Cooking Like A Mexican

Pork loin in tamarind sauce
BY: ALEJANDRA SARACHAGA

The State of Campeche has a very strong defined gastronomical personality and their varied diet was further enriched with the arrival of the Spaniards. But the innovations didn’t stop there, later the pirates brought new components and new preparation methods. Also the Mayan culture is one of the richest not only in México but in the world. In all Campeche territory the food is splendid, because before all the outside influences came, they already had one of the richest sources of products of the sea, and in their jungle and forest they also had wild animals that could be eaten and products of the earth, such as vegetables, fruits and seeds.

TAMARINDO 1.jpgSo when the outsiders arrived with their traditions, many of them Asian, added to the richness that was already there, the cradle of one of the most important Mexican gastronomy traditions was born.

Two of these ingredients were the tamarind (Asian) and the pork (European). The history of the tamarind begins in India, where it was used from ancient times to produce all kinds of dishes, flavored water, and even a kind of beer.

Over the centuries, the secrets of the East were gradually revealed, probably thanks to the Arabs, who knew everything about the fruit and its seeds. They spread these secrets in the middle ages, because the tamarind pulp and seeds have nutritional and healing properties, making them exotically famous, which prevails to this day. But this tropical tree could not grow in Europe, so the plantations were extended to Africa in the tropical part of the continent. When the Spaniards brought it to America it was a completely different story.

It’s cultivation spread rapidly in the many tropical areas of this country, not only on the Atlantic side, but on the pacific side. (It was drier than the Gulf of Mexico). In the states of Michoacán, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Chiapas and of course Yucatan and Campeche where it is known “pah-ch’uuk” (which I looked all over and I just couldn’t find what it means, sorry this time, dear readers).

The harvest of this fruit is from January to April, depending on the region. In some places it is sweeter than in others, and it is even said that the fruits of each tree have a different flavor.

In México the tamarind is eaten as a candy, which by the way, now forms a very important industry, especially for the hundreds of families engaged in developing sweet tamarind, as the massive industrialization of this fruit has not been widespread yet. Another popular consumption in Mexico is refreshing tamarind water, one of the three traditional Mexican soft drinks. The other two are the Horchata and the Hibiscus. (None of the three have Mexican origins by the way).

Nowadays, you can go to the supermarket and buy tamarind, horchata or hibiscus concentrates with sugar. But in the remote communities, where the harvest of the tamarind in known to not last indefinitely, people form a family work team, and the fruit is stripped of the rind and seeds and then mixed with sugar to form a dough in a ball shape which can be maintained for much longer without spoiling. The dough ball is used as the basis for a sweet and nutritious, natural and practical way to make an “instant” refreshing drink by just putting it into a bowl or jar of water. It is also used in various dishes of traditional “haute cuisine”, like Mexican and tamarind chicken stew, beef, fish, and pork with tamarind chutney.

The people of Campeche are very hospitable. In their homes, the food is first, the hosts welcome visitors always with a big smile and abundant and delicious food.. They treat their visitors as queens and kings and like to show the traditions and beauty of their state. The city of Campeche is famous for its fine dining and high quality of their fresh and vast variety of sea food. A fun tradition is it’s the men who do the marketing. This tradition started back when the pirates arrived and women were too afraid to go out on the street.

So here you go, pork loin in tamarind sauce:

Ingredients.

1 piece of pork loin ( Around 3lbs)

2 cups of tamarind pulp (you can find it in the supermarkets in the aisle where the koolaid is

3 slices of canned pineapple

3 cloves of garlic

1/2 of regular sized onion

2 teaspoons of fresh graded ginger

2 cups pf chicken broth

Procedure:

Preheat the oven at 350 F

Liquefy all the seven ingredients until you have a smooth paste (not too thick or too thin)

Place the pork loin in an oven pan and pour the paste on top.

Bake for around 1 1/2 hours. Open the oven every 20 minutes and bath the loin with its juices, turn it around once to have even browning.

Once done let it cold and slice it. Then put the slices back in the pan and heat for a little while.

This dish will go great with mashed potato or steamed veggies.

Alejandra