Wednesdays and Saturdays are the official market days in Puerto Escondido, when farmers come into town to sell their freshly harvested fruits/vegetables, seafood, poultry, and meat. We bought avocados, limes, onions, scallions, tomatoes, cilantro, fried tortillas, and soft corn tortillas, pineapple, mangos, red snapper and shrimp. Our menu: fresh guacamole, with crispy tortilla chips. Fresh fruit drinks made in a blender and spiked with rum. Grilled whole red snapper with olive oil, cilantro, garlic and lime; shrimp with garlic and oil, baked potatoes and grilled scallion. It was all so delicious, we made the same dinner a few nights later.
Archive for the Mexico Category
The famous “Mexican pipeline” is found on Zicatela beach, the number three surf location in the world, which are huge waves that form a tube when breaking. Only advanced surfers dare to challenge the monster waves which can easily snap a surfboard in two. We went to watch, and, man, the waves towered over the surfers– that’s how big the waves were. I’d also read that the undertow can be so strong that people have been swept out to sea when only standing ankle deep in water. I didn’t want to take any chances, and kept away from the waters altogether while we were at Zicatela.
With that said we went to Playa Carranzilillo to surf. The waves at Playa Carranzilillo are nice and easy, rarely breaking. I was sharing the waters with other beginner surfers, so it was tough to catch many waves.
The road conditions and the mountains make traveling through Mexico long and tiresome. From Oaxaca, a bus took us south to Puerto Escondido a beach town on the Pacific known for its surfing, and the location where we would meet Tracy for the week. Only 130miles, but 6 hours by bus.
We rented an amazing house with an endless pool on a cliff above Manzanillo beach with a view over Angelito beach. It’s hard to imagine after a year of being on vacation that we would need a break from traveling, but a week without planning each day and the following week sounded perfect to us.
As we were passing by the mercado Noviembre 20, we noticed huge billows of smoke coming from inside. We walked in to a meat market and discovered you could pick your meat and eat it right there. Each butcher stand was equipped with a grill and prepared to cook up a meat-feast. With the smoke cover and people vying for your business, it was a bit overwhelming, but we managed to get a table. We had spicy pork, beef, and spicy sausage with sides of guacamole, salsa and grilled scallions. It was all delicious, until 12 hours later I ended up in the bathroom for the next 24 hours.
Reading history section of each country in our guide book can sometimes be boring. And I will admit, I have been known to skip it entirely. But the one part of the travel guide that I never skip is the food chapter. Mostly I highlight and take notes on what I’d like to try while in said country. For Mexico, I actually made a list of things not to eat. I wrote down the Spanish name so I wouldn’t order it by mistake. My list was chapulines (grasshoppers), gusanos (worms), huitlacoche (black fungus grown on corn). Seems easy enough to avoid…
Oaxaca is known for its culinary traditions, and I wanted to learn more about it. So I signed us up for two different classes. Our first class was with Pilar at La Casa de los Sabores. Before we started cooking we headed to Mercado Democracia to buy our fresh ingredients…mangos and watercress for our salad, yerbasanta leaves, corn husks, banana leaves, squash blossoms, huitlacoche, and corn masa to make tamales.
Going to the market is one of my favorite things. I love to look at local fruits and vegetables, the cheeses and meats. But going to the market with an expert like Pilar makes the experience even better. It also makes it easier to taste foods you may normally not eat–after all if the chef is eating it, it can’t be that bad. Pilar seemed pretty excited that chapuline/ grasshopper season had just started. Grasshoppers are sold in a variety of sizes, but the baby ones are the freshest and taste the beat. The grasshoppers are boiled then mixed in a salty concoction and eaten like any other snack, by the handful. To me, it tasted like dried salted shrimp, kind of like smelly fish.
After our market experience, we headed back to the kitchen to get working on our menu–a fresh jicama/mango watercress salad, three types of tamales, spicy salsa, and a mango mousse. There were eight of us in the class, and we worked as a group on each of the courses. The tamales were chicken with black mole, bean with yerbasanta leaf, and squash blossom with huitlacoche (black fungus). I love mushrooms, but I was weary of the corn fungus. But mixed into our corn tamales, it was actually hard to detect much of a taste.
Lastly, we made spicy salsa with gusano worms crushed in for added flavor. It turns out Mexicans have a long history of eating insects, mostly because they did not have many domesticated animals, so as an alternate source of protein they ate insects. The gusano worm is the same worm found at the bottom of a bottle of Mezcal. They are white, pinkish or red in color. We ground up the worms in a mortar and pestle along with the rest of the ingredients for the salsa. I can’t exactly describe the flavor of the worms–smokey?? But I didn’t like the flavor of the salsa. Maybe it was because I knew there were worms in it.
I fully enjoyed learning to cook from Pilar, it was a great experience. Somehow she had my secret list of things not to eat, and I tried them all. When in Rome…
Oaxaca, located a few hours east of Mexico City, has a population of almost a half million people but it feels like a lot more than that. Mexicans from all over the country come to the month long celebration of Guelaguetza. In pre-Hispanic times, the festival was to honor maize and the wind gods. Now days, it’s a folk festival and a celebration of the Virgen del Carmen. We just happen to be staying right in front of the Iglesia del Carmen Alta, where street vendors are lined up outside our place selling empanadas, memeles, embaradas, tostadas, ice cream, pancakes, corn, jimica, etc. Along with the food, there are carnival rides, giant puppet dances, firework displays, and music plays from morning to night.
The main event during the month is the Guelaguetza on the Lunes del Cerro, located in an ampitheater overlooking Oaxaca. Traditional dance and music representing the seven regions of Oaxaca are celebrated. It is held every year on the first and second Monday after July 16th. It’s a three hour event, in theory. But it’s necessary to arrive early in order to attempt to get a seat. Mike and I left two hours early in an attempt to get one of the free seats, but ended up smashed up against other people waiting to get in. Finally after three hours of almost no personal space, we got in. Standing room only. But for the hour we watched, the dances were beautiful, as were the costumes.