Warning: This is going to be lengthy. It may take some time to get through but bear with it as it will be rewarding.* Mexico is food heaven. That’s not to say that when food perishes it ends up here. Quite the opposite – It felt like Mexicans invented food and are showing the world how to eat. In Mexico we ate the best and most interesting food since we were in China. I wouldn’t want to say which of the two is better as they are incomparable (not least because China is so big). However, the range and freshness of the produce and dishes we tasted, as well as the passion the locals had for their cuisine was unrivalled. We ate in Michelin starred restaurants, on the road side, in markets and in people’s houses and it was all excellent. We had so many good things in our mouths that I need to split this blog into edible and drinkable. The drinks are what possibly tips Mexico past China for me so we’ll do that separately. Here goes….
*The authors of this blog will not be held responsible for any dribbling or excessive consumption post reading of the blog.
The staples in Mexico are corn based – tacos, tortillas, dorados, carnitas, tamales, elote… the list goes on. All undeniably Mexican and all offer a distinctive texture. Then there are the fillings. You could write a volume of encyclopedia describing the variations and spend a lifetime eating all the combinations. Most prevalent are tacos and in taquerias they are normally served in portions of five. Five definitely isn’t enough and at first I thought ten seemed a bit ridiculous but it turned out not to be.
Tacos al pastor, San Cristobal. Similar to a shawarma but with pork and served with lime and pineapple and chilli.
Cocinita Tacos (slow cooked pork) and 5 salsas at Conchinita, San Cristobal
The humble Cazon and camaron tacos (shark and prawn) from Campeche
The posh taco from Pitiona, Oaxaca
The frankly outrageous pork belly taco from Pitiona, Oaxaca
Two Tamale variations from San Cristobal. Bola – corn tamale with pork and chile simojovel and Chipilin – plantain tamale with chicken and chipilin herb
Tamale with mole negro from Mercado de 20 Nov. Oaxaca
Dorados con carne en su jugo (crispy tacos with meat and its soup in a cup) from Tonola market, Guadalahara
Elote from San Cristobal. Corn on the cob, smeared with mayo and chilli
I was excited about tacos but didn’t expect that sandwiches were also serious business in Mexico. They really have taken sandwichery to another level.
Cocinita Torta from Tortas Al Fuego in Mexico DF. The best sandwich in the world. All the ingredients are cooked on a hot plate, then a bean smeared buttered bun placed on top (still on the grill) and then all squished down. Served with lime and a couple of salsa options. Impossible not to order two. Sometimes whilst still eating number one
Genius at work. Tortas Al Fuego, Mexico DF
Ahogada from Ahogadas Migue in Guadalahara. Ahogada, the new best sandwich in the world. It’s made using salty, crunchy bread that’s soft in the middle. The sandwich artist fills the bread with pork and some token lettuce and then dips the whole thing in a chilli tomato sauce and serves with a spicy oniony salsa. The bread holds it’s shape and doesn’t dissolve…until it’s in your face that is.
Artist at work making ahogadas.
And then in Mexico DF we stumbled across the actual best sandwich in the world. THE MIGHTY PAMBAZO. Dipped in a sauce made of guajillo chiles and then fried. It’s like a deep fried chilli sponge stuffed with pork. This is sandwitchcraft like I’ve never seen
The greatest sandwich on earth
Of course to go alongside all that, Mexico is famous for lip smouldering, tongue blistering, throat corroding, ass blazing chillies. Pasillas, poblanos, habaneros, cascabels, jalapeños, moritas, guajillos the list goes on.
Mexico DF standard condiment basket- chilliphile paradise
Chiles from Tlacolula Sunday Market
Chiles de Mexico in Tlacolula Sunday Market
Habanero salsa made at our table at Casa Oaxaca. BURN
Chiles. The best thing to come out of Mexico since all the other amazing things that come out of Mexico
But then there’s also mole. I’d only ever tried it once before and I didn’t love it, but in Mexico they don’t just have the rich, dark one. I still don’t love it but it’s such a complex flavour that I couldn’t stop eating it.
Mole – two kinds from Oaxaca. There are actually 7 types in Oaxaca and they are made by combining dozens of spices. Negro; Rojo; Coloradito; Amarillo; Verde; Chichilo; Manchamantel.
Loadsa mole in Oaxaca market
Turkey mole negro from Casa Oaxaca, Oaxaca.
Rabbit amarillo mole from Casa Oaxaca, Oaxaca.
Two types of mole (one aged) from Pujol – one of the top 15 restaurants in the world. There are no other pictures of this meal as we may have got a lot drunk.
And for desert or a snack or whenever you can get them really…
Delicious Churros from Tonala street market outside Guadalahara
Packing a couple of Churros from Tonola
Churros with a naughty little salted caramel in the middle
But all of that was really just the stuff we knew about already. Here are some of the delights we discovered and shoved in our faces. Like Hernan Cortes before us we also forged a path of discovery, munching our way through Mexico.
Birria de Chivo seller in Tlacolula Sunday Market. Birria de Chivo is the typical dish from Jalisco – goat slow cooked over an open fire.
Goat Birria and a couple of Mariachis.
Goat birria in its own soup served with tacos and salsa
Tlayuda from the market in Oaxaca – Like a Mexican pizza – flame cooked tortilla with beef, avo, salad, stringy cheese and a good slug of chilli sauce
Another tlayuda from Abuelitas in Mercado de 20 Nov in Oaxaca. This time with cerdo and chorizo as well as beef.
Flor de calabaza (courgette flowers) on the pass, from Tlacolula Sunday market
Flor de calabza quesadilla from Tlacolula Sunday market
Frijoles and chile relleno from Oaxaca market. Pobalano chilli stuffed with pork and nuts and battered in egg.
Pan de cazon from Campeche. Like a shark tortilla lasagna
Then there was this. I can’t describe how happy this place made me.
Up there with my favourite places to eat in the universe. BBQ alley in Mercado 20 Nov. in Oaxaca.
Step 1. Pick your meat. For us, misto with tesado (dried beef) chorizo and marinated cerdo
Step 2: Wait for it to be BBQ’d then admire what you’ve just been presented with – grilled chilis and spring onions. Fresh big tortillas (sold separately by women from baskets). Sides of guacamole, avacado, salsa, nopales, salad
Step 3: Roll up
Step 4 and 5 and 6: EAT EAAAAAT
Nopales (cactus) from Tonala street market outside Guadalajara
Flan de leche from Tonala street market Guadalajara
Chilaquiles from Mexico DF. Triangles of crispy tortillas with red and green salsa, beans and cheese. Breakfast
Chapulines, (Grasshoppers) from Tonala, Guadalahara. They are toasted, flavoured and then eaten as a snack or made into sauces. It’s an unusual flavour – kind of sour and not unpleasant
Turkeys for sale from Tlacolula Sunday market
And to wash it all down a few things to drink that should really be in the drinkable blog but aren’t alcoholic enough so they fit better here.
Champorado (hot chocolate drink) and bread with fennel from Oaxaca Mercado 20 Nov. Served at breakfast
Two Oaxacans enjoying some champarado in Mercado 20 Nov, Oaxaca
Chocolate producers in Mayorodama Oaxaca. You can buy it ground, or in a chocolate caliente con agua served with bread
Tejatera selling tejate in Tlacolula Sunday market
Tejateras preparing tejate in Tlacolula Sunday market. They start at 4am and make it from maize and cacao. They’ve been doing it the same way for thousands of years.
Woman preparing tejate in Tlacolula Sunday market. Probably the best market we went to all year
Pulque and Tepache from Tlacolula Sunday market. Pulque is a fermented drink made from maguey (type of agave) that Mexicans have been drinking since the time of the Aztecs. Tepache is made from corn and sweetened with cinnamon
Pulque. Served in a calabas