If there was one item I was absolutely going to have in Honduras, it was going to be a Baleadas. Looking much like a quesadilla, this calorie bomb is one of the ubiquitous fast breakfasts foods in the land where breakfasts would more likely send me right back to bed.
And even though the Missus ate a Baleadas at Momo's, I wanted to try one from a "Caseta" (food stand). And this pretty busy one seemed to fill the bill:
After a glance at the three item "menu" was there any question what I'd be ordering? "Full toys" of course!
The Missus was kind enough to do the ordering, while I took photos. Like a typical quesadilla, the base of the baleadas is a flour tortilla.... a very large flour tortilla, which is heated on the comal (griddle):
First up is a large smear of frijoles (beans - in this case black beans), a smear of mantequilla, which in this case is not butter or lard, but a very rich sour cream. Next up the huevos (eggs), and then a huge ladle of chorizo, swimming in a pan of grease. Everything is topped off with avocado and a good amount of grated queso duro (a hard white cheese). I wish I could have a photo for you, but everything happened so quickly, that I couldn't keep up.
I was also going to take a picture of the Baleadas being consumed, but the grease just dripped down my arm off my elbows. It is without a doubt a calorie-cholesterol bomb, and like many of that category, it was pretty tasty; salty, greasy, messy, mildy spicy.......... I didn't eat until dinner, and I still wasn't very hungry.
Our shuttle back to Antigua had only three passengers. The Missus and I, and a young lady from Canada who was teaching English in Honduras. During our conversation the young lady mentioned that everyone of the foreign teachers have gained weight, some up to thirty pounds while in Honduras. When we asked how this happened, her answer was short and to the point..... "Baleadas"!
There was of course one reason for our visit to Copan Ruinas. It was to visit the Mayan ruins of Copan. There was just so much, that I'll do it as a "two-parter ". Because of the length, I'll do it in two parts, but I'll start this post with Comedor Ikchel, a little Comedor we noticed on a side street away from Parque Central.
When we arrived, the rustic looking comedor was empty.
The reason we chose this comedor was the menu, which was small, and interesting in spite of the over-abundance of Espaguetis (spaghetti) and Hamburguesa type dishes.
We placed our order, and I requested some "Encurtido", except this itme the lady running the place had no clue as to what I was saying. Finally, with some hand signals, and the word cebollas (onions), and some laughter, she figured out what these bozo customers were requesting, and a nice refreshing bowl of pickled onions, peppers, and carrots made its way to the table.
As we had learned from our meal at Las Tejitas, many of the dishes are made from scratch to order. And from this experience, it is the same with Almuerzos (lunch). We sat back, and watched the Honduran soap opera on the tube, while we waited for our meal. About forty-five minutes later, our meals arrived.
The Missus had trumped me, and ordered what I had been looking at, the Pollo a la Cerveza, chicken braised in beer. And it was a fine looking piece of dark meat chicken.
The chicken was full of flavor derived from the oregano, onions, cilantro, celery, and peppers used in cooking. It was without a doubt a "rice" dish. As is typical with these type of lunches, the multi starch trio of rice, fries, and tortillas were present and accounted for.
I had ordered the Pollo a la Plancha, which is usually a grilled chicken, but in this base a sauteed piece of white meat chicken.
It was pretty dry, and the sauce tasted much like bottled American BBQ sauce. Strangely, the Missus liked this....or more likely knew I enjoyed the other dish more, and gave me what She ordered.
Along with a large bottle of water the damage came out to about $10/US. That's it for the food on this post.
Copan Ruinas Archaelogical Park Part 1 - The Museum of Sculpture:
Having gotten our feet wet with a visit to the Museo Regional de Arqueología Maya, and having done some research the Missus and I knew that having a guide would be a necessity. Great Mayan scholar and Archaeologist Sylvanus Morley once called the Ruins at Copan the "Athens of the New World". While dwarfed in size by grand Mayan sites, such as Tikal, the ruins at Copan manages to squeeze in some of the most intricate and fascinating Mayan sculptures.
After paying our admission, and hiring an English speaking guide, a former school teacher with ten years of experience as a guide, who turned out to be very knowledgable. We were on our way.
It was decided that we should first visit the Museum of Sculpture, just across the parking lot, and we were so glad we did. To enter the Museum, you enter through the mouth of a serpent into a dark tunnel, which represents Xibalba the "underworld". You walk out of the tunnel, and the first thing that grabs you is the reproduction of the Rosalila Temple at the center of the museum, it is quite a site to behold. And to think, this temple was built, only to be buried by the next ruler, who would build on top of former temples.
From here, it's mostly photos, of the displays, along with signs that provide information about the various pieces.
This wonderfully intricate sculpture was one of my favorites. The amount of detail was amazing, and I can only imagine how surprised and overjoyed the Archaelogists were at finding this treasure.
This sculpture is called "The Scribe" and I was told it represents the God which protects the Mayan scribes and artists who were held in high esteem in Mayan civilization.
You can see the paintbrush in the Scribe's right hand....
The Missus's favorite sculpture in the museum was the "Old Man". It is believed that this was a representation of Pauahtun, the Elders who "held up the skies".
The Missus spent a good amount of time in front of this sculpture. I guess it "spoke to Her" in some way.....
In fact, after our morning touring the ruins, we returned to the Sculpture Museum, so the Missus could look at this scultpure one more time.....
I'll cover the ruins in our next Honduras post. For those who hung on until the end, thanks so much!
After lunch at Churrasqueria Mom's on the day of arrival in Copan Ruinas, the Missus decided that She just HAD to see Los Sapos ("The Toads"),an ancient site of rock carvings where women gave birth. Toads were a fertility symbol, and there are supposedly carvings of toads. I say supposedly, because after walking 8 kilometers in the hot mid-day sun, with the locals staring at the crazy tourists who were actually walking the hot, dusty trail of their own free will, uphill to Hacienda San Lucas,and paying admission, when we walked the trail to Los Sapos, the packs of dogs lying around the ruins spooked the Missus. Here's the photo of Los Sapos, you can see a few of the dogs in the right hand side of the photo:
Which meant we turned around and headed back the way we came. Boy did I need a nap in the air conditioned comfort for our room. After a short nap, and about ten liters of water, I awoke feeling much better. Before dinner we headed off to the Museo Regional de Arqueología Maya, located at the West end of Parque Central.
The museum is small, but in our opinion well worth visiting, as it laid a nice foundation for us before our visit to the Ruins.
There are a few very interesting pieces in the museum, of special interest are some of the original altars from the Ruins.
Of particular interest are the beautifully carved " eccentric flints". We were told that the flints were used for ceremonial bloodletting. I readily admit there's a hidden fourteen year old inside of me whose undivided attention can be bought with the simple mention of blood letting and human sacrifice.......
If I recall, admission is $2/US.
Of course all of the bloodletting and altars got me pretty hungry. One thing good about the town of Copan Ruinas is that it is small and easy to get from place to placer. We started walking around looking for something to eat. Places like Comedor Mary are pretty well known in the guidebooks, but we were uninspired by the menu of Hamburguesa and pupusas, and places like Jim's Pizza just would not do. Finally, on the same street as the very popular Carnitas Nia Lola, we saw this doorway.
Among the usual suspects were some interesting dishes that we hadn't seen on any of the other menus in Copan Ruinas. None of the dishes exceeded 100 Lempiras (at the time of our visit it was 18.5 Lempiras to a dollar US).
We walked down the green hallway.....
And stepped into the dining room we surprising a family..... two young woman, a boyfriend, and the girl's mother, watching a soap opera on television. Take my word for it, I can recognize a soap opera in any language instantly. Other than that the dining room was totally empty......
Smiles all around, we were led to our table. And though the bargain basement Christmas garland, and the carved wooden lobsters and crabs (Copan Ruinas is nowhere near the ocean) gave me a slight pause, we both felt that we had made a good choice. We ended up placing our order, to the glee of the older woman, who marched into the kitchen. Suddenly, we could hear the clang of pots and pans, chopping, and a noise of a blender, as if an army of cooks were at work! It was an amazing din! All for us, two customers.....
Being used to how things went by now, we knew that this would take a while, and not in a bad way. To the contrary, we were somewhat comforted that there was a decision, at least in our case, to do it right. If the dish would take an hour to prepare correctly, by God they'd take an hour! All the better to have a beer....
And maybe take the time out to read the label on the various sauces provided.
Luckily, I recalled one of the few words I had learned... "encurtido". And this time, the young lady could understand my mumblings. And soon a huge container of pickled veggies made its way to our table.
Man was this good! This was the best encurtido we had on this trip. The veggies were crisp, with a nice balance of salty, sweet, and sour. Secondly, there was a good variety of peppers, onions, carrots, and even pacaya in the encurtido.
Eventually, our dishes made their way to the table. I had ordered the Carne Mechada.
Along with the routine green salad and the three headed carb attack (papas fritas, tortillas, and rice), the beef was a pretty hefty sized slice of what appeared to be flank steak sauteed in a tangy tomato and oregano based sauce. The beef was on the chewy side, but not unpleasantly so, and this was not short on flavor.
The Missus ordered what turned out to be possibly the best dish of our trip; Pollo en Semilla de Ayote:
It was the sauce that made this a really good dish, a complex combination of nutty, tangy, and herbaceous flavors. It was a simply fricasseed chicken thigh wrapped in a wonderful sauce. I believe that this was what all the commotion in the kitchen was about.
The Missus also wanted to order the Pacaya Capeada, since Pacaya was in season. Pacaya is the male inflorescense of the Chamaedorea tepejilote a species of palm.
Egg battered, and smothered in a tomato based sauce, we've had a similar dish before. This was very much like that dishr. The only difference was that the Pacaya was less bitter, and much more tender. I'm thinking that the version I had in San Diego was made with bottled pacaya.
With homey service, and food well worth the wait, and whether it was the privacy, or whatever, this was the meal we remember the most most on our trip. And there was one more thing we'll remember. You have to understand that in many places in Honduras, the plumbing system is not up to Western standards. That would mean that you don't flush the toilet paper, you discard it in the trash can next to the commode. Unfortunately, the water closet, and it was, a closet that had no ventilation....I don't think I need to say anything more. Plus the, toilet didn't work, so you had to grab a bucket from the sink outside the closet and use gravity. After returning to our table, the Missus said She needed to go to the commode. I tried to convince Her otherwise, but failed. The Missus walked up to the restroom, opened the door, and recoiled as if someone smacked Her. I warned Her........
Water closet notwithstanding, that Pollo en Semilla de Ayote was a heck of dish!
For those who read this to the end, I thank you for hanging in there!
There would be no birds singing "ooo-wee" on this Antigua morning, as we woke at 4am for our 5am shuttle to the town of Copan Ruinas in Honduras. Seven hours later we arrived. Dropped off on a side street, and walking to the inevitable Parque Central, we were both overcome with the heat (though not nearly as hot as Cambodia), and charmed by this little town of seven thousand. Yes, tourism is big business here, and hotels line the streets in every direction from Parque Central.
But it's the locals that add color. At Parque Central, you see tourists milling with the local "cowboys" making for an entertaining, and somewhat surreal experience.
Our first mission upon arriving was finding a place to sleep, which was accomplished quickly. The second was getting some Lempiras, Honduran currency. We entered one of the banks across the street from Parque Central....and to our surprise, we found that they didn't change Quetzales (Guatemalan currency) for Lempiras! In fact, only one location in Copan "legally" made these exchanges. But luckily, as we've found in our travels, everyone will most willingly exchange dollars. One bonus was that the bank always seemed to have its A/C turned to "freeze". In the future, when it was getting a bit too hot, we'd often head off to the bank to exchange cash, and cool off. While I was in line, the Missus walked on over to the three guards, each of them armed with shotguns, and started a conversation of sorts. By now She had the rule of decent eats down....all the police officers and security guards know where to grab decent eats. By the time I stuffed the wad of Lempiras in my pocket, the exchange rate was somewhere about 18.5 Lempiras to a dollar, the Missus had gotten a name and directions to our lunch spot.
A place called "Momo's". As we arrived, it turned out that Momo's was a Churrasqueria, basically a steakhouse.
The seating was "al fresco" on a covered porch like area. And the very nice...and patient young man who served us was a joy. We undoubtedly amused him........
The place was empty, and we sat near the rear of the porch area. It looked like the family lived in the huts at the back of the restaurant, and there were tropical birds in cages enjoying the shade.
The menu at Momo's is mostly comprised of Desayunos (breakfast items), Churrascos (grilled meats), Pinchos (Kabobs), and Parrilladas (combination plates).
After looking over the menu, I went with the Puyazo, a basic grilled beef. (145 Lps - $6.50):
Looking at the meat, I thought it was going to be rather tough, but I was pleasantly surprised. The meat was tender, with great flavor, undoubtedly grass fed. The meat had been seasoned with salt, oregano, and other herbs. The Missus had a taste and declared it delicious. My meal came with the usual sides, and tons of tortillas.
The Missus started with a Licuados(think smoothie). And when She requested a "mixto" of Sandia and Pina, they gladly made it.
Now the Missus wasn't too hungry, and decided to order something "small". Thinking that it would be somthing light, She went with the Honduran calorie bomb called a Baleadas. She ordered the Baleadas con Frijoles, Queso, y Crema, thinking that the non-meat version would be fairly small.
This was as wide as Her forearm. Baleadas are similar to quesadillas, and is a typical breakfast dish. This one was 15Lps - less than two bucks.
We found that huge breakfasts are the norm here. I saw a young man eating a humongous plate of food....the Desayunos con carne. Check out what was on the plate:
I'm glad that I had a pretty hefty lunch....the Missus had one of Her typical "death marches" in store for me after lunch!
Apparently, the Missus had enjoyed this meal. On our last night in Copan Ruinas, the Missus choseMomo's. So we found ourselves back, with the same nice young man serving us.
The Missus again started with Her Licuados....the young man had remembered us (who could forget), and asked Her, "mixto?" Which is what She got.....
The Missus decided on the Filete Mignon (150 Lps - $8.50):
It wasn't much to look at, and the Papas Fritas (french fries) were and after-thought, but it had decent flavor.
I went with the Churrasco Jalapeno (130 Lps - $6):
This large piece of skirt was smothered in a cheese-cream sauce. There was a whole roasted jalapeno pepper partially hidden in the sauce. Though I enjoyed the Puyazo better, this sure wasn't short on flavor. Of course, there were tortillas provided.
I had thought an order of Plantano Frito (Fried Plantains) would make a nice pseudo-dessert.
For the life of us, we could not figure out what the queso (cheese) and frijoles(beans) were for. I tried eating the sweet plantanos with the queso and frijoles and didn't find that a pleasant experience.
Overall, we enjoyed our meals at Momo's. It also gave us a clue as to how substantial meals are. It is not cheap by Honduran standards. We saw the young man one evening when headed back to our hotel, he gave us a shy smile and a wave. We were enjoying our time in Copan Ruinas......