEXICANA   Young shark (dogfish) Mexicana

*ESCABECHE DE POLLO  Yucatec Chicken & Onion Stew
 *FRIJOL BLANCO CON PUERCO White beans & pork

*PUERCO ADOBADO Pork in Chile sauce/adobe
*POLLO AL CAPARRADO  Smothered Chicken
(link for more info)
*CHILES RELLENOS   Stuffed breaded chiles
*BRAZO DE REINA (after 1 30) see below.

*CALDO DE RES  Beef soup
 *POLLO EN SALSA VERDE  Chicken in green sauce
ALBONDIGAS CON FIDEOS  meatballs with pasta

*PECUGAS RELLENAS  Stuffed chicken breasts
*DZACOL DE POLLO Chicken Dzacol 

 *PUCHERO DE DOS CARNES  Stew of two meats
*CARNE POLACA Polish meat?

«MOLE DE POLLO $55   Chicken in Mole sauce
«CALABACITAS CON PUERCO $55   Pork and young squash
«POLLO PIBIL $55  Chicken Pibil / Yucatec style 
«PEZUÑAS CAPIADAS $55  Pig's Feet in tomato sauce  
*TRAPO VIEJO     Seasoned Pulled Beef  
*POLLO FRITO CON SOPA  Fried Chicken with soup
 *COSTILLAS EN SALSA VERDE   Ribs in green sauce
*POZOLE  ESTILO JALISCO  Pork hominy stew  in red sauce
*MONDONGO KABIC   Tripe stew
*PECHUGAS RELLENAS DE JAMON Y QUESO   Chicken breast stuffed with ham and cheese
POC CHUC Marinated, grilled pork slices
CHILMOLE DE FRIJOL CON PUERCO Black beans with pork in black mole  
PUERCO CHIRMOLE  Pork in black mole
~POLLO A LA YUCATECA  Yucatec style Chicken
 CHULETA A LA YUCATECA  Yucatec style pork chop  
~POLLO CON FIDEOS  Chicken w noodles

Explanations of some of the dishes: 

Poc Chuc is marinated/seasoned with achiote, sour orange, & other seasonings which often include black pepper. Then it is grilled over charcoal.

Pollo al Caparrado ior Chicken with capers includes the following incredients (in the recipe I found online): mustard, onions, garlic, a chile, olives, and bayleaf. The chicken is coated with the mustard and browned. The other incredients are made into a tomato sauce & it is served with rice.

Frijol con Puerco is black beans cooked with pork and flavored with epazote* and onions. The pork may include smoked chops, bacon, or chorizo, and other seasonings may be added. It is often garnished with herbs, radishes, tomato, avocado, and onion & served with tortillas. It is often eaten on Mondays & is one of the usual Monday specials at Manolito's.
Pollo a la Cazuela is a chicken stew that is typically made with onion, garlic, and vegetables which often include tomato, green pepper and potatoes, and it is usually seasoned with bay leaf and oregano.
Pollo a la Yucateca is made by marinating chicken  in achiote and sour orange juice, and other recado* spices may be added. It may be grilled or fried to brown it, then it is baked (and may be wrapped with banana leaves while baking.) 
Chuletas a la Yucateca is made by marinating pork chops  in achiote and sour orange juice, and other recado* spices may be added. They may be grilled or fried to brown them, then baked (and may be wrapped with banana leaves while baking.)
Puerco Chirmole /  Chilmole is a black mole sauce & in this dish it is paired with pork, and it is often garnished with hard boiled egg. The mole is made with recado negro, a spice mix*, roasted chiles (multos, anchos, pasillas, habaneros), achiote, black peppers, garlic, epazote,  achiote, tortillas darkly toasted, and a little vinegar.  

This is how Chicken Escabeche is made .. 1. Combine coriander, oregano, salt, pepper, cumin, cloves, allspice, and cinnamon; set aside. Whisk together:  half the spice mix, orange, grapefruit, and lime juices, and minced garlic; add chicken pieces, marinade & refrigerate for at least 4 hours. (Or just use juice of sour oranges)
2. Meanwhile, Roast the garlic gloves & char the  chiles.

3. Remove chicken from marinade, reserving marinade, char chicken on both sides on grill.
4.. Heat oil in a 6-qt. saucepan. Add onions & remaining spice mix, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Stir in charred chiles and garlic, & return chicken to pan  with reserved marinade and stock; bring to boil, then simmer covered, until chicken is cooked through. Uncover, reduce liquid; serve with tortillas. The chicken is often shredded.
Recipe edited from Pollo en Escabeche Oriental (Yucatán-Style Chicken and Onion Stew) (in English) photo : James Oseland 
How to make Steak Cazuela
First you make a "Sofrito" with oil, onions, garlic, pepper, oregano, cumin, bay leaf and tomato sauce, and then you add the steak & cook for a couple minutes, then add potatoes, cooking wine, olives, salt, enough water to cover, and cook.. one recipe adds a packet of sazon Goya. Some recipes include green pepper, some leave the steaks whole. Details in English HERE    Photos &(edited) recipe (in English) from Cocina de Nathan

Adobo de puercoPork Adobe is made with pork ribs & another cut of pork (pierna/leg) browned & simmered with garlic, salt, & thyme. (They may be marinated first in sour orange & achiote,)  For the sauce: Ancho & guajillo chiles  are roasted & seeded. Cumin, cloves, allspice, black pepper, garlic, & onion are roasted, They are blended & made into a sauce (adobo), added to meat. In this version, Knorr seasoning can be added. Adjust & serve w rice. Photo & recipe HERE  at misrecetas

Pollo adobado is made by marinating chicken pieces in sour orange & achiote, while roasting onions, chiles & garlic; then cooking them together in broth with tomatoes & a bay leaf.  Other recado spices may be used like cumin, cloves, allspice, and black pepper. (This is the same as Pork Adobe, but with chicken)

 Here is an recipe for Brazo de Reina:
..boil and peel a dozen eggs. Season 900gms of masa with salt and pork lard (to taste), and add the 300g of thinly chopped chaya, and 200g of crushed pumpkin seed (calabaza molida) and knead well for 10 mins.Form the "arms" brazos by dividing the dough into four squares 20x20cm, putting the boiled eggs in the center, and carefully roll them up and secure with half a banana leaf and tie (use a strip of the leaf).Cook in a water bath for 90 mins. Serve in 3cm slices topped with tomato sauce and sprinkled with ground pumpkin seeds.(Recipe is courtesy of chef Miriam Restaurant Azcurra Kinich of Izamal in Yucatan, Mexico during the culinary festival 'A taste of Merida' made ​​in the Jaguar Restaurant in Coconut Grove. FL.Site & photo credit F.Cuevas/Univision OnlineBrazo de reina)
Photo of Picadillo with potatoes from Manolito's.. Picadillo is similar to hash, but with different seasoning. The seasoned ground meat is cooked with very finely diced vegs. Included in the recipe often are: green peppers, onion, tomatoes, garlic, bay leaf, cloves, cumin,olives, cinnamon, chile. Picadillo is used to stuff turkeys at holidays and Manolito's puts it into some very tasty chile rellenos. It means "bits & pieces", and is often made from a mix of ground beef and pork.

 Chicken Pibil recipes vary, but generally it is made by marinating chicken pieces or breasts  in sour orange & achiote with spices;  a recado. There are different recados & there are vendors in Isla Mujeres who sell them. This one commonly consists of  cloves, cinnamon, black pepper, oregano, cumin, garlic, and coriander. Then you can wrap each piece in a softened banana leaf with slices of onion & tomato, epizote, salt, and a little lard, then in aluminum foil and steam or bake. (spices vary, a bay leaf is often included). Chicken is usually served shredded, accompanied by pickled onions, rice, tortillas, and salsa.

Pork & Calabacitas (young squash) is generally made by cutting everything into pieces, browning the pork, then adding tomatoes, onions, garlic, (poblano/can vary) chiles, corn, and young zuccini,  (seasonings vary) & cooking it down in its own broth. 

Pezunas Capeadas is usually prepared by precooking the pigs feet, often with onion & seasonings, then deboning, battering and frying the meat , and simmering it in a tomato sauce.

  White Bean Stew in the Yucatan is made with pork, (cuts vary & can include smoked pork chops, bacon & chorizo) and white beans. Other ingredients usually include tomato, onion, garlic, chiles, & pepper. Seasonings are usually recado colorado*, or cumin & oregano & achote, with sour orange to marinade the meat.  Ingredients that may be included are cabbage, potatoes, chiles, 
squash, carrots, olive oil, greens,and platano macho.  This is also called potaje de ibes. *Recado colorado can be bought in Isla Mujeres, or you can make your own. It usually includes Mexican oregano, achiote, black pepper, salt, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, cumin, and garlic

  Meatballs & pasta  (ALBONDIGAS CON FIDEOS)
 In the Yucatan, meatballs & pasta are usually served in a savory broth, called caldo. The meatballs may be seasoned with onion, oregano, cumin, parsley, salt, pepper, and herba buena (mint) and usually held together with eggs & flour (maiz & wheat).  
    Chilmole de friol con puerco is black beans with pork, seasoned with a mole of recado negro, epazote, and tomatoes, thickened with masa or toasted tortillas.
    Lentil Stew---

    Explanation of Ingredients
    *Epazote ("eh pah ZOH tay") is an herb traditionally used to flavor black beans whose name is is derived from Nahuatl: epazōtl. It is believed to reduce the flatulence caused by beans, and has a mild distinctive flavor that you will recognize if you've eaten bean soup in Isla Mujeres. You will see it in most gardens or in containers on patios and roofs around the island.. It grows about three feet tall with tiny green flowers and a weedy appearance. ) 
    *Recado: spice paste with some combination of cloves, cinnamon, black pepper, oregano, cumin, garlic, coriander,. It is often mixed with sour orange & achiote. The common ones sold in Isla Mujeres are colorado, negro, & blanco.
    *Achiote: from the seeds of the annatto plant, used for flavor & color in some recados, tikinxic (grilled fish), pibils, poc chuc, & many other yucatec dishes. Sold in cakes (pressed powder) & often combined with sour orange to make a paste or marinade.

    Achiote is used in most traditional Maya cooking
    Annatto ( English), 
    Achiotl / Ku'u up (Maya), 
    Achiote (Spanish),  
    Native to Mexico, now grown in many countries for its great taste and natural coloring qualities.
     Su'uts' pak'aal (Maya) 
     Naranja-Agria (Spanish)
    Green, with a thick bumpy skin, often used in sauces; tastes like a combination of lime and orange.

    From Food In Isla Mujeres (link)  
         Relleno means stuffed. Poblano chiles are used, removing the seeds, ribs, and skins, so they usually they are not hot, with some 'kick' at the top where the ribs may remain, inside the stem. Picadillo is ground meat (pork and beef, or just one, with finely chopped vegies..often onion, carrot, bell pepper, and potatoes, maybe tomatoes, with seasonings, which may include garlic, and a little cloves.)
    Both meals with sides, including delivery, together were 115p...about $9 plus tip.
     Rellenos moved to a plate...

    We have eaten at Manolitos in the evening & many of our guests have recommended it. Bruce really liked these Chicken Empanadas & the Turkey Salbute

    The Weekend Specials:  Roast Baby Pig  

     ~7am, until sold out. TACOS $12  *TORTAS $30  *KILO $200
    Lechon al Horno Roasted whole pig

    Photo: todos los sabados
apartir de las 8 am
*por kilo
y apartir de las 12 del dia
*queso relleno
*puchero de dos carnes
estamos hubicados a unos pasos de la capilla de guadalupe pedidos al 9981448474Photo: SABADO



        QUESO RELLENO:   Edam Cheese stuffed with picadillo (seasoned ground meat & finely diced vegs), with a white & a red sauce (See below for more info on Picadillo)

     PUCHERO DE DOS CARNES  Stew of two meats- The meats are usually beef & pork, the seasonings may include chiles, cilantro, mint, peppers, cloves, pepper, androasted garlic. Other ingrediants include corn, squash, chayote, potatoes, carrots, limes, rutabaga, platano macho (lg banana). The salsa may include habanero, radishes, cilantro, and sour orange.



*TACOS $12
*KILO $200


    Cochinita pibil  is  slow roasted young pig  marinated with achiote & sour orange, and other seasonings. Traditionally it was roasted in a pit, wrapped in banana leaves. It is tender & succulent, without any strong flavors from the seasonings.  200 pesos is ~$16.50/kg or ~$7.50/lb. The tacos are equal to a dollar each and the sandwiches would be $2.50 US  Those are pickled onions on the torta. Photo of torta from Manolitos fb. other from

    The Other Sunday Specials each week are:
    chilmole / México DesconocidoRelleno Negro is a Yucatan turkey stew with a black broth that is garnished with hard boiled egg, which may be inside a pork meatball. Eaten with tortillas of course, and often rice. It is also called Chilmole. The black color of the broth can seem unappealing; it comes from the roasted chiles in the mole., and from toasted tortillas. Foto: México Desconocido
    I have not seen Relleno Blanco, (White) so I am guessing the difference is probably  the mole, and possibly from using the recado blanco vs the recado negro? And not adding the toasted tortillas that make it black... the mole sauce must be different.  *Recado: spice paste with some combination of cloves, cinnamon, black pepper, oregano, cumin, garlic, coriander. (see Explanation of Ingredients below) 
    Pozole is not a specific to the Yucatan. It has been  eaten at special occasions throughout Mexico for many centuries...long before the arrival of Europeans. It is a stew of shredded pork, often with chicken or turkey,  and pork rinds. The essential ingredient is hominy (nixtamalized maize/corn). It has a richly flavored, savory broth and garnishes that usually include lettuce or cabbage, radishes, oregano & cilantro, onion, and lime.  There may be powdered chiles available. Pozole has different regional styles, and "Jalisco" has red broth & is also called pozole rojo.Foto: Thinkstock/GettyImages
    Mondongo Kabic  is a Yucatec stew made with cow's stomach, (tripe) cooked in sour orange and seasoned with onions, tomato, garlic,achiote, chiles, epazote, and oregano. Garnishes are similar to pozole


     Monday Specials always include  Frijol con Puerco: Yucatec style Beans with Pork is made with black beans, pork, epazote*, chiles, and onions. 

    The DAILY SPECIALS are available ~noon & usually include Pork or Chicken Milanesa (60p):

    Which is similar to  "Chicken Fried Steak" and "Chicken Parmesan";  a seasoned, breaded,  fried cutlet Photo from MexicoFood&more 

     and Poc Chuc (60p) Yucatec pork BBQ  (which is usually marinated with sour orange and achiote)


    Chamoyadas are sweet & sour & spicy. They are a smooth slushy blend of ice, fruit, sugar, and chamoy sauce & chili sauce,  often garnished with a stick of tamarind.  Chamoy is a bottled sauce that is savory & made from pickled fruits. (wiki link for more info in English)

    ..Mexican chamoy is prepared by first packing the fruit in either dry salt or a brine. Occasionally, this brine is acidulated with vinegar. This draws out the natural moisture of the fruit by osmosis. When the fruit has been sufficiently dried, it is separated from the brine and is sold as a snack known as saladitos, literally 'little salty things.'
    Meanwhile, the salted fruit brine created in this process is seasoned to taste with chile powder, becoming chamoy. This liquid may be further reduced, or thickened with pureed fruit, to achieve a variety of consistencies.
    Because of differences in the type of fruit chosen and the composition of the brining solutions used, chamoys vary quite widely in taste. Most are quite savory and spicy due to the addition of chile powder, and salty due to the brine. Depending on whether and how much vinegar was used, they may also vary from sour to sweet. . Wiki   You can make it from apricot preserves, lime juice, sugar, ancho chiles, and salt..

    The video shows you how they are made (There are, of course, different recipes)

    THE RECIPE....
    1.Un frasco de "Tajin" con limon o sin limon. A bottle of Tajin w or w/o lime
    2.Un frasco de "Chamoy" en liquido. Bottle of Chamoy, liquid
    3.Un bote de Mango en liquido para ser Smoothie mix marca "Torani" o puede ser algo similar. Mango smoothie mix or something similar. This is Torani brand
    4. 3 tasas de hielo. 3 cups of ice
    5.Un frasquito de "Lucas Bonbaso". a lil bottle of "Lucas Bonbaso"
    6.Un palio de "Tirolo" de tamarindo. A stick of Tirolo Tamarind
    7. Y lo mas importante un mango. And the most important: A Mango
    Todos los productos de liquido los agredas a tu gusto. Blend them to your liking.


    Monday, March 19, 2012

    Gluten Free In Isla Mujeres Updated 4/22/18

    Just my experience, not a guide.... consider this a disclaimer. I tend to eat the same things in the same places that were safe in the past. I am assuming you know the basic guidelines about being gluten free. I avoid foods that may have had contact or "contamination" by gluten.

    "Tengo un Alérgica de Trigo,.... un Alérgica de Pan y harina blanco. No puedo comer comidas con Salsa Magi ni Salsa Soya."

    Photo of the Gluten Free section at Chedraui, taken Jan. 10, 2017.

    Beware of marinades because both Maggi and Soy sauces contain gluten.Bloody Mary's are likely to contain Magi Sauce. Tik n xik fish may have Maggi sauce in the marinade. Some types of Worcestershire sauces contain gluten.

    Local corn tortillas from the tortillarias have been safe for me. Among the tostadas sold in  bags, most that I have read have been free of wheat flour, but not the labels. It is likely that the tostadas served on the table (or in the nachos or chilequiles, etc) were fried in oil that is used to fry items containing wheat.  Ask, or avoid them. 

    I don't eat at the little restaurants in the nearby colonias that sell flat chicken tacos in different varieties called tostadas, sopes, panuchos, etc.; because their tortillas are cooked in the same pan in the same oil. The tortillas used for sopes have wheat flour added in their masa (Or maybe it is panuchos.).

    I usually eat shrimp rather than fish because it is less likely to be marinated, and I like shrimp. When I want fish I usually have it "en paquete"..which is a filet filled with seafood with a sauce cooked in an aluminum packet called "filete relleno con mariscos". I like Shrimp Diablas, which is usually  sauteed in a fresh tomato sauce in a pan with sweet peppers & onion. It is not particularly spicy if you remove the whole chipolte pepper before you start eating. I have eaten both of these at Minino's safely many times, and they seem safe at other places.Vera Cruz is style is also safe there, and generally does not contain gluten. Minino's is a cocteleria on main street/Medina Rudina, north of the gas station. (Update: They moved and are on prolongacion Rueda Medina/'the road to Garrafon' near Oscars & across the street.) I have ordered these dishes elsewhere with success.

    Breakfast at Amigos (on Hidalgo) has consistently gone well and is a favorite of mine; the waiter even remembers I want corn tortillas and not pan tostada. My favorite is the Popeyes omelet which is served w fried (fresh) potatoes w bacon. But generally a safe bet is a fruit bowl...hold the granola & yogurt.

    Be careful about rice or soups which can contain gluten from bouillon. This may also be true of Chilequilles. Maggi bouillon is gluten free, Knorr bouillon is not. Maggi sauce has gluten.

    Be careful about cochinita pibil...some cooks marinate it with beer. Be careful of ANYTHING that may be marinated unless you know all the marinade ingredients are GF. 

    Most restaurants with signboards saying "Gluten Free" mean they offer options that don't include gluten in the ingredients. It may not mean they are offering foods that are free of cross contamination.

    Update 4/22/18:  I forgot to mention that the corn starch commonly used here contains gluten.
     Here's a few more places I've been eating safely & often...and I recommend the tasty food, good service, etc.
     Asia Caribe has GF cornstarch & soy sauce & GF options labeled on the menu....just be sure to mention to the waiter that you want it made 'sin gluten'. Owners are usually out front: Peter & Analise.
     Brian at aMar Peruviana is very knowledgeable & careful. On the back street Guerrero, just north of the cross street Abasolo & the Culture Center.
     Nic at Madera also has GF soy sauce & is careful & aware about cross-contamination & sneaky ingredients. It's on the Caribbean coastal road south of Villa la Bella ('beer so cold') and north of Isla 33.

    Saturday, November 26, 2011

    Talking Turkey In Isla Mujeres & The Yucatan

    Talking Turkey In Isla Mujeres

    19th Century painting
    The type of turkey that is native to the Yucatan Peninsula is Pavo Ocelado or Guajolote de Monte. Pavo & guajolote both mean turkey as does totole. De monte means wild, and ocelado translates as ocellated, which means having eye-like markings. It is named for the spots on its tail feathers. In English it is the Ocellated Turkey. (Meleagris ocellata). In Maya he is known as  the grand Kutz. On the Mayan horoscope, Kutz is "Pavo Real", which is a peacock.
     It only lives within a 50,000 square mile area consisting of the Yucatan peninsula and extending a little ways across the northern borders of Belize & Guatemala and the southern borders of Chiapas & Tabasco. They are a smaller subspecies of the North American Wild Turkey, with females weighing 3-4 kg. (6-8 lbs.) and males weighing 5-6 kg. (11-15 lbs.).

    The males have beautiful iridescent plumage with hues of blue, yellow, violet, green and white, as you can see in this photo from Yucatan Adventures.

    They are very shy and sleep in tree branches, spending most of their time on the ground feeding on shoots, seeds, and insects. They live in small family groups in areas of brush and are easily startled. Mayans capture them and fatten them in pens. Turkeys a traditional part of the Yucatan diet, being one of only two species of fowl  to have been domesticated before the Spaniards arrived in Mexico (the other was Muscovy duck). Turkeys quickly became popular in Europe, replacing stringy peacocks, and each ship returning to Spain was ordered to include 5 pairs in their cargo.

    Relleno Negro Chilemole, a traditional turkey dish at Yucatan religious events, is offered at the festival of the Virgin of Fatima in Isla Mujeres.
    Juarez & Matamoros, by Cafecito
    The turkeys for sale in Isla Mujeres are white, domestic turkeys. The woman who sold them at the corner of Juarez & Matamoros usually sold them alive. A friend told me people prefer to buy them alive because, "You don't know how long they've been dead." Last year during the week before Thanksgiving, a turkey came walking up our sidewalk into Gringolandia from the neighborhood of the Chiapanecos, which was pretty funny. 
    When we ate roasted turkey for the first time in Isla Mujeres, it was with local friends celebrating the New Year. We were surprised to find they stuffed it with ground meat, which turns out to be customary on the island. Isla families eat turkey on Christmas and New Year's Eve.

    Salina Chica
     To roast a turkey Isla Mujeres style, first you marinade it overnight in a pot using juice from both sweet and sour oranges (naranja agria). To season it you will need to buy some recado blanco from one of the women selling vegies & masa on the street corners, where you can probably buy the pineapple and apples you will need. There are three recados, I have written about the red one made with achiote and used in pibils. The third one is recado negro.
    Recado blanco is a blend of allspice, cloves, garlic, toasted Mexican  oregano, toasted cumin, peppercorns, and coarse salt ground in a mortar with bitter orange juice/naranja agria.
    Tacos Picadillo
    The ground meat (half pork & half beef) that is stuffed inside the turkey is a complex dish in itself, called picadillo, for which you will need garlic, cloves, onion, a tomato, raisins, capers, pitted green olives, Mexican oregano, salt and  pepper. You cook the meat in two glasses of water until you've cooked off all the liquid. Then you fry the other ingredients  in hot olive oil, adding the meat. Diced potatoes may be included.
     After you've put the picadillo into the bird, add some pieces of apple and pineapple. You will put pineapple in the pan, outside the bird, later. Some people add apples. The turkey will be basted with butter (margarine) and pineapple juice. It will be rotated and repositioned several times to allow the all parts of the skin to become golden and crispy. 
    These turkeys were not roasted In Isla Mujeres. I should have a photo of that after New Years. Buen Provecho, ya'll!

    Monday, November 14, 2011

    Getting Cheesey In Isla Mujeres

    Say Cheeeeeeeeeeeeeeese!
    .....or Queso!!
      If you shop at the groceries in Isla Mujeres, you won't find the cheeses you see in the dairy case "back home". (Except maybe at Chedraui, due to open next month.) Where's the Cheddar?  No Monterrey Jack. Isn't that a Mexican city?  (Jack originated in Monterey, California.)
    You'll recognize Gouda & Edam from Europe, but most of the selections are labeled "Manchego". (This year there is Philadelphia Cream cheese sometimes, now with Poblano or Chipolte.)
        If you ask around the isle, residents & expats are likely to rave about string cheese from Oaxaca, sold by the strolling man in white, chanting "QUEsooooo OaXAcaca!
    The packaged cheeses at "El Super" on the town square. From left they are Gouda, Manchengo, Edam, Oaxaca, and Crema Fresca.
        In the Yucatan, specialty cheeses come from Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Chihuahua. Names and appearances are not as standardized as American consumers are accustomed to, and cheeses are also sold in bulk from individual vendors. If you prefer your cheese labeled and shrink wrapped in plastic, your choices will be fewer and less interesting.  Local families often seek out particular sellers, and place special orders with friends traveling to the countryside, to obtain their favorite varieties.

        This is a list of Mexican cheeses, except Edam which is a European cheese with a strong history in the Yucatan. Its information follows the Mexican cheeses. You will have no difficulty finding Edam in Isla Mujeres, because it is essential to certain dishes of  the region and an intrinsic element of the cuisine. It might be on the shelf, rather than in the refrigerator. Its resistance to spoilage is partially why it has been popular in the Caribbean for centuries.
        In general, this list begins with the soft fresh cheeses and works its way down to the harder aged cheeses. Descriptions of flavors are generalizations, like saying, "That meat tastes like chicken."

    Queso Fresco: A  fresh white cheese that is sprinkled atop many dishes, with a flavor similar to Parmesan or Feta. It is usually made with a combination of milk from goats and cows. It is grainy, mildly acidic, and classified as a soft cheese. These are chilaquiles at Buccanero's on Hidalgo. They are a breakfast dish and hangover remedy and are topped with Queso Fresco and media crema. Photo by JackieinPdx.

      Queso Anejo: An aged version of Queso Fresco which is technically considered a soft cheese, but it is actually firm and salty. (Anejo means aged.) It is similar to Romano or Parmesan, with a hint of Feta. It is usually grated or crumbled atop dishes as a condiment. It may be coated in paprika. When it is coated in chiles, it is called Queso Anejo Enchilada.
    Queso Blanco: A fresh, creamy white cheese that softens when heated but does not melt. Its flavor reminds me of a slightly sour, low fat cream cheese. Is described as similar to cottage cheese or mozzarella.  When it is homemade, it is processed with lemon juice rather than rennet, giving it a superior flavor. It is made from skimmed cows milk, which is how it differs from Queso Fresco which traditionally includes goat's milk. It can be tricky to find a substitute for this cheese, because it does not run when it is heated, but retains its shape. It is made like "Farmer's Cheese" by draining the whey out of cottage cheese, but it is slightly more acidic due to using vinegar or lemon juice to separate the curds and whey.  If the curds are pressed, it is called "Queso Seco".
    Queso Panela or Queso de Canasta: A fresh bland, soft, white cheese with an imprint of a basket. (Canasta means basket. Pan means bread. Panela probably refers to its spreadability.) It is often used for appetizers or snack trays and lends itself well to integrating other flavors. Serving it coated with a paste of chile & garlic is a popular option. It is also popular because it softens when heated,  retaining its shape, without melting and running. It is similar in flavor  to "Farmer's Cheese" or a light cream cheese.
     Queso Requeson: A  less common soft fresh cheese that is also used for cheese spreads. It is similar to ricotta but less salty. It is loose in texture and mild in flavor. When it is sold in mercados, it is often wrapped in fresh corn husks. I have not seen it in Isla Mujeres.  Queso Oaxaca:
    A string cheese that is very popular for snacks, quesadillas, and melting atop dishes. It looks like a string cheese mozzarella and tasted similar to Muenster. It is a stretched curd cheese that is kneaded then wound into balls.
    Shrimp Quesadilla w Oaxacan Cheese in IM
    photo by Jessica at Food & Us 

    Before preparing a dish with it, it is pulled apart into thin strips. It is also known as Quesillo. It is sold as an artesian cheese in Isla Mujeres. Friends & family members may return to Isla from the countryside,  bringing balls of Oaxacan cheese from particular areas or vendors, as well as recommending the product of the strolling vendor who chants "Kay SO! Wha  HA Ca Ca Ca...."("Queso Oaxaca") The first time I heard him, I asked my friend, "Why is that man in white walking down the street yelling "Caca?" (which means "shit"). Another of my linguistic confusions that she found amusing.   
    La Bruja's Queso Fundido, La Gloria. 
    Photo HollyEats
    Queso Asadero: This means "Broiler" and it is a mild, chewy cheese used for chile rellenos and fundido. Chiles rellenos are stuffed chile peppers and fundido is similar to chile con carne or cheese fondue. It is melted cheese that is a popular late night snack with a variety of additions such as meats, shrimp, lobster, cactus (nopalitos), mushrooms, salsa, etc. You could substitute Muenster, Jack or Fontina. The Asadero cheese from Oaxaca has a distinctive flavor because wild berries (Trompillos) are used when making it.
     Queso Fundido with chorizo (sausage) at Rene & Renee's on Avenue Madero, an east/west street. They are just off Rueda Medina (main street) before Juarez (the one way street). She specializes in homemade style cooking and he is a very accommodating host, serving breakfast & lunch and closed on Sundays. Photos HollyEats.  
    Queso Chihuahua: Available in the US. Unlike most Mexican cheeses which are white, this one is pale yellow and varies in flavor from mild to sharp. It is also called Queso Menonita, since it originated in the Mennonite communities of Northern Mexico. It is used for queso frito, a breaded fried cheese dish from the Caribbean. It is usually compared to a cheddar or a jack.
    Queso Criollo: A mild cheese from Taxco that is very similar to Muester. I have not seen it in Isla Mujeres.
     Manchego IM Super   
    Photo: Gringo in Paradise
    Queso Manchego:  You will have no problem finding this cheese in Isla Mujeres; it is the most common cheese on the island. It is nothing like the cheese of the same name from Spain that is made from sheep's milk. It is a mild cheese made from cow's milk. There is a huge selection of it at "el Super", you may find it on your pizza, and at Jax your Nachos are smothered in it. It is buttery, soft, and mild in flavor. It is often compared to Monterrey Jack, and is popular for snacking and melting. 
    Queso Manchego Viejo is an aged version of this cheese that is harder, saltier, and more of a condiment that is grated over dishes.

    Queso Cotijta: A sharp crumbly cheese that originated in Cotija, Michoacan. It is called the Parmesan of Mexico and is sprinkled over beans, salads, soups and other dishes to add flavor. Like Parmesan it is often sold already grated. The aged version is called "anejo". Now Cotija is usually made from cow's milk and is described as "lively" or "zesty". It is not a snacking cheese, and is more of a condiment. It is also called Queso Anejo.

    Caribbean Cheese:  
    Duroblando: A firm cheese similar to Cotija, with a mild smokey flavor. 

     Queso Edam: A pale yellow Dutch cheese that travels well and does not spoil easily. It is coated in red wax and called "Queso de Bola" in Isla Mujeres. It is used to make a traditional Yucatan dish called "Queso Relleno" where it is stuffed with a ground pork mix called "Picadillo" which includes peppers, onions, tomatoes, raisins, capers, olives and herbs and spices. Then it is baked or steamed until the filling is hot and gooey.  It is a flavorful cheese that is popular for snacking with fruit.
     The Isla Mujeres Marquesita vendor has a sign that says "Queso de Bola" which means he uses Edam cheese to make this traditional treat. The following photos show him creating a Marquesita, which is a crispy crepe that is stuffed with Edam (and in this case Nutella)then rolled. Photos posted by Yolanda at Infojardin.