The Guatemalan chayote-and-chicken stew called jacon at Tierras Centro Americanas
David C. asks: A friend of mine has been trekking in Guatemala and tells me about the wonderful food he has encountered there. Where can I get a taste of it in the New York area?
Dear David C.: Sadly, though there are plenty of El Salvadoran and a handful of Honduran, the city really doesn’t have much in the way of Guatemalan, Costa Rican, or Nicaraguan food, partly because we have so few immigrants from those countries. All is not lost, however.
The way-herby empanada from Pollo Campero gives a taste of the urbanized fare of Guatemala.
There’s a wonderful hole in the wall — with some lively hand-painted murals — called Tierras Centro Americanas. Before that, it was known as La Xelaju. The place is located in Jamaica on Hillside Avenue, not a bad ride on the subway (take the F to 169th Street).
Don’t miss salpicon, a chopped pork, radish, and purple onion salad seasoned with mint and lime juice, or the cow-heart stew called revolcado. Less challenging is jason, a chicken stew in a verdant green broth, in which you’ll find bobbing chayote and green beans. All accompanied by the thick, small-diameter tortillas Central Americans prefer.
The only other chance to eat Guatemalan is at an international fried-chicken chain called Pollo Campero. Founded in 1971, it now boasts 300 branches all over Central America and in Spain, China, Indonesia, and India. You can find one in Corona, visible from the elevatated 7 tracks.
Something like KFC only with less coating, the poultry is good. But it’s the side dishes that seem particularly Guatemalan, including some nice stewed beans with an interesting roster of spices and herbs, chicken empanadas, and fried yuca instead of French fries. Not much in the way of indigenous Indian food, but tasty nonetheless.
I hope that answers your question, David C. Go to the full review of Tierras Centro Americas if you want a general idea of what Guatemalan food is like.
Next: More pictures from Tierras Centro Americanas and Pollo Campero
Salpicon from Tierras Centro Americans
The fried chicken at Pollo Campero is better than KFC, and it comes with fried yuca and a dipping sauce something like Russian dressing.
Pollo Campero is a Corona landmark visible from the 7 train.
Tierras Centro Americanas
87-52 168th Street
103-16 Roosevelt Avenue
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 17, 2012