Mucbil Pollo

Mucbil Pollo

10 November 2005 Regional Cuisine, CULTURE 11

Or however you spell it! We've seen it spelled about ten different ways on different hand-printed signs around town. Many of the cocina economicas, including the House of Screws around the corner, had signs advertising that they were baking them and would sell them para llevar, or for take out. So what is this mysterious thing, you ask?

Well, here's a photo. Does that help? No? Well, let us try to explain. Around these parts, the Mayans celebrate the Day of the Dead at the end of October. This holiday is called Halloween in Gringolandia, but the Mayans call it Hanal Pixan, which means "soul food." As the holiday approaches, the buzz increases about eating pibs during the celebrations. And when Hanel Pixan was over, Yucatecans were greeting us in person or on the phone asking, "Did you eat your pibs?"

Uhhh... no.

But then yesterday, our aforementioned Mayan housekeeper and her nubile daughter came to clean, and brought us two fresh-baked pibs. From what we understand, these are large tamales with a chicken, anchiote and chaya filling. The tamale dough is made of corn (what else?) and has black beans mixed into it. The whole thing is wrapped in banana leaves and baked underground in a pit, call a pib in Mayan, hence the nickname. I'm sure in the modern households in Merida they bake their pibs in ovens these days, but I guarantee you the ones we got were baked the old-fashioned way.

We had our pibs for lunch. Or rather, we had one. We really couldn't even finish that one. Each one weighed about five pounds. We're not kidding. And the crust was tough and leathery. The chicken inside was tasty and tender, but there didn't seem to be enough of it. Another curious thing: one of our pibs was square and the other was round.

We consider ourselves very fortunate to have the opportunity to eat authentic pibs baked in the Mayan earth. But someday we'd like to try a haute cuisine version that might be a little easier to chew.


  • John 6 years ago

    How can I cook Mucbil Pollo in the oven?
    Can I also steam it?

  • Manuel 7 years ago

    You want to try one "Haute cuisine"? Just go and get a proper one. The mucbipollo is the Mayan lasagna. It is not because you ate a leathery muc baked by your maid that all of them are like that. Would you judge the whole Japanese cuisine because you ate an oily teriyaki made by the guy who cleans?

    Just replace the lard with olive oil and you are on your way.

    • Working Gringa 7 years ago

      Manuel, you are so right! We have had many a delicious pib since that day :-)

  • dd 12 years ago

    Although there are a many similarities, including time of year. El Dia de Los Muertos (day of the dead) and Halloween are not really related.

  • alicia 13 years ago

    damn i miss my gran mother and mother pibs... they both cook it on the oven and yea it is not that chewey and easyer to eat... we used to eat it with a cup of hot chocolate... there is a lot more delicious food in yucatan and i'm pretty sure that all you guys are going to loved so if you have a chance don't think 2 times about go to yucatan to try our food... panuchos, tamales, salbutes, cochinita pibil and a lot more... wow i'm stared feeling hungry!!!

  • Paola 13 years ago


    I am a Yucatecan living in Calgary/. I really do miss the Mucbilpollos and mor ethe ones with espelon ( it is not balck beans, tehse beans are different) and having for desser Xeck and Dulce de Papaya, sis you try the dulce de papaya. I haven't have a PIB for a long long time, but I am hoping I will have one soon. :)

  • Dan 16 years ago

    You fared better than John Lloyd Stephens. He wrote of this 1841 October celebration: "We have reason to remember this fete from one untoward circumstance. A friendly neighbor, who...was in the habit of sending us fruit and dulces more than we could eat, this day, on the top of a large undisposed-of present, sent us a huge piece of mukbipoyo. It was as hard as an oak plank and as thick as six of them; and having already overtasked ourselves to reduce the pile on the table, when this came, in a fit of desparation we took it out into the courtyard and buried it. There it would have remained till this day but for a malicious dog which accompanied them on their next visit; he passed into the courtyard, rooted it up, and, while we were pointing to the empty platters as our acknowledgment of their kindness, this villanous dog sneaked through the sala and out at the front door with the pie in his mouth, apparently grown bigger since it was buried."

  • Day of the Dead or Hanal Pixan? Celebrate Them Both! 16 years ago

    [...] Our celebrations aren’t going to end there. [...]

  • Miguel 16 years ago

    Hi WGs,
    Mucbipollos have now gone international. They've made it all the way to Canada thanks to a group of yucateco friends that have chosen Montreal as their new residence.
    So if you ever want to spend a different below 0 (Celsius) Hanal Pixan in the land of maple syrup, don't hesistate to contact us. By the way, we do the haute cuisine version with tons of pork and chicken... and I'll assure you, it is as good as the best pib anywhere in the white pueblo.

  • Working Gringos 16 years ago

    This year, we've been invited to share the mucbil pollos at the home of aforementioned housekeeper and family. That will be in Oxtapacab, and the mucbil pollos will probably be accompanied by pavo en relleno negro.

    Here's a curious thing. We told them we were going to be in Michoacan for Day of the Dead this year, and they told us they would *postpone* their Hanal Pixan celebration so they could do it with us!! So we'll be going to their house on November 8 for mucbil pollo and other goodies.

    When we said to them, "Uh, but isn't Hanal Pixan on November 1?", the Mayan woman laughed and said it didn't matter... no importa. We are supposing that she wisely realizes that "the Dead" really don't care what day it is.

    So if you're looking for Day of the Dead information from us, tune in after November 8 and we'll have lots to tell!

  • Anonymous 17 years ago

    u know about the mucbil pollo,i am from merida, and it has been that way all the time,i mean that's the way it is,and i always liked to eat it with a cup of coffee,weird isn't?? and i loved it now i miss it but i hope to be able to eat it again pretty soon.
    p.s. smile:D

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