The Guatemalan comedor is without a doubt one of the country’s greatest assets, and something we in the developed world should strive to emulate. One of the reasons it’s so cheap to travel in Guatemala is the prevalence of the magnificent comedor, which combines the deliciousness of a food truck, the comfort of a sit-down restaurant, and the speed of a fast food joint. Found in both big cities and small towns, these simple set-menu diners are without a doubt one of the most ubiquitous parts of Guatemala. When you enter a comedor, seat yourself or walk right up to an employee to ask what’s on the menu. Most spots will offer three or more options, all of which include coffee, atol, or a juice drink called fresco, and a nice big basket of tortillas, of course. Prices range from Q12-25, but most places charge Q15. When done, say muchas gracias, and then flag down the waiter/waitress to pay your bill. Otherwise you can wait all day, but you’ll never get your check. The following is a list of the most common dishes you’ll find in comedores across Guatemala.
Huevos revueltos/estrellados/fritos:Scrambled/over easy/fried eggs
Chile relleno: Bell peppers stuffed with meat or veggies and fried in egg
Pepián (de pollo): Meat and veggie stew in a thick, mildly spicy cinnamon sauce
Tamales (de chipilín/frijol): Corn dough in plantain leaves with chipilín/black beans
Chuchitos: Smaller, denser tamales with red sauce inside wrapped in corn husks
Carne asada: Thin strip of grilled meat
Pollo encebollado/guisado: Chicken with an onion sauce/thick stew
Pollo dorado: Fried chicken
Jocón: Chicken stewed in a green sauce
Milanesa: Country-fried steak
Pulique: Meat and vegetable stew
Hilachas: Shredded beef in a red sauce
Carne adobada: Marinated beef or pork
Plátanos fritos: Fried plantains
Queso fresco: Fresh cheese
Tortas de carne: Meat pie
Caldo de gallina/pata/res: Chicken/pig-foot/beef stew
Suban-ik: Spicy meat and vegetable stew from Chimaltenango
Paches: Potato tamales
Recado: Flavorful thick sauce
Flor de izote: Bitter white flower prepared with chicken in a recado
Escabeche: Spicy mix of hot peppers, carrots, and onions in vinegar
Panza: Cow stomach
Chirmol: Diced tomato, cilantro, onion, and bell and hot peppers
Chuleta: Breaded and pan-fried pork
Shukos: Guatemalan hot dogs that include mayonnaise, ketchup, and guacamole
In addition to these typical meals, you may get the opportunity to sample some of Guatemala’s finest produce, much of which may be foreign to those used to four distinct seasons. The following are some of the most interesting fruits and veggies you might encounter in Guatemala.
Nance: A small, sugary yellow fruit (pronounced Nahn-say)
Jocote: A fruit eaten raw (green) with lime, salt, and consomé or ripened (red) by itself.
Licha: Small, spiny red pitted fruit that tastes like a grape
Zapote: Furry brown avocado-shaped fruit with rich orange fleshy interior
Cushín: Long green seed pod with soft white flesh inside, also known as paterna
Apazote: A savory herb often used in beans.
Huisquil: Spiny, starchy vegetable somewhere between a potato and squash
Guicoy: Small, green pumpkin-like gourd.
Pacaya: A species of palm tree flower that is incredibly bitter unless cooked properly
Coyol: Baby coconut seed eaten with honey for dessert – careful, coyol is slang for testicles
Flor de Izote: Another more savory species of white palm tree flower
Pitaya: Dragon fruit
As they say in Guatemala, buen provhecho! Enjoy your meal!