When I plan my trip to Oaxaca each year, I go with my list in mind of restaurants I want to try, or with chefs that I am curious about. In my past few visits, I have stopped thinking about the meals in between these planned meals.
My cravings have built to a point where I know, even 10 days in Oaxaca are not enough to conquer them all. I have so many favourites, it’s hard to find time to have all of these plus find new. Building a list of “musts” would only lead to disappointment for the tastes I’d miss out on, so I’ve gotten to the point to relax in my eating while I’m there. I have learned that sometimes I need to be comfortable taking a chance on an unknown meal. It helps immensely that I’m confident in the quality of all levels of dining in Oaxaca (minus the street elotes), so it’s now leading me to other food adventures, again adding to my list of “favourites”.
This post is about the easy eating in Oaxaca. The things you happen to find if you’re wandering the streets in Oaxaca. I admit, I’m a bit weary of street eating, (after suffering from bouts of “bad stomach as a result of it) but have learned that a long line and vendors that seem to put a thought into keeping their hands clean are enough to convince me to give it a whirl.
On my first day in Oaxaca, Kyle from Cafe Brujula came to our casa to make his special chile con carne, that we’d eat a few days later. For lunch, we had tortas (sandwiches) from La Hormiga in Conzatti Park with my favourite Mexican beer.
Every day in Oaxaca, I walk by numerous street food vendors. I’m not that interested in the potato chips or burgers, but if I see a taco stand, I always slow a bit to peer into the action. I don’t know how many times in the last few years I’ve slowed to check out the crowded taco stand, a block from where I stay (@ Murgia & Pino Suarez). I’ve gazed at the steaming head meat that gets lifted out of a pot and then chopped finely on a carved out cutting board. Even though the sight of this has made my mouth water each time, for some reason I’ve never stopped to try. This year, the gang had scouted it out beforehand and reported back that they were delicious. Well of course, I had to try for myself.
One morning I wandered through the streets to find myself breakfast. I was thinking of getting a tamale from one of the markets, but I’ve had such bad luck finding delicious tamales in Oaxaca the last few years, I thought I’d try something new. I ended up in Llano Park and passed a taco stand, surrounded by people sipping away at styrofoam cups. I remember reading how delicious this consome could be so I decided to give it a try. I’m lucky they don’t sell things like this at home, because the rich (and fatty) consome is something I’d crave all the time in the winter.
Another one of my goals this trip to Oaxaca was to explore the exploding mezcal scene. In the past year, there seemed to be quadruple the number of cool mezcalarias. I’ve noticed that as the profile of mezcal in Oaxaca has raised, the price point has also pushed considerably higher. I was very curious to see if the boom in mezcal was worthy of the hype.
My first tasting was the El Cortijo, where we sat and had a great sampling of their line.
I was delighted to discover that there seemed to be a correlation in the quality of mezcal with price. My tastes changed with this tasting, and I realized the cheaper mezcal I’ve been drinking has been more like “hooch”.
As the tasting went on we started chatting “food” with one of the mezcaleros of El Cortijo, Raul Mendez Zamora. He told us that his favourite taco stand (@Murgia & Libres) was just a few blocks away from where we were staying and was open late. Tacos de lechon (suckling pig) with chicharron seemed the perfect thing to soak up the copious amount of mezcal we drank that evening.
One morning, Tom came back to the casa with a plate of tacos he said was served from the trunk of a car. The tacos were good, so I had to go see for myself what “trunk tacos” was all about.
I also stopped at a fruit stand on my way back to grab a fresh squeezed orange juice.
The street food in Oaxaca excited me so much this year. I would have loved to explore more, but there’s only so much I can tackle in 10 days…