Tabasco. Curiously the variety of peppers used in Tabasco sauce, do not actually grow in this Mexican state. Find out more about Tabasco!
The Mexican State Tabasco
Traditionally, Tabasqueños made a living through breeding cattle and producing crops, always growing a little more than they needed so they could feed their families and sell some to the local market. Some of the most prominent crops in Tabasco are: sweet potato, squash, rice and beans. However, Tabasco exports many more products including banana, cacao, coconut and sugarcane. Although agriculture and cattle farming still play a role in the development of Tabasco, oil is now the economic mainstay. After 1950, rich oil fields were discovered along the coast and exploitation of this natural resource began. Villahermosa, the capital city, is home to most of the big oil companies in Tabasco.
Food from Tabasco
With their Maya and Chontal (an ethnic offshoot of the Maya) roots, the food from Tabasco is deeply connected to the land and its offerings. This very traditional cuisine employs recipes that have varied little with the passing of the years. Common ingredients found in the cuisine from Tabasco is chocolate, corn, vegetables, fish, shellfish and wild animals found in the surround jungle. The typical dieta tabasqueña does not include a lot of beef even though the quality of cattle produced here is exceptional.
This interesting mix of ingredients coupled with the blending of Spanish and Mayan cuisine has created some very interesting dishes that will surprise and please. Common vegetables used in Tabascan cooking is the achiote (ground and used in powder form like chile), chaya, momo, cilantro and epazote (an herb used for seasoning food).
Beef, pork and chicken are most often used for protein in the diet and is usually produced locally if not domestically. Turkey and duck are also frequently used in dishes found in Tabasco.
Possibly more popular than meat, is the love for, and variety of, seafood found in Tabasco. One fish that is used in a signature dish of Tabascan cuisine is the freshwater pejelagarto (gar in English). This odd looking fish resembles a primitive looking animal with its long flat nose resembling that of an alligator. Growing beyond 3 feet in length this fish is cooked over the coals in a dish called pejelagarto asado a la leña (Fresh gar roasted over a wood fire). Other important products are oysters, shrimp, red snapper, snook, seabream and crab.
As mentioned before the most representative dish is probably pejelagarto asado, but there are numerous others that identify Tabascan cooking like:
- Sopa de Chaya (Tree spinach soup)
- Platanitos rellenos de carne (Meat stuffed plantains)
- Puchero Tabasqueño (Tabascan meat stew)
- Frijol con Puerco (Pork and beans Tabascan style)
- Pescado "sudado" en hoja momo ("sweated" fish wrapped in Mexican pepper leaf)
- Tortilla rellena de mariscos (Shellfish filled tortilla)
- Tamal de chipilín (Chipilin bean tamale)
As you can see, even though we love Tabasco Sauce, food from Tabasco in Mexico has nothing to do with its famous watered-down relative in name only. The food found in Tabasco is a cuisine that goes back centuries without evolving to the same degree as other forms of Mexican cooking. If you ever have the opportunity to try food from Tabasco prepare yourself for some flavors and textures that you may not have known existed.