Maya Corn Tortillas

Corn tortillas are practically the main element in every Maya meal. Not only are they healthy, but they are also comfort food when eaten hot. Itís interesting to watch how the Mayas make their corn tortillas, as it gives you a glimpse of their past since the process hasnít changed in centuries.

Here is the process on how to make a corn tortilla like the Mayas do:

1. Harvest the corn and collect the dried corn kernels.

Maya Corn, Belize

2. Par-boil the kernels with lime powder to soften the skin of the kernel.

3. While still al dente, grind the boiled kernels either with a flat stone mortar and cylindrical pestle (like ancient Mayas did) or with a hand cranked processor (like modern day Mayas do).

4. Take the course masa dough and turn it into a ball. Add a bit of water to re-grind into a finer dough. Repeat until the dough has a fine smooth consistency.

5. Heat the comal griddle with logs and fire. (The comal griddle has a flat metal pan held by a concrete base. Wood logs are placed under the pan)

Maya Comal, Belize

6. Place the dough in the center of a low table located next to the griddle to start making the tortillas.

7. Place a circle cut plastic sheet on top of the working surface. On it you will mold the tortillas into their circular shape. The plastic sheets are flexible, smooth, and the dough peels easily off it.

8. Collect a golf ball sized piece of dough and pat it down with your fingertips to form a flat thin disk from the center out. Use the other handís edge to keep an overall circular shape as you rotate the dough. (see video).

9. Grill the dough until golden on each side. Turn over the tortilla with your hand. If the tortilla inflates, deflate it by patting it with your hand, or with another tortilla on top to prevent burning. The best texture the tortilla can have is a slightly crispy outside with a chewy inside. Comfort food is a hot tortilla.

10. Eat and enjoy with your favorite meal or a traditional Maya meal like chicken stew and white rice.