Straight from the Yucatan: Cochinita Pibil

Monday, July 9, 2018 | 9:25 pm

You can tell how special some dishes are just from the amount of work they put into the preparation. A quick taste of those dishes and you know you were right. This is especially true when the food is from the Yucatan and the secrets of its preparation were handed down through the centuries.

Abel Ramirez of El Portal restaurant in the Pasadena Playhouse district tells us that cochinita pibil – a marinated pork dish – is the perfect mix of ancient Mayan and European traditions that bring tremendous flavor to your watering mouth.

Its preparation is particularly important for delivering the meal’s great taste. First, they marinate the pork in achiote (a tree which comes from Central America and Mexico) and sour orange juice for eight hours. They then wrap it in banana leaves. As ‘pibil’ means ‘under the ground’ in Mayana, it makes sense that the next step involves cooking the pork underground over hot stones.

Cochinita Pibil 2nd 828

Although El Portal uses the fruit of the achiote tree to marinate its delicious pork, it has several other uses. In ancient times, they used it to deter bugs, for artistic purposes such as paint and textiles, and even to heal the body.

Once the pork is cooked to tender perfection, they usually place it inside a taco or sandwich and served alongside pickled onions and the hot Habanero salsa. (Make sure you order a jug of water at El Portal before tasting that one.)

The next time you head on down to El Portal, consider ordering cochinita pibil. After all, there won’t be many occasions where you can look down at thousands of years’ worth of history on your plate.

El Portal is located at 695 E. Green St., in Pasadena. For more information call (626) 795-8553 or visit https://www.elportalrestaurant.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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