30 Oct Where It All Began: The History of Tulum Cuisine
With breathtaking shoreline lapped by cobalt waters, balmy breezes, and sugar-sand beaches, Tulum is a dream come true destination for any wanderlust. Plus, it’s close to Maya ruins and dotted with diving havens.
The true gem of this small beach town, however, lies in its diverse culinary heritage which has been transformed over the years. Perhaps the position of Tulum on the Yucatán Peninsula makes it a melting pot of the world’s best cuisines, but most notably Mexican Carribean cuisine. Be that as it may, the culinary history of Tulum has certainly come a very long way.
Where it All Started
As with everything in this region, it all began with the ancient Maya. Today, Maya people reside in a broad network of towns and cities, including Tulum. Others immigrated from the Yucatán Peninsula west.
No matter where they came from, Maya cuisine is centered around staple foods such as citrus, pork, avocado, chile, and of course, corn. They have also integrated more veggies into their cuisine, especially chaya (a type of spinach), potatoes, and tomatoes.
Tulum cuisine can’t be complete without a touch of the Caribbean. This influence comes in the form of extensive use of seafood like mahi-mahi, conch, lagoon snails, lobster, and shrimp.
You can also thank them for popularizing locally available tropical fruits, including bananas, papaya, mango, tamarind, and so on. It’s no wonder they are integrated into almost every sauce or salad in Tulum.
Spanish Conquest and Colonization (1517–1550)
When the Spanish colonized Yucatán, they brought with them pork, achiote seeds, red spice, Seville bitter oranges, and chicken. The locals incorporated these ingredients into their culinary practices.
The New Dawn: 1980s and 1990s
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, tourists were getting the hang of northern destinations like Cancun, forcing resorts to expand southwards. Then a sleepy town, Tulum received an influx of hippies, adventurers, divers, and other visitors looking for off-the-beaten-path life.
Most of these immigrants came from Asia, Europe, and the United States. They brought with them their culinary styles, cuisines, and traditions. The new chefs blended local ingredients and those from their homelands to make inventive dishes, salads, sauces, and cocktails.
The 2010s to Date
Since the arrival of New Yorkers, Tulum might have lost part of its allure as a wild jungle, but it has gained a recognition has a boho-chic paradise. This was partly fueled by recognition by Instagram influencers, fashion gurus, magazines, and celebrities.
In other words, Tulum became the Bali of Mexican Carribean, but only much more affordable. With this tag came upscale hotels, boutique restaurants, and 5-star resorts, all trying to cater to visitors and locals alike.
Master chefs from Europe, the US, Mexico City, South America, and other parts of the world have all been welcomed to Tulum to showcase their recipes. And, as they say, the rest is history!