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Red, Earthen Pig: Cochinita Pibil

Red, Earthen Pig: Cochinita Pibil

The rub must be ground finely for Cochinita Pibil

Katie Kwan | Chef's Blade

My friend Arcenia, who’s family comes from Mexico, calls me “cochina” all the time. It’s a term of endearment, but, as it directly translates to the word “pig”, I am only mildly flattered.

I think she calls me cochina because I talk about things like gas, and fiber, and wearing clothes that I pick off my floor in the morning. I launch diatribes her way, punctuated by derogatory remarks. We’re still good friends.

Therefore, I thought it more than appropriate to tackle Cochinita Pibil with Arcenia. Cochinita Pibil comes from the Yucatan. “Cochinita” means “little pig”, while Pibil means “earthen”.

Originally, the Yucatecans buried suckling pigs, flavored with oranges, garlic, cloves, allspice, and annatto seeds, in the ground to cook. The slow earthen roast makes for an incredibly tender texture. The size of a suckling pig is a widely debated topic, at least for my father. He claims that in Hong Kong suckling pigs are under 7 lbs., whereas in the states they stick to a more literal definition, and deem “suckling” pigs all those who are still on the teet. They can be up to 30 lbs.

In any case, Cochinita Pibil is a vibrantly red dish, powered by annatto seeds, which come from the achiote tree. Their battle red color is used across Central America for cooking, dyeing clothes, making lipstick, and painting stop signs. They are the type of multi-purpose stock items that I would surely bring to a bomb shelter if there was such a happenstance. That, and coconut oil.


The final product: Cochinita Pibil

I would use them to write in my ledger.

The dish gained a minor following when film director Robert Rodriguez featured it in his film, “Once Upon a Time” in Mexico. In it, Johnny Depp plays a weird man who vows to restore balance and order to Mexico by shooting all the chefs who prepare this dish too well.

Robert Rodriguez is so fond of Puerco Pibil that he films a little cooking show of his own, published as a DVD add on for the film. He says that his approach to cooking is to hone a few dishes very well. For him, this dish is one of them.

I have made my own version of the recipe:

1. Ingredients and Utensils
2. Recipe

For Ingredients and Utensils, go to the next page >>