The essential component of Guatemalan cuisine, alongside the popular tortilla, is frijoles (fri-hoh-les), also known as black beans. These beans can be consumed in various ways such as boiled, fried, refried, stewed, soaked in soups, mashed and spread on tortillas, or served as a side dish alongside tortillas, cheese, and eggs. They can be presented in a dark sauce, as a runny mixture, or as a thick black paste. Regardless of their form, they are generally delicious and always nutritious.
The third element of this culinary trinity is queso, which refers to the local cottage cheese made from milk, rennet, or an acid like vinegar or lemon juice. A typical Guatemalan meal often consists of a serving of frijoles, a dollop of cheese, and some tortillas as the foundation. This base is often accompanied by a variety of meat and vegetable dishes as well as a bowl of soup.
Recommended locations to experience this cuisine: For a satisfying Mayan meal complete with all the necessary accompaniments, including flavorful sauces to top your tortillas, consider visiting Arrin Cuan or La Cocina de la Señora Pu in Guatemala City.
Drink like a Guatemalan
Guatemalans, like the rest of Central America, have a fondness for cerveza (beer), rum, and licuados (freshly blended fruit smoothies). The default beer choices are Gallo and Cabro, but the country also boasts a small yet thriving craft beer scene, represented well by the Antigua Brewing Company. When it comes to rum, there are many options available, but the consensus is that the best brand is the long-aged Ron Zacapa. Additionally, there are some unique alcoholic beverages such as chicha (corn beer) and cusha (a homemade corn spirit).
Guatemala is renowned worldwide for its exceptional coffee, known for its aromatic richness and notes of chocolate and vanilla. The finest coffee beans are cultivated in high-altitude plantations around Huehuetenango. Another beverage worth mentioning is Guatemalan hot chocolate, which is often regarded as the original and best hot chocolate, as the cocoa bean has its origins here. Look out for atol as well, a thick and hot porridge-like drink made from roasted corn flour, cinnamon, and other spices.
Recommended establishments to experience these beverages: For an exquisite cup of Guatemalan coffee, visit El Viejo Café in Antigua, where you can savor delicious coffee and pastries to kickstart your day. Chocoholics will find a velvety smooth cup of Guatemalan hot chocolate at Café La Luna in Quetzaltenango.