No trip to Antigua would be complete without digging into Guatemala’s national dish: Pepian. Pepian is a hearty, savory stew that hints of simple flavors, but is in fact, deliciously complex. One of several traditional stews, every cook makes Pepian differently – richer, thicker, more pungent, etc. The stew takes its red hue from the nutty, pepper flavors of the achiote paste. Ingredients, including onions, garlic, tomatoes, pumpkin seeds, and chile peppers, are first roasted and then blended to join the chicken in a long simmer. The chicken is usually served alongside Guatemalan rice, potatoes, and tortillas.
With its literal translation meaning “small dogs,” Chuchitos are in fact, nothing resembling its English translation. One of my personal favorite dishes in Guatemala, a Chuchito is a type of tamale that consists of corn masa filled with meat, and usually topped with a simple tomato sauce, guacamole, served next to a radish salad and fermented cabbage. Chuchitos are usually found at any street vendor or cart.
Rellenito de Platano
Utilizing two of the most prevalent foods in Guatemalan culture, Rellenitos are a beautifully simple, unique dessert of mashed boiled plantains stuffed with sweet black beans. Appearing as fist sized brown balls, sprinkled with white sugar; Rellenitos are commonly found at street vendors and are usually eaten as an afternoon snack or dessert. Rellenito comes from the verb rellenar which means to stuff or fill. The suffix ‘ito’ is added as a diminutive, which makes the literal translation ‘small filling.’
Traditionally El Salvadorian, Guatemala has adopted this delicious dish as a staple in its street food offerings. Thick, handmade corn tortillas are filled with either cheese, bean, or pork and then cooked on a flat top griddle. The most common is a pupusa de queso, made with a soft, mild cheese from Guatemala’s Zacapa region. Also delicious, fillings of refried beans or cooked pork meat, called chicharron (not to be confused with the fried pork rind) are great choices for a snack or afternoon lunch. Pupusas will be served with a curtido (a lightly fermented cabbages slaw) and a simple tomato sauce.
Literally meaning stuffed chile, the Guatemalan chile relleno is shredded pork and vegetables stuffed inside a sweet bell pepper. The pepper is then dipped in egg and deep-fried. Although usually served on white bread to make a sandwich, we suggest you try the chile relleno on its own with a tomato sauce or picante sauce poured on top.