The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw a massive influx of Lebanese and Syrian immigrants arrive in Mexico and most settled in the Port of Veracruz, Tampico and Yucatan.
The Lebanese immigrants, wanting to be accepted by the local Yucatecans, offered them “Kibis”, the Lebanese national dish that is also known as kupe, quebbe, kibbeh or kipe. This original Middle Eastern dish was quickly adopted into the Yucatecan cuisine and became a favourite snack among villagers, and tourists who came in search of the highly appreciated Yucatecan gastronomy.
Kibis are similar to meatballs made from cracked wheat and stuffed with minced meat that has been fried to give it a crunchy texture. The original Lebanese recipe is still in use today, but typical ingredients from the Yucatan Peninsula like marinated red onion, bitter oranges and habanero chilli have been added to create an exquisite mix that’s sure to make your mouth water.
You can find them in many restaurants offering traditional Yucatecan dishes and also from small street stalls. In the street, they are usually kept in glass cases, and vendors are easily recognised by their characteristic cry of “kibis, kibis, kibis!” Prices range from 8 to 10 Mexican pesos.
Originally the recipe was based around wheat stuffed with minced meat; however, nowadays, there are several other versions around, albeit to a lesser extent. You can find kibis stuffed with ingredients like ham, cheese, or even, hand-rolled chicharrones. Another variation is the kibi stuffed with a ball of cheese, just one of the foreign ingredients that have been added to Yucatecan cuisine over time.