Published on Revue Magazine, October 2014, -article and recipes by Amalia Moreno-Damgaard. On a recent trip throughout northern Spain, I had the pleasure of tasting the most amazing food, including tapas and pintxos. Popular throughout Spain, tapas in general are snacks or bread served on small plates with a variety of toppings. The origin of tapas is unclear. Pintxos, born in the Basque country, are the cousins of tapas served specifically in that region. The main difference is that pintxos — from the Euskara language meaning pinchos in Spanish and skewers in English — are small portions of food held with small skewers. Tapas and pintxos bars are a social way of life in Spain where small groups usually gather to eat casually standing at a bar and around hightops. The term “tapear” refers to a tapas-eating and bar-touring experience allowing visitors to sample a variety of treats in different bars in one evening.
In Guatemala, bars and restaurants always accompany cocktails, wine and beer with boquitas (literary meaning little mouths), the tapa equivalent. Because of the fusion of cultures during colonial times, it is likely that this custom came to Guatemala with the Spaniards. However, just as Spanish foods were adapted to local tastes in other Latin countries, tapas became boquitas and a custom closely linked to Guatemalan culture. Boquitas vary depending on setting and occasion. At social events at home and prior to a meal, people often serve easy and light boquitas, such as poporopo (popcorn), papalinas or plataninas (artisan or commercial potato or green plantain chips), manías (Spanish peanuts), chicharrones (spicy barbecue pork cracklings) and other ready-to- eat snacks along with alcoholic drinks. At bars and restaurants, boquitas can be more elaborate and are often mini-versions of mercado (market) fast foods, casual or street fare, such as mini-tostadas (crunchy tortillas with a variety of toppings), caldo or soup (small cups of broth or soup), ceviche (seafood and vegetables marinated in citrus juice) and more.
Boquitas are also a booming business in Guatemala. Hotels, restaurants and caterers tailor boquitas to the taste and budget of customers ranging from simple and casual to more elaborate and fancy. As opposed to the U.S. norm, boquitas rarely constitute the only food at a party or gathering and usually precede the main meal. During a reception, people drink and eat a variety of boquitas from light to heavy, sweet and savory. Many “bares de mala muerte” (hole in the wall bars) in Guatemala City that have been around forever share a special boquita culture and are famous for their specialty. For my wedding celebration in Guatemala City some time ago, I hired a neighborhood boquita catering business that delivered the prettiest, most delicious and sweetest bites presented in basket trays lined with banana leaves. They were a hit! These were minireplicas
of Guatemalan popular and traditional foods like chiles rellenos (stuffed peppers), chuchitos (tamales in corn husks), rellenitos (ripe plantain dumplings), huevos con salsita (quail eggs in home-style tomato sauce) and others.
For your next gathering, I encourage you to explore Guatemalan boquitas. It will be a fun experience for you and your guests. To get you started, below I share a couple of easy yet scrumptious delights that are as pleasing to the eye as the tongue. To create a boquitas menu of your own, observe street food vendors and visit local mercados to see what foods they offer. Ask questions, make a list of easiest ones, and use your imagination to bring your boquitas to life. Stock your bar with Guatemalan beer, such as Gallo, Monte Carlo and Dorada, in addition to award-winning rum Zacapa Centenario, and let the party begin!
Tostadas are one of my family’s favorite dinners at home, especially when we have very little time to prepare a full meal. Tostadas are not only fun to prepare, but also delicious to eat. They can make dinnertime fun for kids. Set up a tostada bar and have the kids form a line and assemble their own tostadas. To make the tostadas more substantial, add store-bought rotisserie chicken, carne asada, roasted pork, or any other protein to the traditional ingredients listed in this recipe. In Guatemala, tostadas are sold on the street at sidewalk shacks, festivals, fairs, church atriums, plazas and parks. This is my healthy version, which uses baked tostadas instead of the traditional fried ones. To make boquita-size tostadas, buy either small tortillas at the market, or cut mini-tortillas according to size from larger ones using a plastic cup or round cookie cutter.
SALSITA DE TOMATE CIRUELA -Quick Plum Tomato Sauce
This delicious sauce is a staple in many Guatemalan homes, and its uses are endless. You can use it for tostadas, crispy rolled tacos, or fried or hardboiled eggs. Build the sauce further by adding other ingredients, such as celery, herbs, spices and chile peppers. Panfry the sauce in 1/2 tablespoon of canola oil for a twist in flavor.
GUACAMOL PARA TOSTADAS -Guatemalan Guacamole for Tostadas
Guacamol is what Guatemalans call the delicious simple avocado mash known in the United States as guacamole. The secret for a perfect guacamol is in the quality of the avocados. Guatemalan
avocados are thicker-skinned, rounder and darker than California avocados. The texture of a Guatemalan avocado is milky and buttery. Guatemalans often add them in chunks to soups and salads. This basic avocado purée has multiple uses in the Guatemalan kitchen as a side dish
and even as a sauce. To make a sauce, add herbs, chile peppers, water and a little olive oil. This recipe for tostadas is simple because the toppings add a lot of flavor.
To convert this recipe to a side dish for churrasco (barbecue), add ½ tablespoon of shredded onion and ½ teaspoon of crumbled oregano to the mixture.