My Experience Of Savoring Traditional Guatemalan Breakfast During The Family Visit
The last Sunday morning before I came to MSU my family and I decided to get together for breakfast. Since it was one of the last days that I was going to be in Guatemala we decided to make the traditional Guatemalan breakfast, the “Desayuno Chapin”.
Guatemala is a country in central America with a population of 17 million people, and every Guatemalan has the same nickname “Chapín”. It is a very small country (the size of Ohio) and, is one of the poorest countries in the world, with 60% of the population being poor, and 41% of Guatemala’s population are indigenous or from Mayan descent. These people help the diversity of Guatemalan cuisine, since thousands of years back they discovered many of the foods we eat today. Guatemala is a country which is full of culture and traditions that make us a very united country.
Many of the typical dishes we have today come from many years back when the Mayans were the only people living in Guatemalan soil. Beans, corn and coffee are some of the main ingredients found in these dishes, specially beans and corn. Guatemalan coffee is very famous around the world for its quality since the conditions it is planted in is favorable for the plant. Beans can be cooked many different ways, but the most famous ones are fried. These are mostly eaten for breakfast in a famous dish called the “Desayuno Chapín” or Guatemalan Breakfast. It is something that is eaten by anyone around the country no matter what background they come from.
The “Desayuno Chapín” is a dish that is found in any restaurant menu for breakfast, and no other breakfast in the menu gets ordered more than this dish. They are just not as wonderful as the chaos that are the beans, eggs, tortillas, cheese, and plantains all combined in a plate. This dish is not the most exotic dish you will ever try, but it is the perfect combination of indescribable flavors.
What makes this dish so unique? First of all, we have the beans, these can be refried beans or ….. Supermarkets sell ready to eat beans, but you are not Guatemalan if you don’t eat homemade beans for breakfast. Then we have the eggs. These can be scrabbled or fried, and they don’t really matter that much since they will be covered in many other ingredients. The one thing that has to be perfect in this dish are the tortillas. They are not any type of tortilla, since they are made out of corn. These could be bought from the local “señora de la esquina” or the corner lady, who sells tortillas 24/7, or made at home but they are not simple to make. The final ingredient is the plantain, which is mostly pan-fried. This is crucial to the dish since it gives a sweet touch to the dish adding to the incredible flavors I contains.
There are some ingredients that people add to their breakfast, so the dish comes together. For example, adding some chirmol so the eggs carry an acidic flavor. Or, adding some “queso fresco” or fresh cheese sprinkled over the beans to give it a savory taste. This is optional and up to the person eating the dish and this is how I like it.
It was 7:30am and the blender woke me up with its loud noise. I got up from bed and went to the kitchen to see if anyone needed help. My mom and maid had already started preparing the beans, by putting them inside a pressure cooker. A pound bag of whole beans and three cups of water, some salt to add flavor, wait for one hour and that’s it. Then blend them in a mixer, so they are very thick and look like mud. I grabbed the blender and poured it into a small container to serve the beans. While I was doing this my maid started to do the tortillas, and my mom the eggs. The tortillas need to be perfect so the dish can taste amazing.
To make these tortillas you need, corn flour (Maseca), water and salt, mix all the ingredients and you get a sticky corn dough. Then, you shape the dough by hand and cook it on a flat metal stove until it is mildly toasted. My mom made some simple scrambled eggs with some salt and pepper; I say simple, but I’ve never tried better scrambled eggs than hers since leaving Guatemala. I began to cut the plantains into small circles that look like coins and putting them to fry on a pan. These caramelized, chewy circles add a whole different flavor to the dish.
As I started to set up the table for breakfast, one of my favorite uncles arrived with his homemade chirmol. I greeted him and thanked him for the chirmol, and then he told me that it was an old recipe from my grandmother that passed away a few months back. This recipe for chirmol included: tomatoes, lime, red onion, cilantro, salt and pepper. My uncle told me, that first you had to char tomatoes, then chop the cilantro and onion, and finally combine all the ingredients in a bowl with the lime juice. I was very impressed of the simplicity of the recipe, and thought it was not going to be that good, but that chirmol was the best I’ve ever tried. I finished setting up the table with my mom and the it looked beautiful, it was full of color and incredible smells.
The rest of my family came in and we started to eat breakfast. Everyone served what they liked in their plate and started talking about how I was going to be missed in Guatemala and everyone gave me tips on living alone. I served my plate, and this is how I like my “Desayuno Chapín”, first of all three full spoons of beans, then some egg, three tortillas, five pieces of plantain, a bit of chirmol on top of the egg, and finally two slices of “queso fresco”. To top it all off a cup of the best coffee in the world, Guatemalan coffee from the highlands of Huehuetenango (a region in Guatemala). Even though this dish may seem simple, the combination of flavors it contains scream to be mixed up, and then licked clean off the plate.
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