Guatemalan Cuisine - 2nd quarter report
I hate long threads and the other was starting to get longer than I could tolerate.
Guatemala cuisine revisited
So this thread will be about the next three months of my year-long visit.
The first reply sums up my introduction to the cuisine in the first three months ... the good, the bad, the mediocre.
The next reply has links to a fabulous blog about breakfast food in Guatemala. It is true to what I have observed and has lots of information I never knew such as the more than a dozen different atoles and many different tamales.
Coming up in August, I'll be going to Spanish lanuguage school and staying with a host family for two weeks in Antigua. It will be interesting to see how average city folks eat.
This probably ends my 2nd quarter report. Time flies when you are having fun. An icing on the cake was a border official screwed up my papers, so instead of an easy extension, I was forced to exit and re-enter the country.
It wasn’t all bad … sort of … though if I never see the frontera again it will be too soon.
I couldn’t take my camera or anything else that might catch the eye of one of the border officials lest they claim it as their own. They tried to take the plastic water jugs for the radiator.
On the trip from Escuintla to the border, mid-way there are lots of pineapple and other fruit stands. At certain times of the year, big orange oil drums of campache, a fermented pineapple drink are for sale. This wasn’t the year for that, but there were lots of pineapple stands.
Below is a picture of some of the fruit we bought.
The round brown things are chicos. These are fabulous and NOT good travelers because they bruise easily. They have the taste and texture of exquisite ripe pears. It is also called a sapodilla. While I’ve had them in the US, this was a totally different experience. Here’s a better photo with lots of info on this site
The small red, yellow and green fruits are jocotes which I had when I first entered the country. I’ve been reading there are two varieties, one in the rainy season and the other in the dry season. These are rainy season jocotes. It is mostly seed and you suck the flesh from the seed. The seed seen in the center of the jocote photo. The taste is a little like a citrusy plum with a hint of tannin from the skin.
The large purple and yellow fruits are cacoa … no kidding … real cacoa. I haven’t opened them yet.
What better way to end my 2nd quarter report than with a photo of the abused fruit of the coffee tree … the evil Nescafe.
BAD DUCKS, BAD DUCKS ...Whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do, when they come for you?
There are often baby chickens wandering around the house. They are supposed to stay in the laundry room, but occasionally take off to view the larger world of the house. Sometimes I have to shut the bedroom door as I have told them ‘I’m not your mama”
They see anyone … and off they go to follow.
I never understood exactly why we kept them in the house until today. There was a dead baby chick and when I asked what happened I was told “patos”
We have lots of chickens, an obnoxious rooster and about 20 ducks.
“Really? Patos?” I said in surprise
“Si, los patos es malo”
While I feel bad for the pollito which was literally pecked to death by ducks … and I thought that was just an expression … I find it a little hilarious that there’s a gang of ‘bad ducks’ in our back yard. Well, they will have their day … duck tamales, duck pepian, etc.
Speaking of poultry, yesterday was my birthday, and a chicken was sent to heaven for my celebratory dinner. That’s a photo of it in its last hours below.
To be accurate it was a gallina criolla, not a pollo. There are a lot of different categories of chicken here. Pollo refers to a younger chicken and gallina a hen that usually is past its egg-bearing days. However, this hen was dispatched a bit early because it was cooked with the eggs still inside.
I’ve mentioned before that there are white chickens and yellow chickens. This link about a dish called sancocho, has SUPER information about the different types of Guatemalan chickens. Read the user comments.
One person commented about the yellow chickens "This coloring is obtained by feeding chickens "flor de muerto". In fact, farm raised chickens are given an extract of flor de muerto in their feed, to give them a nicer color."
Another discusses gallina criolla.
“The traditional Guatemalan caldo de gallina criolla, where “criolla” means “home-raised”. Be careful, because the use of “farm-raised” hens could be considered capital sin! Anyway, this is a simple, yet succulent and delicious fiesta-day dish. In addition to the hen, all you need is: celery, carrot, onion, garlic, bay leaf, flat leaf parsley, salt and black peppercorns …
The vegetables are optional and usually they are a combination of: big chunks of corn on the cob, carrot, güicoy (yellow pumpkin), güisquil (chayote, pataste), and wedges of cabbage. If you add vegetables, don’t overcook them, otherwise, the stock won’t be light and clear as it is supposed to be. The traditional way to serve the caldo de gallina is pouring the stock alone in a bowl with vegetables and white rice as side dish. It can be garnished with fresh chopped parsley, hard boiled egg yolks (to simulate those that sometimes are found inside the hens), and a wedge of lime.”
In the photo of the soup, you can see the hard-boiled egg yolk. It had güisquil and pieces of carrot. I thought the presentation of the entire chicken was amusing (see photo). It was quite delicious.
MAESTRO OF MIXTAS
Mixta just means mixed. The word is used for many different foods. In the case of hot dogs, it has the same mix of ingredients as a shuco dog ... sausage (usually hot dog) , guacamole, cabbage, onions and tomatoes. Squiggle the top with mustard, catsup and green sauce. Instead of a bun, tortillas are used.
This link says they are just a hot dog in a tortilla
I tried one in SF and it pretty much looked like that and was unimpressive.
Cut to the maestro of mixtas and shuco dogs located in front of the Shell gas station in the city nearest my home.
He makes the best shuco dog I've had so far in Gautamala. On this visit I tried the mixta.
The large pots you see have the cooked cabbage and onions.
There is a charcoal grill in back where the tortillas are toasted giving them nice char marks. Then the sausages are also grilled (in this case longaniza and a hot dog). The tortilla is smeared with guacamole. The sausages are cut up, and are laid on the bed of cabbage that was spread on the guacamole.
Top that with chopped fresh tomatoes and white onions. Squiggle on remaining condiments. Add another tortilla and eat like a sandwich.
The result is pure cheap bad-for-you goodness ... though I hear cabbage is healthy.
These were medium tortillas and reminded me of the old Burger King slogan... it takes two hands to handle a mixta ... and a lot still falls out.
I prefer the shuco dog to the mixta because the bun holds everything without trying to escape. Out of the three sausages I've tried, I like the chorizo the best. Its spicienss hold its own against the mountan of everything else. The longaniza was a little mild for this.
If you look at the picture of the cart you will see a copy of Pensa Libra, a Guatemalan newspaper. These little street carts seem to always have a copy for customers who pull up a stool or crate and catch up on the news.
SUGAR CANE AND ORCHID HONEY
There are two types of honey in Guatemala. Miel de abaja is regular honeybee honey. There is also white honey produced by stingless bees. It is clear, slightly thinner and has its own special medicinal qualities It is also delicious. Here’s a more detailed report
Orchid honey, stingless bees and balche … it will give you a buzz
In November, the sugar cane here is harvested. I thought I should get some photos before it is cut.
Due to a flood last year the main bridge to town was destroyed and until the completion (soon) there is a detour over miles of dirt roads thru the sugar cane fields. Everything beyond the bridge in the first photo is sugar cane fields. A family lives in that shack near the bridge.
That’s a little wild sugar cane that escaped in the photo of the chocolate river bank. It is volcanic soil that give it the color. People fish there. I’m told that around 2 am is the best time to catch river shrimp. The next photos are sugar cane.
When I asked recently about it being cut, I was told it was burned.
“Um, doesn’t it cause a lot of smoke”. I asked. Isn’t that bad for your health? (Es malo para tu salud?)
Yes, yes, everyone said. Cleaning the house is a horror as well since there is soot everywhere.
It might be time to schedule that road trip to Belize.
If it had been a clear day, you would have seen the volcanoes in the background. One of them, Agua, has Guatemala’s first winery and vineyard. The wine is actually good .. not great .. but it is pleasantly drinkable which is remarkable since it only started in 2002 and its first bottling was 2007.
Château Defay - Guatemala's first winery
HOMEMADE PEPIAN DELIVERED TO THE DOOR
I took a friend to La Fonda de la Calle Real in Antigua … another mediocre meal based on tour book recommendations.
Restaurant tourist traps
It did inspire my friend to clue me in on some real Guatemalan food.
A lady near my house is known for her excellent cooking. She sells meals to the local workers. My friend said when there was something especially good that he would call.
Last night he said pepian was on Monday’s menu. Today it was delivered in the door in a bright blue plastic bucket. A large plastic fruit bowl was filled with rice.
It was transferred to our pots and pans. Now there’s a concept for earth-friendly home delivery … as local as you can get … someone walked to the door with this … and no disposable containers used. The workers who buy dinner must provide their own containers. I know all the veggies were from the local street market because that determines what is on the menu. Many of the veggies are grown in back yards in the area.
I couldn’t take a photo because of issues in the kitchen which I’ll explain in another post. I would have insulted Irma who takes care of us all. Ordering delivered pepian was a bit of a liberty, but she has ‘la grippe’ today, so it was welcome
It was excellent. The sauce was a dark chocolate color with a faint, but pleasantly bitter coffee note. I don’t think she used pepian helper, so to speak, as we do.
Because of the smoky flavor, I’m guessing it was cooked on a poyo, a cinderblock stove with a grill on top that is fueled by an open wood-fueled fire. It was a very rich sauce from long cooking with the meat.
There was huge hunks of tender beef ribs, quarters of peeled chayote, whole carrots and lots of string beans. The rice mixed with diced carrot was good. It is added to the pepian.
This order that heartily stuffed six people with leftovers came to 65 quetazles (about $8)
Irma gave it her stamp of approval both for flavor and price … “y no cocina” (no cooking). The concept of home delivery may have taken root in our house.
Antigua Daily Photo has been doing a series on salads. Photo journalist Rudy Girón wrote "Contrary to popular belief, Guatemalans do have a large selection of salads in their gastronomy palette ... Ejotes (green beans), pimientos (bell peppers), arbejas (green peas), repollo (cabbage), and onions are often used in the Guatemalan salads along with typical herbs yerba buena, mint, parsely and cilantro. Often, many of the vegetables are prepared in escabeche (pickled) before incorporating them.
So, the Guatemalan gastronomy is not just Amerindian curries, rice and beans as some misinformed foreigners have declared"
You talking to me, Rudy? ... You talking to me?
Here's a photo of chojin, a chopped radish salad I really love and have mentioned.
I will say he is right that most Guatemalins call it ensalada de rábano. Not one family member or friend recognized the name chojin ... and given my lousy Spanish I even wrote it out.
Here's piloyada antigüeña a salad of piloy beans, meat and cheese. This is a new one for me. I'll have to give that a try.
Here's info about the Guatemalan version of guacamol
And ... here's a gratuitous picture of goat milk being delivered you your house ... by a shepard with goats ... because I just can't get enough of those cute little goats.
In a previous photo he write "the drawn-on-the-spot glass of milk for Q5/$0.60. Some people drink the milk directly from the glass, while others boil it first."
That answered my question. I should have guessed. Almost all street food in Guatemala is five quetzales.
Homemade loroco dobladas
These have to be one of the best things I've had to eat in Guatemal. We were at fabulous CENMA Zona 12 market in Gutatemala CIty where a vendor was selling fresh loroco, a white flower used often in pupusas.
I've always been interested in loroco, but in SF they are always frozen and don't have a lot of flavor I asked if someone would cook these if I bought some. The answer was yes.
Tonight I hearthe pat, pat, pat of tortillas being made. THis usually happens when the tortilla lady gets boycotted by the town for raising the price of tortillas one quetazle (about 12 cents)
However, at dinner the most beautiful, flavorful golden turnover were served.
Dobladas are usually flour tortillas that are filled, folded in half and deep-fried. I've had very good ones and meh ones. It is often about the filling that makes the doblada rise above the pack.
These were in a higher level of doblada heave and belonged on God's table.
The uncooked tortilla was filled, sealed like a turnover and fried. If a Hot Pocket met up with one of these, it would condemn itself to help. This was magnificance.
They were topped with fresh shredded cabbage, a hot, fresh red tomato sauce laded over them and then sprinkled with queso seco, crumbly dry, aged cheese.
There were two fillings. One with the lorocco and one with ground beef. I liked the ground beef better because the delicate flavor of the lorocco was a bit lost in this prep. Then again, maybe even fresh loroco doesn't have much flavor. The loroco filling reminded me a bit of the filling en egg rolls.
Still, they were top-notch dobladas
Today Antigua Daily Photo is about Moza beer, a dark brew, which is my favorite of those I've tried in GT.
I haven''t tried Cabro yet. One comment in that article says
"Cabro is made in Xela and is sold only in select locations in Antigua, Panajachel and, of course, Xela; maybe a few, but very few places in Guate city.
There´s something about the water in Xela that gives Cabro a different flavor (I´m quoting someone who works at the brewery)."
Will have to seek that out.
Gallo is to Guatemala as Budweiser is to the US and Corona is to Mexico. It is the ubiquous brew that is everywhere. Like a table wine, good enough to go with a meal, but nothing special.
The last link in this post has a description of Gallo that is classic ... "Gallo is an easy drinking, unremarkable, thirt-quenching beer with all the personality of a secret service agent. Nice to have when you need it but otherwise non-descript."
Some of the others that are common are along the same lines - Monte Carlo and Dorado.
My understanding is that one beer company produces all the brands of beer in Guatemala.
ADF writes in another article ...
"These are the widest available Guatemalan Beers. In the picture you can see the 1 liter container for Gallo, Victoria and Brahva. There are five other brands which belong to Gallo house (Cervecería Centroamericana) as well as Victoria. "
From the comments in that link, a mixta is the Guatemalan version of a black and tan ... 2/3 Gallo and 1/3 Moza
Nice descriptions here of the Guatemalan beers that sums it up nicely at the end
"...it is not the beer capitol of the world. You won't be disappointed in their beer if you think of them as all trying to be as inoccuous as possbile, like the big, mass-consumed beers of the US. And here is a handy guide to them all.
Gallo = Budweiser
Dorado = Miller Genuine Draft
Moza = Michelob Dark
Monte Carlo = Schaeffer's
Victoria = Olympia
Cabro = Schlitz & Stroh's hybrid"
I don't know, the ones that appear around Lake Atitlan are about the same shade as
a cucumber. they are quite rare and begin to appear around march. I don't know how
long the season lasts as we always leave about Easter. Once the ladies who sell them
discover you like them they will not fail to let you know when they have them. They
tell me they come from the slopes of the Volcano above the lake. These are my favorite
fruit of the region.
I so enjoy your submissions, keep up the good work.
Pablito el gordito
re: paul balbin
Thanks. I'll keep an eye out for them. The hurricane and the current rains did a real job on the Lake Atitlan area, so I've put of off heading out that way.
Markets, for the most part, seem to have locally grown items. This is true of the smaller markets. On market day vendors might travel from outer regions to the big markets in Gautemala City or Antigua.
In Esquintla there are no dragon fruit like in GC or mushrooms like in San Juan Sacatepequez.
It is still difficult for me to pick out the special seasonal stuff because so much of this is new to me.
On another food topic, Antigua Daily Photo had some interesting info about the local conch
"Concha is sort of a shell clam known in Mexico as “Almeja pata de mula” which is sort of a mixture between clam and oyster plus dark ink (blood)."
I wondered what that dark liquid was in the ceviche. Also known as Anadara tuberculosa
Note: I edited and moved the beer comments in another post
I found this top-notch detailed blog about breakfast in Guatemala.
I doubt anyone else could be as thorough. I learned all sorts of things about more obscure breakfast items. I also smiled at the more mundane details such as cereal and pancakes because it is spot on. It's not all different and exotic, but often close to what is eaten in the United States.
My own note is that the "Desayuno Tipico" really is the typical breakfast. It is what is eaten most often. Rich or poor or middle class ... fast food restauant or upscale ... a breakfast of eggs, beans, plantanos, crema, chirmol (fresh tomato sauce), juice, sweet roll and coffee is the usual way to start the day.
Here are the blog links.
Breakfast in Guatemala: Beverages (First Part)
Juices, Orange Juice with raw egg, Shakes, Milk, Coffee, Tortilla coffee, Tea, Chocolate, Punch
Very cool photos of the chocolate and the ponche.
Interesting about coffee made from tortillas. I wonder if it is better than the stuff from beans served here. The blogger calls Guatemalan coffee 'softer' than European. That seems the perfect word. The photo of the cappuccino is often how it is served.
The blogger also mentions the goat's milk ... fresh from the goat. I have seen this. I haven't had the courage to try it though. It is not just in the remote areas, but the cities. While I haven't yet seen the goats at the Central Market in Gutemala City, I have seen a few in the suburbs ... one shepherd with three little goats was right across the street from a huge shopping mall that has a big Wal-Mart (aka Hiper Paiz)
The blogger writes "You also can find goat milk… but not at supermarkets, no, there are still shepherds walking with the goats at the streets offering fresh milk. It means: you drink it natural, without pasteurizing it. Not exactly so common for breakfast but I thought it would be interesting to mention it here ;) "
Breakfast in Guatemala: Beverages (Second Part)
Terrific list of atoles with great photos. I especially like the photo of the corn atole because it is often served with fresh corn kernels sprinkled on top.
Atoles mentioned include: Corn Atol, White Atol, Atol Shuco, Maizena Atol also known as “yuquilla” atol, Starch Atol, Plantain Atol, Mosh, Rice with Milk, Rice with Milk and Chocolate, wheat germ Atol, Broad Bean Atol (habas atol), Pinol Atol, Incaparina, Atolillo, Sweet Atol, Ashes Atol, Granillo Atol
So far I've tried Corn Atol, White Atol, Plantain Atol, Mosh and Broad Bean Atol (habas atole).
My favorite is the corn atol because it is different here with lots of sweet corn flavor ... and I love the corn nibs on top. Some atols like moshi or white atol are eaten with a spoon. I liked the habas atol which I would have guessed, from the flavor, was made of nuts rather than beans.
I don't know if this is just a thing done in my house, but sometimes they will break up a sweet roll and mix it into corn atol. That is quite good.
Breakfast in Guatemala (First Part) - Brief overview
Breakfast in Guatemala (Second Part)
Fabulous description of the many types of tamales ... WITH photos ... AND usually clicking on the name brings up a recipe ... in ENGLISH. This blogger really did a lot of work.
Tamales include: Red Tamales:, Rice Tamales, Black Tamales, Corn tamales, Chepilin Tamales, Cambray tamales, Chepes, White Tamalas, Loroco tamales, Corn tamales,with Izote, Chuchitos, Paches
Breakfast in Guatemala (3rd. Part)
Breakfast Cereals, Hot Cakes, Gold Medal hot cake mix, Waffles, Crepes, French toast, Fruit
Breakfast in Guatemala (4th. Part)
Croissants, Pupusas, Beans, Plantains, Hash browns, Cold meat and sausage, Tortillas, Bread, Chili, Cream
Antigua Daily Photo published this photo of a weekend tamale breakfast and it is so spot on. I also love the shot of the pan Frances. That is exactly how it looks
So far Guatemalan tamales are my favorite of all the Latin American countries. They are rich, savory and not dry like Mexican tamales. The tamales from El Salvador that I've tried in the US were too wet, almost a cream of wheat consistancy.
RW, did you ever get any guatamalan tamales when you were here? I'd be curious to try them, and agree that Mexican ones are way too dry (for me). I actually love the wetness of the Salvadorean tamales, but i'd be interested in the Guatamalan ones. would you say they're somewhere in between?
Ah, you caught me just before I was planning to stop posting for the next month. I started a thread on the SF board.
Guatemalan tamales are similar to Salvadorean, maybe a bit less wet. Of course there is only the basic tamale that I've tried in the Bay Area and none of the many variations.
Anyway, I won't be checking the boards, but if you have questions, post and email me me. I'll sign onto Chowhound and answer any questions. Otherwise, see you in November ... perhaps.
Thoughts on the first three months.
Originally I didn't think there would be much to write about. However, each day seems to bring a different dish or some obscure tropical fruit, veggie ... or animal part.
There are all those new and/or mysterious fruts, veggies and other foods such as ayote, quilete, paternas, jutes, white chayote, totopostes, chiltepes, peppers de Coban, barquillos, zepelins, jocote tronador, purple mombin, jocote marañón, plataninas, granizadas, caracol, pacaya, suchiles, huiscoyol, samat, anacates, tepezcuintle, pez sierra tortas, tapado, pacamas, etc
Guatemala is the most Third World country I've visited. I am never unaware of it. The ancient and modern side by side is jarring, such as
- Across from a modern mall at a bus stop a shepherd with three goats is selling fresh-from-the-udder milk
- In a jungle clearing, a woman making tortillas on a cinderblock poyo that is fueled by twigs and branches, stops to take a call on her cell phone.
My first impression of Gautemala being like the 1950's persists. People are loathe to try food other than what they have eaten for decades. The restaurant menus read like the Continental, Italian-American, Chinese-American etc menus of the 1950's.
On the good side of that ... cocktails are popular, properley done and strong. At some places I almost expect Frank, Sammy, Dean and the rest of the original rat pack to walk in the door of this portal to the past.
For a country that spoons Mexico, most of what is served as Mexican food is shockingly underwhelming. However, there is little love between many Mexicans and Guatemalans, so that might explain some of it.
The tropical fruit is stunning. The watermelon is wonderful. The mushrooms ...dios mio. The tortillas the best I've had in my life. The frankfurters are fabulous ... though it is the whole sandwich rather than just the hot dog.
Guatemalan food can be on the bland side. However, like some Brazilian food, it picks up if you condimentize correctly ... a tiny bowl of fresh chiltepe peppers on the side, a shot of picamas sauce, a squirt of lime, etc.
Still, the range of spices seems limited to mainly salt, oregano, laurel (bay leaf) and cinnamon.
A lot of the best food isn't sold in the restaurants or markets. One neighbor might specialize in tamales or paches, another makes fresh cheese, etc.
Truthfully, I'm not picking up the subtle differences in some dishes. I can't tell a pepian from a kaik'ik. It's all meat in a red soup to me.
With few exceptions, I'm still not in love with the sweet breads. They are a little uninterestiong and can be on the dry side. However, they are meant to be dipped in coffee. The cookies and cakes are tasty.
Looking for information on an item called zepelins (carrot, banana, pumpkin, etc bread). I learned about the German influence on Guatemalan cuisine. In the 19th century the Germans were invited to start up businesses such as coffee fincas (farms) at the Gautemalan government request, but expelled durring WWII, some say due to pressure by the US. The remants of the cuisine remain ... including the coriander the Germans brought with them which now grows wild in the forests
Swiss food is big here. I don't know if that is related to the Germans.
In the land of coffee and fresh maize, I find both underwhelming. One writer called it smoother than European coffee ... perfect description ... so smooth there's no flavor. The only exception was at a funeral where the beans were cooked in a large pot over an open fire for hours and took on and exquisite smoky flavor.
With school schedules and my husband back at work, meal times are more varied, but on weekends and holidays it is still breakfast at about 9am, lunch at 2:30 and dinner about 8:30.That is true of other homes I've visited. The big meal is lunch.
With my slowly enhanced Spanish hopefully I'll learn more int the next quarter.
Difficult to believe three months have passed ... as in ONLY three months have passed. Time 'flies' when you are having fun ... such as a major hurricane, exploding volcano, suffocating, hellish heat, floods and scorpion encounter ... they are not all black, ya know ... and as far as I know, inedible ... probably visa versa ... had it lived it might be snacking on me.
It has been a fascinating peek into another culture that few tourists see. It has been a gift and a privilege, in spite of the challenges. . I'm looking forward to what's on the plate in the future.
Links from the first quarter
A week of menus at home ... soon after that I went back to my American diet of oatmeal in the morning, fruit and yogurt at night. I just eat Guatemalan food at the main meal ... and rarely have tortillas or sweet breads.
Meals at an upper class household
Living and eating in Guatemala – recipes
Ayote: Black squash - better than butternut
Ceviche: Vuelve a la Vida ("Back to Life”) or “corpse reviver” (“Levanta Muertos")
Extreme superchallenge: Identify this Central American fruit (huiscoyol)
Gorgeous Guatemalan candy - Los dulces típicos
Guatemalan Baked Goods Redux
Guatemalan baked goods … cubilletes, pirujos, etc?
Guatemalan cheese and butter
Guatemalan food online
Have you tried totopostes?
How are paternas used in dishes?
Jutes - Another name for these green lychee-like fruit?
Magnificent mushrooms of Guatemala
Rolled wafer cookies around the world - Barquillos, pirouettes, etc
Sompopos de Mayo- huge flying edible ants
Tortas and tortas fritas - Sandwich, bread, pancake, omelet, donut, cake
Tortilla etiquette - you got to know when to fold
Traveling globally: Best bottled and bulk H20 ... water that is, blue gold, sky juice
WWW - World-wide Wal-Mart
Thanks for your wonderful writing. I lived for a year in Guatemala, and your posts bring back lots of memories. It's also interesting to see how much you've found that I didn't. Of the list of 26 items at the beginning of your post, I only know five. Probably because for 10 of 12 months, I lived in a tiny village in the sticks. Not much variety at the weekly market.
A couple of comments:
"Still, the range of spices seems limited to mainly salt, oregano, laurel (bay leaf) and cinnamon." - I'd add achiote and sesame. One of the things I found most interesting about Guatemalan cuisine was the range of chilis, herbs and seeds from which sauces were made. Like the green herbs in jocon, ground roasted ayote seeds, tomatoes and tomatillos.
About the coffee, Guatemala produces excellent coffee, but the good stuff is often exclusively for export.
One thing I don't see on your list is cala. (Or is it Kala? Accent on the last "a") Fresh heart of palm. That's a challenge for you. It's so perishable that you may not be able to find it in a market. It oxidizes and turns black within hours of picking. But it is definitely on my list of most delicious things ever eaten. (Along with guanabana.) We would saute onions and tomatoes and then sweat the cala in that mixture -- simple as that.