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Guatemalan Recipes: Beer, Tamales & Ceviche

villa bokeh ceviche

We know this sounds like you’re in Mexico, but actually, the best of these is in Guatemala. Yes, those may be fighting words, but the cuisine in Guatemala is where it’s at. These are the Guatemalan recipes for a classic, and a classic we discovered. The Michelada con Camarones, a beer cocktail with spicy shrimp, may just be the most brilliant idea of them all.

Guatemalan Cuisine

Antigua, Guatemala is essentially the same city as it was in the 18th century. You come for the ancient charm, its cobblestone city center and its volcano-framed horizon. But you end up staying for the food. Unassuming storefronts tucked away into the quiet streets lead to bustling kitchens, authentic dishes and mind-blowing aromas. If you’re lucky enough to find a spot sans tourists, the experience is even better. Cozy up to the best seat in the house (a plastic tablecloth-clad communal booth) and bask in the addictive energy of Guatemalan recipes. A local chef gracefully transforms masa flour into tortillas, to be tossed and flipped onto a hot grill with her bare hands. An ice cream menu lists off its most exotic flavors. Jalapeno banana, strawberry chipotle, Cuban tobacco and Spanish figs, marinated in a 23-year-old Guatemalan dark rum. 

It’s a cuisine (and culture) bursting with flavor, inspired by centuries of Mayan and Spanish influence. So, it’ll be hard to pick just one thing off the menu. That’s why we have three of our favorite Guatemalan recipes for you, from a beer cocktail to traditional ceviche.

Shrimp ceviche

Fresh shrimp, marinated in lime juice and spices.

Shrimp Ceviche

While we love the authenticity of Guatemala’s street snacks and bustling food vendors, we do also appreciate a fine-dining twist. And for that, you head to Villa Bokeh. The restaurant at the Villa Bokeh hotel just happens to have some of the best ceviche in the city. Served with light-as-air rice chips and juicy, marinated shrimp, here’s how to make this delectable Guatemalan recipe at home.

Ingredients

For the ceviche

1 lb large shrimp (about 10 whole shrimp), peeled and deveined
½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 3-4 limes)
10 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 red onion, finely diced
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tbsp of your favorite hot sauce, or more to taste
¼ cup blended tomato juice
Salt to taste
Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
¼ cup Cerveza Modelo
1 jalapeno, diced
1 avocado

For the rice chips

6 large rice papers
Canola oil
A pinch of smoked paprika
Flaky salt

Directions

For the Ceviche

In a pot of boiling water, blanch the shrimp for 5 minutes. Remove and shock in a bowl of water until cooled, then strain. Dice the shrimp into bite-sized pieces and set aside in a bowl.

Next, add the lime juice to the bowl, mix well, and let it marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour. After an hour, add the remaining ingredients (except for the avocado) to the marinated shrimp, and mix well. Because the shrimp is fully cooked, don’t be afraid to taste for seasoning and adjust as you go. Once the ceviche is seasoned to your liking, place it back in the fridge to marinate for an additional two hours.

For the Rice Chips

In the meantime, you can prepare the rice chips. Use a pair of scissors to cut the rice paper into quarters. In a non-stick frying pan, pour in about a ¼ inch of oil. Over high heat, gently drop in one rice paper at a time. The rice paper should cook instantly– blossoming the second it hits the heat. If it doesn’t, turn the heat up a bit and wait for the oil to get hot enough. After just a few seconds, quickly flip the rice chip onto the other side, then lift to drain excess oil. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate and sprinkle with paprika and flaky salt. Repeat this process with the remaining pieces of rice paper.

Assembly

Just before you’re ready to serve, dice your avocado and mix it into the ceviche. Serve with the fresh rice chips and extra cilantro. 

Guatemalan beer cocktail

Michelada con Camarones, a Guatemalan beer cocktail with spicy shrimp.

Michelada con Camarones (Beer Cocktail with Spicy Shrimp)

Yes, it’s as good as it sounds. Beer, shrimp and spices are simply a match made in heaven. Michelada con Camarones lands somewhere in between the best Bloody Mary you’ve ever had, and the lunch special at your favorite Mexican place. Sold yet? And if there’s one thing we love, it’s a cocktail that can pass as an appetizer. We’ve adapted this Guatemalan recipe to serve a group, so toss some four-pint mugs in the freezer, and get ready to impress.

Ingredients

16 cooked shrimp (peeled, cleaned, and deveined)
½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice, plus extra for glass rims
¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp kosher salt, plus more for garnish
1 clove garlic
½ serrano chili
Chili powder or tajin
A handful of ice
½ tbsp Maggi seasoning
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 1/2 cups clamato juice
4 cans of lager, preferably Mexican
4 cooked shrimp

Directions

After your four-pint mugs have chilled in the freezer, pour some lime juice on one plate and chili powder on another. Dip the tops of your pints in the juice, then rim them with chili powder and place them back in the freezer.

In a blender, puree the clamato juice, lime juice, orange juice, Worcestershire sauce, Maggi seasoning, pepper, salt, garlic, and serrano chili. Once combined, strain the mixture and divide it among the mugs. Fill the mugs with ice, then top each with beer. Place 4 shrimp each on 4 skewers, and place a skewer across each mug. Dust the shrimp with extra chili powder and salt, and serve.

Guatemalan tamales

Tamales Colorados, cooked in a rich sauce and traditionally wrapped in banana leaves.

Tamales Colorados

Guatemalan tamales differ from the Mexican version you may know, but the dish isn’t missing one bit of flavor. Made with corn masa and either chicken or pork filling, Guatemalan tamales are wrapped in fresh banana leaves rather than corn husks. The authentic Guatemalan recipe is traditionally smothered with a rich Recado sauce and garnished with olives and sweet peppers. And it’s not one to miss out on.

Ingredients

For the Dough

3 cups masa harina
6 cups water
½ cup of salted butter
2 tbsp salt

For the Meat Filling

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken
½ oz vegetable oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the Sauce

2 oz pumpkin seeds
2 oz sesame seeds
1 stick of cinnamon
1 cup chicken stock
9 Roma tomatoes
4 tomatillos
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow onion
3 garlic cloves
2 dried guajillo chiles
1 Mexican Pasilla pepper
2 Jalapenos, deseeded
1 oz lard

Assembly 

20 banana leaves
1 bunch of kitchen twine
1 roasted red pepper, cut into strips
10 green olives, pitted

Directions

For the Sauce

Begin by roasting your vegetables. On a foil-lined baking sheet, place the tomatoes, tomatillos, garlic, onion, dried chiles, and jalapeno in an even layer. Broil on high for about 10 minutes, or until very charred. Once roasted, cut out the stems of the guajillo chiles and remove the seeds. Place the chiles in a bowl of boiling water, and set aside to soak.

Next, in a dry skillet, toast the pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and cinnamon for a few seconds, until nutty. Place the toasted aromatics in a blender, and pulse until you have a coarse powder. Add the roasted tomatoes, garlic, onion, jalapenos, tomatillos, and rehydrated chiles to the same blender, discarding the chiles’ soaking liquid. Blend with half a cup of chicken broth, adding more liquid if necessary. You should have a thick, smooth sauce.

For the Filling

Into a large pot, strain the sauce through a fine sieve. Add the chicken and simmer for about 15 minutes to cook. 

For the Dough

In the meantime, you can get your masa dough ready. In a large pot, whisk together the masa harina and water. Bring to a boil, stirring to avoid lumps, then let simmer for 10 minutes or until thickened. Next, add the butter and salt, and continue to stir over low heat for another 10 minutes. You want your dough to have the consistency of porridge. Set aside.

Assembly

Using kitchen scissors, cut the banana leaves into 12-inch pieces. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and blanch the leaves one at a time. It should take about 45 seconds each, with the leaves completely submerged in the water. Remove and stack the leaves on a plate, covered with a damp paper towel.

When you’re ready to assemble, lay a banana leaf on a clean, flat surface. Spoon about ¾ cup of masa into the center, then top that with ¼ cup of the sauce and meat mixture. Arrange the peppers and olives to your liking in the center of the masa, and spoon a little more sauce over the top. Fold the side closest to you over the filling, and bring the farther side towards you. You should have a long, thin rectangle. Now, fold one long end under, and tap the bottom of the wrap against the surface to get the filling settled. Fold the other long end over, and set it aside. Repeat this process with the rest of the leaves and filling.

Line a large, wide pot or deep-frying pan with the tamales seam-side down, and add about an inch of water. Cover tightly and steam for an hour and a half. Let cool for a bit before serving, and enjoy.

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