I developed it after tasting bowl after bowl of the Lime Soup on a visit to Mexico’s Yucatàn Peninsula, a place that offers a unique, lively cuisine steeped in both Mayan and Spanish culinary influence. My family climbed the vine-draped limestone ruins at Cobá, before our guide drove us along the winding orange-red roads through the jungle. We reached a cenote, a deep, naturally occurring limestone well filled with clean fresh water, where we swam until tired and worn.
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Now hungry from climbing and swimming, we headed to a small restaurant along the lake at Cobá, where they served traditional Yucatecan cooking, among the dishes they offered was a classic lime soup. Nearly every restaurant along the Yucatán Peninsula offers its own perfect version of lime soup, some with bell peppers and others touched with cinnamon and oregano.
I favor the simplest approach with chicken, onion, rice, and limes. Simple foods often make the best foods, as their humble ingredients shine through without pomp or pretense.
Yucatan Lime Soup
For the Tortillas
- lard (for frying)
- 1 package corn tortillas (sliced into strips)
For the Soup
- Cotija cheese
- Line a plate with a paper towel or a cotton kitchen towel.
- Set a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Spoon enough lard into the skillet so that when it melts, it reaches about 1⁄2 inch up the side of the skillet, about 11⁄2 cups.
- Once the fat melts completely and begins to shimmer in the skillet, test the oil by dropping a tortilla strip into the hot fat. If the tortilla sizzles immediately in the pan, crisping and turning a golden brown within about 30 seconds, the oil is ready. Working in batches, and taking care not to crowd the pan, fry the tortilla strips until crisp and golden brown. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tortilla strips to the lined plate, and allow them to cool. Turn off the heat.
- Place the whole chicken in a large stock pot. Pour enough water into the pot to cover the chicken by 2 inches. Bring the pot to a boil over medium-high heat, then immediately reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, for 2 hours, or until the chicken is cooked through and the meat shreds easily with a fork. Turn off the heat.
- Carefully remove the chicken from the pot, setting it on a platter to allow it to cool until it’s comfortable enough to handle. Remove and discard the skin, pull the meat from the bone, and shred it with a fork.
- Strain the broth in the pot through a fine-mesh sieve into a pitcher or jar, discarding the solids. Wipe out the pot to remove any stray debris, and then return the strained broth and reserved chicken meat to the pot. Stir in the onion and rice and then bring to a simmer over medium heat. While the soup warms, juice one of the limes and then stir the juice into the soup pot. Continue cooking until the onion is soft and translucent and the chicken is warmed. While soup is cooking, finely chop the remaining 2 limes, peel and all.
- Ladle into soup bowls and serve with the chopped lime, sliced jalapeño, crumbled Cotija cheese, sliced avocado, and tortilla strips.