Tag Archives: Antigua

Antigua is also for Eating

Guatemala isn’t just pretty buildings, awe-inspiring ruins and breathtaking scenery.
Let’s not lie, those are amazing things to do and see … Between meals.
Food anywhere is a journey in itself and Guatemala is no exception.
So just what does a country that can claim an important role in creating chocolate and grows some of the the best coffee in the world ear?

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It was going to be a supreme sacrifice to find out, but a challenge I was willing to accept relying obviously on only the deepest and detailed research I could for something so very important.

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I even took to class learning to cook one of the traditional dishes called Chiles Rellenos.
Guatemala’s food is similar to the rest of Central America with dishes mainly built around rice, corn and beans but I found more vegetables present in traditional dishes, probably because they are able to grow more than in the Tropics.

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Chiles Rellenos uses those veggies with minced chicken to create stuffing for the often locally used peppers of chiles … But with a twist.
All those veggies required a lot of chopping and completely showed up my reliance on a food processor back home.

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The twist shows both the Spanish and Mayan influence often found in traditional dishes here. The chiles are dipped and coated in a mixture of stiff egg whites mixed with yolks and then

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A kind of taco, if you like. Obviously best served with salsa and rice. Get the recipe on the el frijoles Felix Cooking School website hereNAND definitely add them to your to-do list when in Antigua.

One of the best things about traveling is seeing the unique elements and uniting threads running through cultures around the world and none more so than around a table.
So imagine my surprise in discovering that Guatemalans are also fond of cooking meat on an open fire. But then who isn’t?

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It’s the same structure as what we would call back home (in South Africa) a shisa nyama i.e.basically a giant barbecue where you can get a plate of meat with various sides to eat usually in a tent or backyard on plastic chairs. Here on the other side of the world the table clothes were noticeably colorful and salsa and rice replaced atcha and pap but the vibe was unmistakable.

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And here there is a new boss of the braai.
It’s the tortilla lady, taking the heat over this giant griddle and literally slapping out millions throughout the afternoon.

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Now who could mess with her!

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Antigua is Amazing.

OK, I’m going to be a little gushy. I absolutely love Antigua. I would go as far as to say this tiny mountain town is one of my favorites. Ever.

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This obviously has to with the fact that it’s beautiful. Set amongst rolling green hills (no less than 3 volcanos, one of which is active), filled with ethereal facades and ruins of the numerous Catholic churches of years gone by, boasting its original 1600’s bumpy but quaint street cobbling and the UNESCO protected, pastel colored Spanish-baroque style houses, restaurants and bars. It has nothing to do with that fact that due to some logistical challenges I couldn’t climb any of the above mentioned volcano’s.

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Antigua has definitely won points because it just seems so peaceful. Maybe it’s the mountain air or the soothing colors but I suspect it has more to do with the completely laid back locals. Even though tourism clearly drives the town, people are remarkably unpushy and helpful. And it’s almost definitely up in the top ten or five or even three because of how it’s embraced a cafe / coffee culture to showcase one of Guatemala’s strongest exports with some of the best cappuccino’s I’ve experienced in a while. There are also several chocolate workshops and ladies selling the most amazing sweets on street corners reminiscent of the Mayan’s talents with Coacoa.

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I would like to think my affection for Antigua is based on it’s resilience. This is the town that was all but abandoned in the late 1700’s when its people tired of rebuilding its colossal churches after several earthquakes (ironically they moved to Guatemala City, which is even closer to a bigger fault). It’s also become the face of Guatemala’s tourism following the end of a turbulent and bloody civil war in 1996. They currently have a former President on trial for genocide. And I have noted a high number of armed police, particularly around Antigua’s Central Parque, in what I can only assume is a determined effort to keep the city’s growing stream of tourists safe.

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But it’s probably the coffee. The coffee is good!