Try salbute, a Yucatecan dish

Feb 2, 2015 by Capt. John Wampler

Just before the holidays, I went to Panama to pick up a vintage 64-foot Burger to deliver back to Florida. An early winter delivery, i had my fair share of weather delays, which allowed the crew and I to explore Isla San Andres, Roatan, and Isla Mujeres. As always, I am on the scent for a new recipe, especially one for leftovers.

Salbute, a Yucatecan dish. Photo by Capt. John Wampler

Salbute, a Yucatecan dish. Photo by Capt. John Wampler

The Yucatecan dish salbute is shredded meat such as chicken mojo or taco meat (or mushrooms for you vegetarians) piled high on fried masa and garnished with cabbage, tomato, avocado, and cilantro. This recipe requires a couple of easy preps but you will find it most rewarding.

For the masa:

  • 1 cup dry masa harina (corn flour)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cups warm water
  • (Makes 5-6 tortillas)

Combine masa and salt in a bowl and mix thoroughly.
Slowly add warm water and mix with a spatula.
Knead this dough on a flat surface until it becomes smooth, similar to Silly Putty. Lightly oil your hands and roll out golf ball-size portions. Let the masa balls sit for about 45 minutes.
Once rested, press the masa into tortillas with a tortilla press between two pieces of waxed paper. (If you do not have either, cut off the edges of a plastic bag and press dough on the countertop with a plate.) They should be smaller and thicker than regular tortillas, about ¼-inch thick and 2½-3 inches in diameter.
In a deep skillet, fry them on both sides in hot oil. They will inflate as they cook. Drain in a colander lined with paper towels.

For the cebolla morada (pickled red onion):

  • 2 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced or diced
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 1/4 cup orange juice (sour oranges are best)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • diced habanero chiles for those who like it hot 

Place onions in a saucepan, add water to cover, bring to a boil and remove from heat. Drain and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process.
Place the onions in a glass container with the remaining ingredients and allow to sit for several hours before serving. This will keep up to one week in the refrigerator. Makes about 3 cups.

Assemble the salbute:

  • Cabbage or lettuce, shredded
  • Cooked, shredded chicken, beef or portobello
  • cebolla morada
  • tomatoes, diced
  • avocado
  • habanero chiles in vinaigrette or any hot salsa
  • sour cream, if desired
  • cilantro, chopped

Capt. John Wampler has worked on yachts big and small for more than 25 years. He’s created a repertoire of quick, tasty meals for crew to prepare for themselves to give the chef a break. Contact him through Comments on this column are welcome at


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