I am attempting to take part in a cooking class in every country I visit. I have so far only managed a cooking class in Mexico City, Barcelona and La Paz in Bolivia, so I wanted to do a cooking class in Antigua Guatemala. I had no idea what Guatemalan food was like. Tortillas, of course, and frijoles (black beans) and plantains. But aside from that, I had no clue, so I wanted to learn more about typical Guatemalan dishes. When I was looking for things to do in Antigua I found a couple of options online, and signed up for a cooking class with La Tortilla Cooking School Antigua.
Our Cooking Class in Antigua Guatemala
My class started at 4.30pm, although they also have morning classes available too. When I arrived, I walked down the corridor on 3a Calle where La Tortilla is located. I had almost walked straight past it, tucked away from the street, but I spotted the sign. The kitchen was already set up with the ingredients and 5 places with chopping boards and knives. My fellow classmates were two cousins from Canada, and a father & daughter, also from Canada. I kept up the British contingent!
Our teacher and Guatemalan food expert was Sonia, and she was helped by 3 volunteers who translated for her, and kept us topped up with wine. Usually there are just 1 or 2 volunteers, but two were learning the ropes so they could help Sonia on their own.
Learning about Guatemalan Food
First, Sonia explained what Guatemalan food recipes we were going to make in our cooking class. First, was atol blanco, a warm drink made from water and cornflour, flavoured with cinnamon and sugar. Then our main course was pepian, a kind of stew with a sauce made from pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, chillies, tomatoes and coriander. This would be served with rice and a beetroot salad. Our Guatemalan dessert was going to be rellenitos – fried plantain balls filled with chocolate sauce. Delicious!
We were each given tasks to do, I was roasting tomatoes on a grill pan, while others chopped the chicken and other vegetables. Sonia explained each step, the volunteers translated, and any questions we asked were duly answered and translated. Guatemalan food is generally quite simple, without a lot of herbs and spices. However, it was still quite flavourful!
The first thing we tried was a hot drink made from water that we had boiled the plaintains in. Lightly flavoured with cinnamon and banana it was delicious! Next up was the atol blanco, made from cornflour, which was more like a thick dessert than a drink. Not my favourite but a cheap and filling snack at any time of day.
The pepian was made with the tomatoes I had been grilling, together with chillies, coriander, onion and toasted sesame and pumpkin seeds. All of this was blended together with a little more water, and added to a pot with boiling chicken, potatoes and squash. We added cornflour to thicken the sauce and left it to simmer while we made our tortillas. We were all excited to learn how to make tortillas, classic Guatemalan food, or indeed Mexican and central American. Simply made from corn flour & water, we mixed the dough and watched as Sonia deftly rolled a ball a dough & flipped it between her hands to make a perfectly round, flat tortilla. We then tried to make our own, with mixed results. Between the flipping there were several dropped tortillas, some deformed ones, some sticky ones, and finally some decent ones. Not as good as you would get in ‘la tortilleria’ tortilla shop, but pretty good considering it was our first time! They were cooked on a hot plate for a couple of minutes on each side, and ready to go.
For our ‘rellenitos’ dessert, the plantains had been boiled in their skins with cinnamon (remember the banana cinnamon tea?) and then they were peeled, mashed, and left to cool. Sonia made a hot chocolate sauce with blocks of drinking chocolate, and showed us how to make a ball of plantain, moulding the shell to our hand, spooning in the chocolate and sealing the cracks. The balls were then shallow fried till golden brown – I was in charge of the browning, and not such an easy task when the balls kept rolling around!
When everything was ready, the volunteers laid the table and brought over our dishes. Only the five of us ate, it would have been nice to share the meal with Sonia & the volunteers but I suppose if they cook the same thing every day it would get a little repetitive! We tucked in to our delicious meal, congratulating ourselves on a job well done, and chatting about the rest of our plans in Guatemala, enjoying a relaxing time after our experience at the Antigua cooking school. There was no rush to finish, and our wine kept being topped up as needed. When we finally couldn’t eat any more, one of the volunteers boxed up the leftovers for us to take home, along with our easy Guatemalan recipes to make all the dishes at home.
What I loved
The free-flowing wine! It’s just a small detail but it’s a nice touch, and helps the conversation flow that much easier. Most of the knife skills were over in the beginning of the class before we got too sozzled.
We got to take leftovers away with us, that doesn’t always happen with cooking classes.
La Tortilla also have packets of the dried ingredients to buy, so you can take them home and make your own without worrying about where to get the more unusual ingredients.
What I didn’t like
The translation did interrupt the flow of the class; but without demanding every cook to learn English – or every tourist to learn Spanish – then it can’t be helped.
Aside from that, I thoroughly enjoyed my Guatemalan cooking class in Antigua, and would recommend La Tortilla Cooking School for anyone wondering what to do Antigua and who wants to learn more about Guatemalan food and culture.
If you would like to take a cooking class in Antigua, check out La Tortilla’s webpage for details of prices and availability.
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I was a guest of La Tortilla Cooking School Antigua and enjoyed a complimentary class. The fact I had a great time clearly influenced my review! As always, all views are my own.