Secret Mexican meringue recipe

SISAL IS AN ANCIENT Spanish colony in the extreme northwest of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. It is a poor place. A lost place. But it is definitely not a lonely place.

We arrived at midnight after a five hour drive across the peninsula with friends. They wanted to introduce us to their house. We wanted to see it. The moon had risen and was projecting its glow across the lagoon where the fresh water from the cenotes mixes with the sea. We unpacked our bags and crawled into bed at a $ 12-a-night hotel and slept like dead.

In the gray pre-dawn light, we emerge from slumber anticipating a glimpse of pink Mexican flamingos at dawn, preferably while sipping steaming cups of local coffee. Little did I know that my day would go all over Anthony Bourdain and end in my host’s great-aunt’s kitchen, where I would learn carefully guarded recipes passed down from mother to daughter to a wide-eyed traveler.

I enjoyed that day with her Spanish immersion with Mona and Tia Ligia amid sizzling Yucatan squash and shrimp and fresh tomatoes and chili peppers and market-bought bacon and crab and conch and octopus ceviche and achiote paste and epitees and soft noodles and light as … air meringue. I will never forget. A connection. A few hours with the family I just met. Not my family, but my family. Because in those moments, they became my family. Because, when I left late in the afternoon, Tia Ligia grabbed my hands and insisted in her sweet broken English: “This is your house. This is your house!”

I hope to return one day, although it is a long journey through miles of scrub and swamps. Not to mention far, far off the grid. I fell in love that day. And I’m sure if you had been there you would understand.

This is the place.

Thank you Mona for teaching me how to make meringue and introducing me to your iguana. And thank you, Tia, for inviting me to enter your heart.


Closely guarded and hailed as Yucat√°n’s own version of this classic French dessert.

6 egg whites

2 cups of organic sugar (ivory color)

Quarter-size slice of lime peel

2 drops of lime juice

11 tablespoons of water

1. Add water and lime zest to the sugar and boil until a ball forms on your fingers after dropping it into cold water (soft ball stage).

2. Add 2 drops of lemon juice. This makes the meringue a bright white color.

3. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.

4. Pour the sugar syrup in a steady stream into the egg white as you rotate the bowl and beat until thick and stiff.

5. At this stage, the meringue makes a smooth, velvety frosting for cakes and cookies.

6. If desired, spoon onto cookie sheet and cook until glassy and dry.

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