Saturday, October 1, 2011

Pescado Tikin Xik or Annatto Marinated Grilled Fish

Pescado Tikin Xik or 
Anchiote Marinated Grilled Fish
This is a traditional Mayan dish which is made with recado rojo, which is also used to prepare cochinita pibil (and pollo pibil). It is a mildly spiced paste made from achiote seeds and the juice of bitter orange, called naranja agria.  
Annatto (English),  
Ku'u up (Maya),  
Achiote (Spanish)
The name derives from the Nahuatl word for the shrub, achiotl.
Native to Mexico, now grown in many countries for its great taste and natural coloring qualities. 

 This is an achiote blossom with immature pods below it.
In Isla Mujeres achiote is sold in the Mexican mercado in bulk (On Guerrero, the back street), at the Super market on the town square, at Mertitas on Juarez, and in most grocery stores in the colonias. It is also sold at the airport, in markets that serve people of Latin America and the Caribbean, and online. Its flavor is subtle and not hot, despite its fiery color.

Sour Seville Orange is an important ingredient in Yucatan's cuisine 
Seville Orange(English),    
Su'uts' pak'aal (Maya),
 Naranja-Agria (Spanish).
Green (mostly) with a thick bumpy skin and many seeds, it is often used in sauces and marinades, and tastes like a combination of lime and orange. If it is unavailable, many recipes suggest using orange juice and vinegar, but a better substitution than vinegar is lime juice, or grapefruit juice. Mix a half cup of naranja agria juice with a half cup of achiote (120 ml package) and 2 Tablespoons of olive oil.

You can add Yucatan or Mexican oregano, which are available online, roasted crushed garlic & allspice.

Achiote liquid (recado rojo) at Playa Lancheros. It is mopped onto the fish before grilling.
Amberjack Tikin Xic in Isla Mujeres
Tikin in Mayan means "dry" and Xik means "wing", which refers to the way the fish is butterflied and spread open. Use a mild white fish like amberjack, snapper, or grouper. It may be cooked atop banana leaves, or wrapped inside them, if they are used. Unlike the pibil dishes, tikin xik is not cooked in a pit, but rather it is grilled and smoked over a wood or charcoal fire for  ~half an hour. In Isla Mujeres, this tool for cooking and flipping it is custom made. This BBQ is at MaraVilla Caribe, which was inaugurated with this "mega fish". Our friends' young daughter eagerly asked if she could have an eye, and her parents reminded her to be polite, "There's only two, you know." Which was enough, and she said "Mmmmm!" and they all laughed at my attempt to keep a poker face. Serve with lime wedges, rice, cabbage, and warm corn tortillas.

Red Snapper Tikin Xik at Playa Lancheros in photo by Holly
The most popular place to eat this specialty is Playa Lancheros Casa del Tikin Xik who have been preparing it for decades. They are on the west coast, south of the traffic circle by Sac Bajo. They open at noon and close around 6 pm or dusk. ~$8/order serves two.
Playa Lancheros Tikin Chik & "Doug"
Tasty guacamole at Playa Lancheros, which is always a good idea with this fish, since it takes about a half an hour, which gives you time to enjoy the breezes, amazing view, and a cold beverage in the shade. (~$3.50)
Grouper Tikin Xic, cooked in banana leaf, In Isla Mujeres.
Tikin Xik on the beach after visiting the whale sharks with Ceviche Tours. Whale shark season resumes in May, and they do other tours. It is often featured at buffets of boat tours.
"Wayne" and Tikin Xik In Isla Mujeres whose blog tells about visiting Isla in the 70's before Cancun was developed so he flew into Merida. This post tells about flying from Austin for $150 RT airfare in 2009. (That airline went out of business shortly thereafter, and was running specials. It was great while it lasted, and they are missed.) One reason this is so good, is the fish is usually very fresh, and having your toes in the sand makes it even better.

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