A couple of weeks ago, I descended a dark set of stairs to the bright basement of L’Atelier des Chefs on Wigmore Street to attend a Guatemalan Cooking Masterclass organised jointly by the Guatemala Tourist Board (INGUAT) and Branding Latin America. When I first read the invitation to this event, I realised that apart from knowing that Guatemala is in Central America….well, yeah, I knew nothing about Guatemala. I’d heard of Guatemalan worry dolls and that’s about it. What did they eat? No freaking clue. This was my opportunity to learn more.
The evening was organised as first a small travel fair with tour operators and hotels at mini stands followed by the cooking masterclass, which gave a few people the chance to cook and the rest of us a chance to watch the cookery demonstrations. Humberto Dominguez is executive chef of Kacao in Guatemala City and is also currently Ambassador of Guatemalan Gastronomy and he had flown into London for this event. He had developed all the recipes for the dishes we’d try that evening.
Tamarind Chicken was sticky with the addition of orange juice and honey and wasn’t at all what I expected of Guatemalan food.
The next dish was more in line with what I was expecting. Fish Ceviche is a dish that started in Peru but has since spread to much of South and Central America. I was told that Guatemalan ceviche includes tomatoes, something you wouldn’t usually find in Peru. You know what – it turns out I love the sour tang of ceviche and I desperately need more.
Fillet Steak in Coffee Sauce was not at all what I expected as it was creamy! Luckily, it was utterly delicious with all that sauce soaked up with white rice.
A Steak Salad had flavours not dissimilar to those of a Thai steak salad though this one was chopped up. It was certainly refreshing and like the rest of the dishes that night, easy to prepare at home.
I love that the final savoury dish shared with us was Guatemalan Hot Dogs, clearly a popular everyday snack. They are indeed regular hot dogs in buns but typical Guatemalan toppings include shredded boiled white cabbage, mayonnaise, avocado and a hot sauce made of chilies, onions and coriander. I loaded mine up with everything.
For dessert, there was rice pudding (and it turns out Guatemalan rice pudding is not much different from any other creamy rice pudding) and plenty of Guatemalan sweets. I’ve certainly never encountered sweets like this. Like most other Central and South American sweets, they are extremely sweet. That’s not to say they were bad! I loved the sugary red ball that was a tamarind candy – the tooth achingly sweet outer layer gave way to a tart tamarind centre complete with seed!
It was a fun evening and a good introduction to what to expect from Guatemalan cuisine; I’ll certainly be reading up more on it as well as the cuisine of its neighbouring countries. Thank you very much to the Guatemala Tourist Board (INGUAT) and Branding Latin America for the invitation. If you’d like a copy of any of these recipes, give me a shout and I’ll be happy to email them to you.