I just sat down and counted up how many cooking classes I have taken in my travels and I come up with a total of 17. It’s one of my most favorite things to do when I am in a new country. And the Guatemalan cooking class I took last week in beautiful Antigua was one of my all-time favorites.
(Note – if you are interested in the recipes read all the way to the end.)
Okay, so I usually say that after every cooking class. But I just loved it. There is nothing that brings a culture to life as well as food and cooking with local people.
First of all let me tell you what a lovely surprise Guatemala has been, and particularly the gorgeous, historic city of Antigua. Colorful and alive with cultural events and history, Antigua is a perfect place to experience the best of Guatemala from art, history, religion and museums, to food
and scenery. It’s perfect little package and I really enjoyed our time there.
Searching online before we arrived I found the highly rated La Tortilla Cooking School offering several options for classes. I signed up to do a morning market tour, followed by the full cooking class with six courses. On arriving I learned I was the only student on this day! Wow. It was the holiday weekend marking the beginning of Semana Santa (Holy Week) and most people are busy with other events. So luckily for me, I was the center of attention! So much fun.
To Market to Market
Julio met me on arrival and was my guide to the market and my translator throughout the day. Julio is from Costa Rica and is the manager at the cooking school.
Julio took me around the beautiful city and showed me two historic locations for the local market before taking me to the bustling market center. Since it was a Saturday morning, it was exceptionally busy.
Local people packed the market and I only saw a handful of tourists.
The very authentic market runs seven days a week but Saturday is the busiest day. Vendors wearing traditional Mayan clothing were selling everything from beans to squash, flowers to pots and pans, dog food to chicken. Anything you might need can be had at this sprawling market. I surely would have gotten lost except Julio knew the way. We purchased a squash for our class and a candied yam to try.
Time to Cook
Back at La Tortilla we welcomed a couple from Belgium who have just arrived to serve as volunteers for
the next two weeks. I then met Chef Sonia who would be my teacher today. Sonia speaks no English and I speak no Spanish and so Julio served as our interpreter throughout the class. This actually helped me learn a bit more Spanish too!
Over the next two hours we made six traditional dishes, combining traditional Mayan dishes, Spanish dishes and Guatemalan dishes. Most of the recipes were simple and all used local, fresh ingredients. Here is what I learned to make;
Atol Blanco a warm drink made from corn flour is one of the most Guatemalan of all Guatemalan dishes. Guatemalans drink this more than coffee. It can be served sweet with sugar and cinnamon or savory with salt, lime juice, chile and roasted ground pumpkin seeds. I loved
the savory one!
Beet Salad was made by boiling the beets with the skin on, then removing the skin and dicing with onion and lime juice, thyme and salt.
Guatemalan Rice has its roots in Mayan culture but also was influenced by the Spanish who brought many staples to the region like spices and peppers. Our version included onion and carrot.
Pepian was the most complicated of the dishes we created. Considered the national dish of Guatemala, this delicious spicy meat stew (chicken or pork usually) uses roasted vegetables and spices to create a rich and flavorful base for the stew. It was my favorite thing of the day.
Rellinitos Julio had promised me a surprise ingredient in our dessert and sure enough I would never of thought to include BLACK BEANS
with chocolate, and wrap mashed plantains around it. But that is exactly what we did for our delicious Rellinitos, a favorite Guatemalan dessert.
Tortillas of course a cooking class in Guatemala would include tortillas and I learned that this favorite
items of only two ingredients (corn flour and water) is a lot harder to make than I thought. Rolling a ball with your hands and flattening the tortilla to the perfect size and consistency took a bit of practice. So delicious fresh off the fire.
Time to Eat
Being the only one in the class I was left to enjoy ALL THIS FOOD by myself as the volunteers and Chef Sonia cleaned up and got ready for the afternoon class. I hardly made a dent on the quantity of food they set before me so they kindly packaged it up and sent it home for me to share with Arne.
I am happy to share so you too can savor the wonderful flavors of this magical, colorful country of Guatemala.