Cozumel and the rest of the Mexican Riviera have very deep Mayan roots. The Mayan culture is found all throughout the area in many different ways, from their art, to their architecture, and especially in their foods. Mayan foods are not the traditional Mexican foods we see everyday. They are steeped with tradition and history and are full of flavor.
We discovered a wonderful restaurant/cooking class/Mayan history lesson all wrapped up in one in Ix-Kool, located in the Royal Village Shopping Center, right across the street from the main cruise terminal. Ix-Kool blends together the Mayan traditions and heritage with memories and feelings of long ago. Ix-Kool represents life through ancient times. The name Ix-Kool itself, is Mayan and is loosely translated to mean fresh from the garden to the table.
The Ix-Kool experience was a one-of-a-kind, hands on experience. We learned how to make many of the traditional Mayan foods in the traditional ways that have been passed down through generations. We were indeed Mayan for the day.
We scheduled our class for 2:30 in the afternoon. The whole experience, from start to finish is about 2 hours. When we walked in, our table was already set up for us. Our very knowledgeable guide and instructor Juan, lead us through all the steps, complete with the Mayan history of the foods we were about to make.
Step one was to watch a short video of the history and traditions of the foods we were going to make. Before we started with the foods, Juan made us a special drink fit for the gods and the Mayan priests. The drink was made from ground cornmeal and cinnamon, honey and water. Before we could drink it we had to offer it up to the gods in prayer. It was very tasty and refreshing.
Then we made the traditional guacamole (which by the way is the exact way I have always made it too) and some Sikil P’aak, which is a sauce made with roasted tomatoes, habaneros, garlic and ground pepita seeds. Both dishes were made in a molcajeta, which is like a stone mortar and pestal.
The Sikil P’aak was served on freshly made tortillas, which was the next thing we learned how to make.
There are three types of traditional corn tortillas, all made from the same recipe, that are used in all the Mayan dishes. There are the tortillas, the panucho and the salbute.
The tortillas are made from corn that has been cooked for seven hours, then ground down and and mixed with water and a bit of ground limestone.
Then the dough or masa is made and is formed into small balls. The balls are pressed with a tortilla press and are carefully placed on a very hot grill to cook for just a few minutes. The process and the handling are key to making them turn out just right. You have to carefully place the tortillas on the grill. If you just flop them down, they will puff up with air and will be no good. Then you let them brown slightly, and flip them twice.
This is the recipe for the tortillas. To turn them into panuchos, while the tortillas are still on the grill, after the second flip, gently press with a spatula to make them rise up and puff with air, then immediately remove them from the grill and cut a small pocket at the edge, and fill with refried black beans, then gently press together.
To make the salbutes, take the tortilla and fry it in hot oil. Salbutes are very similar to the fried tostadas we all know and love. You can top them with anything you like.
There are three main spice flavorings that are used in all Mayan dishes, and they are all very similar, with only slight modifications for each. They are white or blanco reservado, red or roja reservado, and black or negro reservado. The white is made with green onions and was pre-Spanish. The red is made with red onions and ground achiote peppers, and the black is made from combining the two.
We also made some fresh ceviche with shrimp and octopus,
As the ceviche was “cooking”, we were shown how to make the lima soup. Ceviche is made from raw fish that is “cooked” in the lime juice. You can use any kind of fish you like, but the traditional Mayan way is to make it with shrimp and octopus. Mix everything together, and let “cook” or marinate for about 2-5 minutes, before serving.
Limas are fruit that are similar to limes, but are a bit larger and have more of a sour taste to them. They are green on the outside, with a hint of orange on the inside. They are grown exclusively in the Mayan Riviera. All Mayan recipes, as well as a lot of Mexican dishes, are made with a combination of limas, limons or sour oranges, again only grown in the Mexican Riviera.
Pork is also very prevalent in Mayan cooking. Many dishes have pork in them. Our next course was pork with beans.
This was followed by a plate of both salbutes and panuchos,
followed by some Mexican cornbread with shaved Gouda cheese, honey and coconut ice cream, because we just weren’t full enough. We shared this one. 🙂
The tradition of adding the shaved cheese was by accident, though the ancient Mayans thought of it as a gift from the gods. The cheese came from a Dutch shipwreck, and has been part of the Mayan tradition since the mid 1600’s.
We thoroughly enjoyed our Mayan cooking class, and highly recommend it to anyone interested in learning about the ancient traditions and history of the Mayan foods. Most definitely bring your appetite though! You will be eating and sampling a lot of different and very delicious foods. And by all means – PACE YOURSELF! It’s A LOT OF FOOD! As you can see, everything is always very fresh and healthy, but also very filling.
Ix-Kool is located at Royal Village Shopping Center, Av. Rafael E. Melgar Local 53, 77600 Q.R., Mexico. Their hours are from 12-10 PM, everyday except Sunday, though the hours are subject to change. Make reservations ahead of time. They will do a class for two, as they did with us, or for a large group. You can contact them either by phone +52 987 105 9793 or online at ix-kool.com. This is truly a unique, one-of-a-kind Mayan culinary experience, that you will love.
2 thoughts on “Ix-Kool”
Looks like a cool place
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You would love it! 🙂