This tip was taught to me by a restaurant owner on a trip to the Mayan ruins of Uxmal, near where the town of Ticul is located. She explained that the inner, smooth side of the banana leaf always faces the filling, with the ridged side on the outside. The leaves may be omitted if necessary, but the flavor and presentation will not be as authentic.
- 2 ounces ( ½ brick ) achiote paste
- ¼ cup bitter orange juice, or use half sweet orange juice and half vinegar
- 1 large garlic clove, peeled and finely minced
- 1 ½ tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon toasted cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 chicken, cut into serving pieces
- 4 banana leaves, passed over a burner to soften
- 1 tablespoon corn oil
- 3 roma tomatoes, finely chopped.
- 1 small green bell pepper, chopped
- 1 medium onion, chopped
Combine the first 6 ingredients in a large, non-reactive bowl, mixing thoroughly to dissolve the achiote paste. Place the chicken pieces in the bowl and marinate overnight, refrigerated.
Preheat the oven to 350º; lightly grease a large baking dish, about 8″ x 11.” Place two of the banana leaves side by side lengthwise (they will overlap slightly) and two widthwise.
Place the chicken and its marinade on top of the leaves in the baking dish.
Heat the oil, saute the tomatoes, pepper and onion until the onion is transparent and spread this mixture over the chicken.
Fold the leaves over the chicken, cover with aluminum foil, and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 15 minutes.