Traditional Restaurants and the Food of "La Ruta de las Tias" in the Mexican Town of Kaua

In the small community of Kaua, in the Mexican state of Yucatan, 10 traditional restaurants cook poc chuc, a pre-Hispanic stew based on pork that visitors are calling "La ruta de las tias".

Traditional Restaurants and the Food of "La Ruta de las Tias" in the Mexican Town of Kaua
Yucatan Poc Chuc dish for 6 persons. Image and recipe: Porkesabor

In the small community of Kaua, in the Mexican state of Yucatan, 10 traditional restaurants cook poc chuc, a pre-Hispanic stew based on pork, which identifies the place that guides and visitors have called "La ruta de las tias", part of the gastronomic route to the Mexican ruins of Chichen Itza.

Given this offer, thousands of tourists traveling from Cancun, the Riviera Maya, or Tulum to Chichen Itza pass through the road that connects Valladolid with Kaua, a town divided by the Cancun-Merida federal highway. From Monday to Friday it is very quiet, but on weekends, during the vacation season, everything is transformed.

In less than 6 kilometers long, which is the length of the town of Kaua from end to end, there are 10 traditional restaurants where poc chuc is practically the only dish sold.

Long lines where people wait for more than an hour for a table to be vacated can be seen outside the restaurants, most of which were set up in family palapas, with the traditional fire pit where handmade tortillas are prepared and tomatoes, onions, and habanero peppers are roasted for the sauce.

Municipal Palace of Kaua in Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico.
Municipal Palace of Kaua in Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico.

For many years, the rivalry between the traditional cooks led them to give their restaurants names like "La tía de Kaua", "La verdadera tía de Kaua" and "La auténtica tía de Kaua", but they have been so successful that the same people who visit them began to call the place "La ruta de las tías" (the route of the aunts).

This rivalry is now a great opportunity not only for the people of Kaua but also for many communities that used to live off self-consumption and are now small agricultural producers. "They (visitors) don't want other foods, mostly poc chuc is what they ask for," Leovigilda Canul Poot, one of Kaua's famous aunts, told Efe, explaining why they only sell one dish.

At almost 80 years old and of petite build, she is 1.5 meters tall, the woman is still at the head of her traditional kitchen, helps prepare more than 20 kg of beans, and supervises that the corn used to make the tortillas is just right before going through the mill and walks around the kitchen where the poc chuc is prepared, all with a wood stove.

The traditional fire pit in the Mexican town of Kaua, Yucatan.
The traditional fire pit in the Mexican town of Kaua, Yucatan. Photo: EFE

La Ruta de las Tias: A tourist delight

In 2021 and despite the pandemic, the archaeological zone of Chichen Itza was the most visited in the entire country with more than 1.6 million domestic and foreign tourists.

The constant traffic of tourists seeking to visit one of the seven wonders of the modern world has caused colonial cities such as Valladolid to transform into a new tourist centers, where in less than an hour they can travel to archaeological sites, the pink waters of the coast, the flamingo areas or the hundreds of cenotes that characterize the Yucatan Peninsula.

Valladolid's hotel offer is constantly growing, as colonial mansions are now boutique hotels and restaurants that add to the traditional gastronomic offer, one of the main attractions of the eastern part of the state of Yucatan.

But although traditional cuisine is gaining importance, the town of Tikuch, located less than 10 minutes from Valladolid and smaller than Kaua, also raises its hand in terms of gastronomic offerings.

The restaurant "Achiote, cocina de humo" is located there, where its owner Jonathan Aguilar Cuapio assures that it is best to arrive with a reservation because the wait can take more than two hours to get a space, due to the popularity of the food and the place.

Poc chuc
Poc chuc

His specialty is huge tables with traditional dishes such as Temozón meat, Valladolid sausage, and poc chuc, served on hot stones, accompanied by xkatik and habanero chili sauces, handmade tortillas, and creole beans.

Many of the reservations this restaurant receives from foreign tourists come through its social networks and are made several months in advance.

Currently, the gastronomy of Yucatán, a product of the syncretism between Mayan and Spanish culture, is the protagonist of an intense tourism promotion campaign, "365 flavors of Yucatán", which seeks to awaken tourists' interest in learning more about one of Mexico's most representative traditional cuisines.

Other things to do in Kaua

In Kaua there are several cenotes, most of them still unexplored. One of them is the Yaax'Ek cenote, which means green star in the Mayan language, located near the main square of the municipal capital. As historical monuments are the crypts of Kaua.

Because of its proximity to the archaeological site of Chichén Itzá and the city of Valladolid, an airport was built in 1999 that provides international services. The municipality of Kaua is one of the 106 municipalities of the Mexican state of Yucatan. It is located approximately 135 km from the city of Merida (Mexican state of Yucatan), 35 km from Chichen Itza, and 10 minutes from the city of Valladolid.

On December 8, the festival in honor of the Virgin of the Conception is held, there are cowboy shows, bullfights, and folk dances. For the festivities of All Saints and the faithful departed, it is customary to place an altar in the main place of the house, where the deceased are offered the food they liked the most and the traditional Mucbil chicken, accompanied by atole de maíz nuevo, and chocolate shaken with water.

Yucatan Poc Chuc Recipe

Portions for 6 persons


3 pounds pork tenderloin medallions pounded with a meat mallet until medium-thin
¾ cup Seville bitter orange juice or 1/2 cup orange juice and 1/4 cup lime juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon dried Mexican oregano (regular oregano can be substituted)
4 whole tomatoes
3 roasted garlic cloves for the sauce
1 small red onion, cut in half
1 teaspoon chopped cilantro
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Marinate the pork with the first 5 ingredients for 1 hour. Remove the pork, rinse it with cold water and dry it. Prepare your grill, making sure it is greased and clean to prevent the pork from sticking. Preheat your grill to medium heat. Grill the pork over medium/high heat for 1 minute per side.

Chilli tomato sauce

Grill the tomatoes, garlic, and onion until they are charred. Crush with a "molcajete" (mortar and pestle) or blend in a blender. Add chopped cilantro. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve the poc chuc with the chiltomate sauce and fresh tortillas.