We might not be hard core foodies but we do like to try different foods when we are travelling. While in Antigua, Guatemala we booked a couple tours/activities to learn more about Guatemalan food. This time “we” included Al and me as well as his sister Lisa and her husband Pierre.
On the Sunday, we booked a market tour and then a cooking class with El Frijol Feliz. The guide for the market tour was a young woman named Anna originally from Guatemala City. Her husband, Matthew, from France tagged along. Having Matthew along helped out a couple times when Anna couldn’t find the right English word – she would tell Matthew the word in Spanish, he would tell Pierre in French and then Pierre would tell the rest of us in English. Overall though, Anna’s English was excellent and both of them were very personable.
Sunday is not a big market day which worked for us. We were able to walk through the market without being jostled. In the market, as well as on the street and in the stores, we generally found the Guatemalan vendors/salespeople to be polite and not at all aggressive. This is a big change from the Caribbean and Mexico.
Anna had told us that if there were any fruits or vegetable that we wanted to try just let her know and she would buy them for us. So we did! Unfortunately, I did a terrible job of remembering the names so can’t share them with you. The market not only had fruit and vegetables but pretty near anything else needed for everyday life. Meat, fish, seafood, clothing, shoes, household goods, restaurants. And the chicken buses that leave town are all parked here as well.
After the market tour, we walked back to the cooking school. We had to wait a bit for the restaurant cook to be ready for us but that was okay as water, beer and wine were included in the price and they have a nice little courtyard. We had a bit of mix-up about our menu but that also worked in our favour as we ended up making more dishes than we originally planned. Our dinner included:
• Radish salad
• Hilaches – shredded beef and potato stew
• Rice with vegetables
• Buñuelos Rapidos – a deep fried corn bread served in a syrup
The cook never measured anything! I wish I could cook like that. She was very good about demonstrating what she wanted us to do and then having us do the slicing, dicing and stirring. Anna translated her instructions and our questions. The recipes are included on their website.
As a group, our favourites were the guacamole and the rice. The ingredients for the guacamole were different than Mexican style guacamole that we’re familiar with but we quite enjoyed it. The flavour of the rice with the vegetables was great. The other items got mixed reviews from our group except the Buñuelos Rapidos which we all disliked. Our issue with the Buñuelos is that they were left in the syrup and became soggy even though the flavour was good.
When we left the cooking school, we ran across a bar that had the Super Bowl on the TV so we ended up there for a while for Lisa and Pierre to watch the game. I just indulged in a couple Amaretto but was able to try out a different brand than what I drink at home. Demandis is very nice – not quite as sweet as Disaronni.
For the next day we had booked a street food tour through Taste Antigua. Arianna is the owner and was our guide. Very outgoing and knowledgeable woman from Texas. If you’re interested in the local foods, this is definitely the tour to do. It’s a fair bit of walking but Arianna gave us some history of the city along the way and the food experience was great. I can’t say that we liked everything we tried but we tried everything presented. Foods included:
- Chile Rellenos — A chile stuffed with meat then breaded and fried. Tasty.
- Chuchitos – Similar to a tamale. This would be a very filling cheap meal but we didn’t find it particularly tasty. But then we’re not tamale fans either.
- Canillitas de Leche – Milk fudge – very nice
- Colocho de Guayaba – Guava Swirls – very nice. Arianna described them as a type of fruit roll-up.
- Pupusas de Queso – Basically a tortilla stuffed with a very mild cheese and topped with guacamole and radish salad. Very mild dish.
- Longaniza — Excellent! It’s a very pale pork sausage with amazing flavour. One of our favourites.
- Chorizo – This was not part of the tour but we asked to have it added. Not as flavourful as the Mexican version but still good. We thought the longaniza was better.
- Pepian – The national dish. It’s a chicken dish with a very nice gravy type sauce on it. This was our collective favourite.
- Relleniot de Platano – Mashed and seasoned plantain stuffed with chocolate and pureed beans then fried. I really liked the chocolate and bean paste inside but didn’t care for the plantain.
The food was excellent but Arianna really made the tour. She made sure everyone was looked after, double-checked on food allergies, and gave us great information about the city and food. I would highly recommend her tour.
Arianna also gave us directions to Kafka where she told we would have a great view of the volcanos. Very nice terrace with a view of the volcanos. Both Lisa and Al tried the craft beer that was available from Antigua Brewing Company but neither were impressed.
The next night we tried the terrace at Tartines which overlooks some ruins and also has a great view. And great appetizers. This was Lisa’s favourite viewing spot in town.
Two more places that we visited that I need to comment on are:
- Fernado’s Kaffee – fabulous coffee and chocolate. It’s a bit off the beaten track but worth the effor to find it.
- Dona Luisa Xicotencatl – wonderful bakery. Be sure to try the banana bread – it was our favourite.
Antigua is a city where you can get just about any kind of food that you can imagine. There is no way that a single blog posting could cover them all but I hope you enjoyed my descriptions of our food experiences. Happy dining!