Coastal Yucatan

Salpicon de venado

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Salpicon de venado, a Yucatan venison salad from Playa del Carmen, Mexico

What: This salad is one of the most commonplace uses today of venado, or venison, the native small deer prized by the Mayans, at one time abundant in the Yucatecan wilds (today they are domesticated). Shredded venison meat is tossed with a salpicon, or chopped mixture, of radish, some onion, and cilantro, and dressed with sour orange and salt. The result is a tangy, meaty salad that’s as much a meal as a palate opener.

Where: Off the highway in Playa del Carmen, El Faisan y El Venado (Carretera Federal at Calle 2 Norte, map) is an excellent Yucatecan restaurant recommended often on these pages.

When: Daily, 7am-9pm

Order: The salpicon de venado (140p) is a treat here—not inexpensive, but prepared exactly as it should be with lots of shredded venison, chopped radish, cilantro, and sour orange juice, which tastes like a slightly sweeter lime. The citrus flavor dominates, transforming what might otherwise be a gamey meat dish into something light and refreshing, perfect on its own or wrapped into a warm tortilla. 

Alternatively: Along the coast, you will likely find this dish only at Yucatecan restaurants. Also in Playa del Carmen, look for the venison tsi’ik at Yaxche (5th Ave. & 22nd St., map), a version of this dish with avocado, black beans, and cream (sometimes you’ll see salpicon de venado called zic de venado in the area).