El Poc-Chuc, or Pok Chuk Bak, is an integral part of Yucatán cuisine, though its origins are a little hazy. Poc-Chuc is a dish containing marinated pork, served with rice, refried black beans, sliced avocado, and often pickled onion, cabbage, and a spicy salsa made from habanero.
How it’s made
There is some debate on the perfect way to make Poc-Choc but most agree on the method. Cooks marinate or coat the pork in a mixture of spices including lots of salt, oregano, coriander, thyme, pepper, and garlic. It is then coated in the juice of sour oranges, sometimes mixed with achiote paste (sometimes known as annatto), for a bitter taste. They then cook the meat over charcoal. It is accompanied by a red onion (sometimes called purple onion locally) cut in quarters, and occasionally tomatoes. Locals also tend to eat it with fresh made tortillas, a perfect container for all the unique flavours.
History of El Poc-Chuc
Poc-Chuc is originates with the Maya on the Yucatán. In the Maya language, “poc” means to toast, and “chuc” translates to charcoal, describing the method of cooking. Historians suggest that the Maya originally made the dish on a large clay pan called a “comal”, over fire, rather than charcoal.
There is even debate about the origin of this dish. It involves many aspects that didn’t exist in pre-Columbian Yucatán; the Spanish brought pigs and introduced pork, as well as garlic and onions to the Maya diet. Some suggest it hails back to the time of Spanish-Mayan habitation, when farmers would have to salt meat to keep it fresh. They would then cook the meat using strong spices and acidic flavours to mask the saltiness of cured meat. Another theory is that a restaurant near Mérida invented the dish in the 1900’s, but many dispute this.
Where can I get it?
Regardless of exact origin, Poc-Chuc is a staple of Yucatán cuisine, and you can find it all over the peninsula. Here in Tulum, however, we specifically recommend Taqueria Don Honorio on Avenida Satélite Sur Tulum.