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Guatemalan cuisine: A bitter taste foraged from the land




Guatemalan food at a market
Guatemalan food at a market
Eastern Mennonite University Cross Cultural Program / flickr Creative Commons

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Generally when we hear about Central America and Guatemala these days, it's about the crushing poverty that sends thousands of people risking their lives to cross the border.

But, Take Two food contributor Bill Esparza has seen a different side of the country after a culinary tour of 13 towns in Guatemala where he tried many traditional Mayan dishes.

Esparza, who writes for Los Angeles Magazine and his own blog Street Gourmet LA, says the small country has a national cuisine with regional dishes.

"The flavor profile of Guatemala is like a bitter flavor, which is not a bad thing," Esparza says. "It's one of the four flavors we should be experiencing. They have a lot of bitter herbs and vegetables." 

One of the more memorable dishes he tried was a crab soup cooked with an herb called chipilín.

"It wasn't the usual soup we're used to with lots of stock inside of it. It was a really light, clear broth, and it had this chipilín just loaded up in there — that and the crab gave it so much flavor," Esparza says, adding that a lot of the ingredients used are foraged from the land.