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Jan 31, 2011 09:18 PM

Have you tried garnachas?

If so, what they were like? How did you eat them?

A little like Belizian garachEs, but not quite … no beans involved and more stuff in it.

Here’s what they were: Tiny fried tortilla, topped with a mystery mix of something. Ladle on some tomato sauce, sprinkle with cheese. Serve with some sort of delicious yellow cabbage, escabeche, salt and the most amazing lemons that were deep orange inside and bright green outside … nope … not sour orange here … lemon.

Here’s a nice link with a photo and info

“According to historian Celso Lara, this dish comes originally from the Tehuantepec isthmus … The best example of the cultural mixture produced in the region was the fried tortilla, which is the base for the garnacha … the tortilla is fried in big amounts of oil, which is a Mediterranean contribution … On top of the fried tortilla the garnachas have a mixture of a mestizo style spiced meat which alters the flavors to make it more delicate.

According to Lara, the garnachas came to occupy a royal place among the Guatemalan gastronomy, mainly during the town fairs, and this is why she is the queen of snacks on the month of October, during the celebration of the rosary.”

This was a new one for me. I’ve never saw them when reading about Guatemalan cuisine. None of my half-dozen Guatemalan cookbooks mentions them. Yet, when I told my family there were garnachas at the local feria (fair) it seemed as familiar to them as corndogs or funnel cakes to someone from the USA.

I guess given that, carnival food recipes don’t often show up in cookbooks or included on searches on American cuisine.

I’m interested in what the mix might be. A lot of online recipes mention ground beef, but this wasn’t it. One had potatoes in it, at that could be possible.

The description above was pretty spot on … delicate tasting mix … euphemism for no flavor … except salt … lots of salt.

Well, I’m cool with this as I get that Guatemalan food is often flavored with the condiments. The excellent lemon perked it up. I didn’t bother too much with the salt on the side as I felt it had enough. For good measure, I threw on a spicy pickled carrot from the escabeche … yeah, now we’re cooking.

However, what really made this was the yellow cabbage, the color of saffron. I’ve never seen this. It was sort of sauerkraut texture, but fresh and a thicker cut.

I’m not sure if I ate this correctly or what was in it. When I first ordered it, there was a lot of talk and the word ‘huevo’ came up a lot. It was beyond my Spanish skills so I just said “Si, pequeno” … as it seemed you could order it for different prices. I was wondering if it was just more of the same or if the filling differed by price.

Then again, I see some mention of being garnished with hard-boiled eggs, so maybe they didn’t have any and that’s what they were saying.

As to eating it, I fell on the way to the table, and after that most of my focus was on whether I broke my leg (nope), so I wasn’t asking a lot of food questions.

So … I’m hoping someone else knows more about this and can give me some tips. I couldn’t get back to the fair the next day with the family to watch them eat this thing as I was having trouble walking.

This MIGHT be the recipe (in Spanish) as it is the closest I’ve found. It seems like ground pork is involved. They don’t mention the lemons or the cabbage though.

This link seems to have compiled most of the references on the web though the focus is Mexico. What I’m reading from the Yucatan is closer that what is in other areas of Mexico … which makes sense given the Mayan connection

Photos below of the garnacharia with the finished product and a work in progress.

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  1. I have had them just once in Houston, at a restaurant where the kitchen had taken a precipitous dive. They were not impressive; ground beef, tomato sauce, powdered cheese on a stale, dull, thick snack-sized tortilla. My neighbor's landscaper is from Guatemala and we have chatted about the food and local restaurants and he really was enthusiastic about garnaches but I couldn't relate. I guess I need to give them another try. Thanks for the in depth look at them.

    2 Replies
    1. re: brucesw

      Hmmm ... while the ingredients were a little better in my situation, I sort of had the same reaction. Do you know if your landscaper tried them at the same restaurant, or in was just enthusiastic about them in general?

      If he tried the same garnaches as you, and liked them, then maybe they are just something that people like because they grew up with them. Seriously, my family just lighted up when talking about them. Someone on the web called them Guatemala's version of nachos ... so given that, I could see where they would be popular.

      This vendor just might not have made a good version. I had my first elote loco there (like Mexican elote but add squiggles of catsup and green hot sauce to the mayo and cheese). The corn was of the flavorless type. So maybe it is just that vendor's cooking. I did love the cabbage though and hope I come across that again ... and I'm going to have to keep an eye out for those limes at the farmers markets.

      This may call for a garnache crawl on my part ... though I don't know how many more fairs I may stumble accross while here.

      After having a few items with Guatemala's holy trinity of condimints ... catsup, mayo, green chilitepe sauce ... such as fries, corn and hot dogs ... I have to say that combo isn't to my taste.

      I still have to give the cheap street pizza with the trinity a try. Who knows it might be good. Surprisingly, Chinese food takes wonderfully to that green hot sauce. It is just a great addition (no mayo/catsup ... just the hot sauce made of chilitepe peppers ... or even mind-blowing great ... Chinese food with FRESH chilitepe peppers ... dios mio ... great, great, great)

      Thanks for the feedback.

      1. re: rworange

        By the time I talked with him that restaurant had closed; there was no mention of a restaurant in particular in connection with the garnachas and the only Guatemalan restaurant he recommended I had been to and didn't think was very good. In addition to trying to start a landscaping business on the side he works as a cook at a big Mexican restaurant and is apparently a very good cook so perhaps he was talking about his own garnachas? After Hurricane Ike, when we were without power for over a week, after spending all day cleaning up my neighbor's yard and trimming her trees, he went home and cooked her a meal of fajitas with all the trimmings and brought it over. She said it was fabulous. Guy wants to be a landscaper, not a cook!

        I've only seen garnachas on one other restaurant menu and have seen it on the menus of several of the Guatemalan mobile units but have not tried them.

        These things I had were about the size of a Ritz cracker with toppings.

        At that same restaurant, before it went downhill, I had had some very good food; I particularly remember the Enchilada Chapina - marinated red cabbage and lettuce topped w/shredded marinated beef, hard boiled egg chopped parsley and cheese, over a deep fried tortilla. A similar concept and about the size as a Tex-Mex tostada.