My craving for Oaxaca with a side of Carne Asada

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I have Oaxaca on my mind.  For most people, you’re probably either wondering:

a) What the heck is Oaxaca? Is it a cheese?

b) I think I know of this place, called “O-axe-ka” but of all the wonderous places to visit that have delicious food, why would you bother dreaming about Oaxaca?

c) It seems like Susy really likes this “O-axe-ka” place, but I wonder what it is about it that draws her to it?

My last Oaxacan adventure was almost 2 years ago and I had such a glorious time (minus a day and a half of bad stomach) that I have it on my brain to go back.  During my past 2 adventures, I learned so much about Oaxacan cuisine and feel comfortable at home recreating  various dishes. But I think it’s time to go back and re-load my arsenal.  Well that AND it’s always nice to get to spend quality time with the in-laws and friends. Well that AND I always like an excuse to travel.  Well that AND  I’m really craving the 1 dish that I can’t recreate at home and is absolutely amazing there… chicken mole tamales.

In the meantime, while I dream of Oaxaca, I thought I’d try to make something satisfy me in the present.  Another one of my favourite meals in Oaxaca is “meats from a smoky hall” and I figured I could get close to the flavours, (even though I would never be able to recreate the atmosphere).  A great bbq cookbook I have, The Barbeque Bible by Steven Raichlen, nudged me further into this meal with its description of the dish…

“The best carne asada I’ve ever tasted was at the Mercado 20 de Noviembre in Oaxaca. The contrast of textures and flavors – chewy meat, crisp scallions, juicy salsa, cooling guacamole, and fiery chiles – was as dazzling as the Baroque architecture in the local churches.”

Oaxacan-style Carne Asado

  • 1 bunch of scallions left whole, washed and trimmed.
  • 4 hot chiles – chiles de agua is most authentic, but I didn’t have those, so I used a combination of jalapeno and poblano.
  • 1 lb sirloin steak cut into broad sheets, 1/4″ thick
  • corn tortillas or flour if you like
  • 1 limes cut into wedges
  • pico de gallo – recipe follows
  • guacamole – recipe follows

1.  Put peppers and scallions whole on grill.  I ended up cutting the peppers and seeding them beforehand, but you can keep them whole and peel and de-seed them after the fact.

2.  Cut steaks into broad sheets . My pieces were sliced less than 1/2″ and then I pounded them out thinner. Season meat with salt and place on an oiled grill.

3. Warm tortillas over the grill. Or wrap them in a kitchen cloth and warm them in the microwave.

4.  Serve with guacamole, pico de gallo, lime, scallions and chiles.

4. Assemble by placing the meat on a tortilla, top with scallion and chile.  Top with a spoonful of guacamole and salsa and a squeeze of lime.

5. Enjoy!

Pico De Gallo

  • 3 plum tomatoes seeded or 10-12 cherry tomatoes – finely chopped
  • 1/2 small red or white onion finely diced
  • couple handfuls of cilantro chopped, (amount to your taste)
  • 1-2 jalepenos seeded and finely chopped (depending on how spicy you like it)
  • lime juice & salt

Combine all ingredient and let sit for flavours to blend.

Fast Guacamole

  • 1 avocado mashed
  • 2 spoonfuls of pico de gallo
  • lime juice
  • spoonful of chile powder (I use my special Oaxacan mix)
They serve a more liquid guacamole made with tomatillos in Mexico served as a condiment not this chunky version but this version is easier to make.

Good but nowhere near as amazing as the “smoky hall”.  Hmmmm, perhaps Oaxaca in November?

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