Bellamar Akumal

Tamale for the Dead?

First of all, let’s make it clear that breaking our strictly carbless diet is inevitable but not meaningless. Tamale is an ancient Prehispanic dish with a presence that extends all over Mesoamerica and carries a vast deal of mystic and history in itself. However, the Pic or Mucbipollo is not your regular kind of tamale: is huge, is cooked differently and on a very specific and relevant celebration. That celebration is the Hanal Pixan, the Mayan  version of the Day of the Dead, and is held from October 31 to November the 2nd.

This is the time when the departed loved ones come back to celebrate the “Meal for The Souls” (translation from the Mayan Hanal Pixan). They come back with the guidance of lighted candles and incense that take them all the way to the Altar where a cross; their photograph, and of course, right at the center: a generous portion of Pib/Mucbipollo would await.


That dish name tells a whole deal of its characteristics: “Pib” is Mayan for underground. Ter, in Mayan cuisine, is commonly used as the popular one: “Cochinita Pibil” (underground cooked pork). The underground oven is dug-usually on the backyard terrain of their houses, where hot stones are placed with Ramon tree leaves on top of them. The tamale is wrapped in banana leaves, then is placed and covered with more tree leaves, and the whole thing is buried and slowly cooked. 

So, Mucbipollo, the other way we call this delight, adds a bit more with its name: “Mugbi” means “What is to be buried” and “Pollo” well,  Pollo is Chicken. Again, this is not your average tamale, as it outsizes and outlabours it.

Still, as with the rest of the tamale family, the Mucbipollo/Pib has based its core ingredients on a corn-made dough cooked with pork fat and stuffed with turkey (can be mixed with pork) meat. The rest of the ingredients are typically used in the Mayan cuisine: epazote, achiote, and in some cases, x’pelón beans.

Finally, and as a wrap, let’s give us a minute to digest (no pun intended) the enormous amount of labor and mystique that goes into one gigantic and delicious portion of this ancient tamale. So we bury away any guilt that could come from our carb autumn indulgence. 

Ask for a delicious Tamal to our yucatecan Chef

Bibliographical references:
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