On my visit to the Portland Mercado last week, I was pleasantly surprised to find a new Yucatecan food cart, Principe Maya, which had opened just days earlier, on March 1.
This is owner Edilberto Puch’s first food cart, which he runs along with his aunt, Maria Briceno. Growing up in Chumayel in Yucatán, he learned to cook from his mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother after deciding at a young age that he wanted to cook for a living. Prior to the pandemic, he worked at Angel Food & Fun, a mainstay in Portland’s Yucatecan food scene.
The menu includes tacos, panuchos, and tortas with shredded chicken or succulent slow-roasted cochinita pibil, which you’ll find on the menus of most other Yucatecan carts and restaurants in town. But the cart also offers several dishes I’ve rarely, if ever, seen on Yucatecan menus in Portland before: brazo de reina, a Yucatecan tamal stuffed with eggs and ground pumpkin seeds and topped with tomato sauce; kibis, a popular Yucatecan street food with Lebanese roots consisting of a crunchy, fried cracked wheat shell stuffed with a meat, mint, and egg filling and topped with crisp cabbage and tangy pickled red onions; and the weekends-only relleno negro, a black stew made with charred chiles, turkey, and hard-boiled eggs that Puch fondly remembers eating at weddings and quinceañeras. I've visited the cart twice now and tried half the menu, and nothing has disappointed yet, though not all items are regularly available as the cart is getting off the ground. Look for a bigger menu in the future, with dishes like huevos motuleños—fried tortillas topped with black beans, fried eggs, tomato sauce, and peas.
Within days of the cart’s opening, Puch says, customers with roots in Yucatán have come to try the cart—especially for dishes like the hard-to-find kibis—and have given it their stamp of approval.
“I try to make it 100 percent authentic,” Puch says.