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Recipes from a Culinary Expedition

By David Sterling

With over 275 authentic, easy-to-follow recipes, lively stories of their origins, and luscious illustrations, here is the definitive work on the foods of Yucatán, one of the world’s great regional cuisines.

in Art, History, and Culture of the Western Hemisphere

March 2014


33% website discount price


9.5 x 11 | 576 pp. | 3 maps, 36 figures, 385 b&w and color illustrations

ISBN: 978-0-292-73581-1

Look Inside

The Yucatán Peninsula is home to one of the world's great regional cuisines. With a foundation of native Maya dishes made from fresh local ingredients, it shares much of the same pantry of ingredients and many culinary practices with the rest of Mexico. Yet, due to its isolated peninsular location, it was also in a unique position to absorb the foods and flavors of such far-flung regions as Spain and Portugal, France, Holland, Lebanon and the Levant, Cuba and the Caribbean, and Africa. In recent years, gourmet magazines and celebrity chefs have popularized certain Yucatecan dishes and ingredients, such as Sopa de lima and achiote, and global gastronomes have made the pilgrimage to Yucatán to tantalize their taste buds with smoky pit barbecues, citrus-based pickles, and fiery chiles. But until now, the full depth and richness of this cuisine has remained little understood beyond Yucatán's borders.

An internationally recognized authority on Yucatecan cuisine, chef David Sterling takes you on a gastronomic tour of the peninsula in this unique cookbook, Yucatán: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition. Presenting the food in the places where it’s savored, Sterling begins in jungle towns where Mayas concoct age-old recipes with a few simple ingredients they grow themselves. He travels over a thousand miles along the broad Yucatán coast to sample a bounty of seafood; shares “the people’s food”at bakeries, chicharronerías, street vendors, home restaurants, and cantinas; and highlights the cooking of the peninsula’s three largest cities—Campeche, Mérida, and Valladolid—as well as a variety of pueblos noted for signature dishes. Throughout the journey, Sterling serves up over 275 authentic, thoroughly tested recipes that will appeal to both novice and professional cooks. He also discusses pantry staples and basic cooking techniques and offers substitutions for local ingredients that may be hard to find elsewhere. Profusely illustrated and spiced with lively stories of the region’s people and places, Yucatán: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition is the long-awaited definitive work on this distinctive cuisine.

  • Acknowledgments
  • How to Use This Book
  • Introduction: ¡Explora Yucatán!
  • Part One: The Yucatecan Market
    • Overview
    • Index to Ingredients
  • Part Two: The Maya Heartland
    • A Natural Continuum
    • The Monte
    • The Milpa
    • The Solar
  • Part Three: Fertile Shores
    • Celestún
    • Chunchucmil and the Salinas de Celestún
    • Sisal
    • Progreso
    • San Crisanto
    • San Felipe
    • Tulum
    • Punta Allen
  • Part Four: The People's Food
    • La Panadería
    • La Chicharronería
    • Comida Callejera
    • La Cocina Económica
    • La Cantina and el Restaurante Familiar
  • Part Five: The Urban Matrix
    • Empire Building
    • Campeche
    • Mérida
    • Valladolid
  • Part Six: The Pueblos
    • Felipe Carrillo Puerto: Nectar of the Gods
    • Hunucmá: Buried Foods
    • Kanasín: Nexus of Yucatecan Tacos
    • Lerma: A Feast for Kings
    • Maní: Inquisition to Transformation
    • Motul: Garnishing History
    • Oxcutzcab: Land of Oranges and Chocolate
    • Pomuch: Villa of Bakeries
    • Temozón: The Ethereal Essence of Smoke
    • Tetiz: The Sweetest of Pueblos
    • Tizimín: Cowboy Country
  • Pantry Staples
    • A Lexicon of Yucatecan Recados
    • Frijoles / Bu’ul / Beans
    • Salsas / Sauces
    • Other Staples
  • Basic Techniques
    • About Maiz and Masa
    • Arroz / Rice
    • Basic Preparation Techniques
    • Working with Chiles
    • Preparing Meats for Cooking
    • The Ethereal Essence of Smoke
  • Resources
  • Bibliography
  • Photo and Drawing Credits
  • Index to Recipes
  • General Index

Mérida, Yucatán, México

Sterling is founder, proprietor, chef de cuisine, and teacher at Los Dos Cooking School, the first culinary institute in Mexico devoted exclusively to Yucatecan cooking. His work at Los Dos has been featured on The Martha Stewart Show (“Martha in Mexico”) and Mexico: One Plate at a Time with Rick Bayless. He’s also been acclaimed by the New York Times, the New Yorker, Gourmet, Travel & Leisure, Globe & Mail, ELLE, National Geographic Traveler, Condé Nast Traveler, and Frommer’s.

"I know of no other book in print today, or in the past for that matter, that explains so meticulously the ingredients and history of the foods of Yucatán."
―Diana Kennedy

"This is the Yucatán from A to Z."
―William Grimes, New York Times Sunday Book Review

"Endorsements from Mexican culinary expert Diana Kennedy come few and far between, so Sterling, the founder of Los Dos Cooking School, must know what he’s doing. At 500-plus pages and coffee-table size, the book is sure to be a long-term, definitive reference guide."
Washington Post

“Lastly, Yucatán is published by the University of Texas Press, which in 2010 published the monumental Diana Kennedy work Oaxaca al Gusto: An Infinite Gastronomy. The UT Press deserves applause for the extraordinary care and quality of these books. It is one thing just to get matters of culinary importance down on paper. It’s another to have it produced with such elegance and beauty. So, if you buy Yucatán and Oaxaca too, you’ll be sending a message that these efforts are relished. That would be a third impact.”
―Cooking by the Book

"Starting the book knowing nothing about the Yucatan, except that it looks like a nice place to go on vacation, I quickly realized I was in the hands of an expert. I was easily drawn into the narrative of this ideologically isolated peninsula, even when that narrative had nothing whatsoever to do with food. History, geography, biology – you’ll get a little bit of everything with this book. Of course, eventually it all ties back to food and cooking, and I don’t know if there was a single recipe in this book that I wasn’t interested in trying."
―Katie at the Kitchen Door

“David Sterling has possibly penned the reader of the year with his six-and-a-half pound, 576-page “Yucatán: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition,” surely the most authoritative tome that land’s cuisine has ever seen.”
―Star News Online

"Sterling does a great job as a culinary travel guide, offering the inside scoop on the people, places, and ingredients of one of the world’s greatest regional cuisines."
―Dave DeWitt, Albuquerque's Local IQ 

"David Sterling must have taken great joy in putting this book together, for it reflects tireless research that was surely driven by an intense desire to learn as much as possible about the cuisine and the culinary traditions of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula."

"Sterling's 2014 book seems destined to mark him as the authority on the foodways of Yucatán."
―Bob Townsend, Austin American-Statesman

"David Sterling has possibly penned the reader of the year with his six-and-a-half pound, 576-page Yucatán: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition, surely the most authoritative tome that land’s cuisine has ever seen."
―Star News Online

Sterling, Yucatán: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition

Chef David Sterling discusses the fiercely independent Yucatán region and brings its unique cuisine to your kitchen.
Series: The University of Texas Press Podcasts

Author: | Date: Thursday, 06 February 2014 | Duration: 16:15

With over 275 authentic, easy-to-follow recipes, lively stories of their origins, and luscious illustrations, here is the definitive work on the foods of Yucatán, one of the world’s great regional cuisines.

Get the book.

A market tour with Chef David Sterling - from 'The Martha Stewart Show' via www.los-dos.com.

The Treasures of Yucatán Cuisine with Chef David Sterling - from the PBS series 'Mexico: One Plate at a Time' via www.los-dos.com.