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Mastering the Art of Maya Cooking

By: Ka'ana Resort / 17 Dec 2018
Mastering the Art of Maya Cooking

Part of the spell-binding magic of Ka'ana is its deep roots in the Maya culture. Our strategic location is set (literally!) on the doorstep of an ancient Maya city and has inspired Ka'ana's name which means "Heavenly Place."  We aspire to expose as much of this great culture as possible through our stunning adventures that take you to the top of thousand-year old temples or deep into the sacred underworld. We've even brought the Maya magic into our resort with the unique decor and authentic pottery on display throughout the entire property.

Mastering the Art of Maya Cooking

Most of  our guests are left with a sense of wonder at the rich history of the Maya people, and plenty have asked to learn more about the culture. And with the holiday season upon us (and all the cooking and baking happening) what better way to share in the holiday festivities than to take a culinary journey with the Maya's and learn how to create your own unique dish to possibly serve at your next holiday gathering.  

Mastering the Art of Maya Cooking

We invite you to an interactive Maya cooking class hosted by Maya women from the nearby village of Succotz. You'll learn from them how they prepare their main staple food of corn and witness traditional cooking practices, as well as hearing some great tales from their history!

These wonderful ladies will teach you the process of grinding corn on a traditional stone "metate" , the way their parents and grandparents did. In some parts of the village it is still prepared in this fashion.

Mastering the Art of Maya Cooking

Not only will you see the centuries old method of transitioning corn to the "masa" (dough), you'll flatten and cook your own tortillas in Ka'ana's own simulated Maya kitchen – complete with "fogon" (fire hearth) and "comal" (stone or clay griddle for baking)!

As you cook, they'll tell you stories of the slow changing way of life in their village that's still based strongly on the traditions and knowledge that have been handed down for centuries.

Mastering the Art of Maya Cooking

Finally, when the smoky fire has done its job on the fresh corn, all your hard work is ready to be savored! Paired with various sides the Maya ladies have prepared for you, it makes for a meal you won't forget in a hurry. Sit down and enjoy the fact that you just mastered the art of cooking in the traditional Maya way!  We've provided the recipe for the tamalitos we prepare during the class below for you to try on your next family gathering!

Tamalitos Recipe

  • 6 dozen dried corn husks (6 oz)
  • 3 cups of frozen or thawed corn kernels
  • 1 ½ cups of light vegetable stock or broth
  • ½ cup of milk
  • 2 or 3 fresh poblano chiles
  • 1 large red bell pepper or 4 pieces bottled Italian roasted red peppers, rinsed and drained
  • 3 cups masa harina (dry corn masa; 10oz)
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 ¼ sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup thinly sliced scallion


Prepare husks:

Soak corn husks in a large bowl of hot water, weighting with an inverted heavy plate to keep submerged, turning husks occasionally, until soft, about 30 minutes.  Rinse husks under running water, separating them (and discarding torn, tough or badly discolored husks). Pile best hussk on a plate and cover with a damp kitchen towel.  Tear some of the thickest husks into ½ inch-wide strips to use as ties. (keep ties damp as well.)

Prepare filling:

Simmer corn in stock, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes.  Stir in milk and puree in a blender until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and cool completely, about 25 minutes.  

Preheat broiler.

Put chiles and, if using, fresh bell pepper on a rack of a broiler pan and bril about 2 inches from heat, turning them until skins are blistered and charred, 8-12 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl and let stand, covered with plastic wrap until cool enough to handle. Peel peppers and remove veins if desired. Cut tops from peppers and discard with seeds. Separately chop chiles and fresh or bottled bell pepper.

Mastering the Art of Maya Cooking

Sift masa harina with baking powder and salt into a bowl.  Beat butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy.  Alternately beat in corn puree and masa harina mixture, ½ cup at a time, beating until mixture forms a fluffy and moist but fairly stiff dough.  Divide filing in half and stir chiles into one half and bell pepper and scallion into the other. Season both fillings with salt.

Assemble tamalitos:

Put 1 husk on a work surface, pointy end facing you and spreading it flat, mound 2 tablespoons filling (about the size of an egg) in center.  Bring pointy end of husk up and over mound of filling and fold sides of husk over filing, overlapping. Now gather the protruding end of husk and tie it with a corn-husk strip.  (this little purse will expand slightly as the tamalito is steamed.)

Assemble remaining tamalitos in same manner.

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