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Fish stall

The changes in food from coastline to the interior. From barbacoa de chivo to enchilada con mole negro.

“Where in Mexico can I find food as in ‘Like Water for Chocolate’?” I asked our Mexican waitress in ‘Mochica’, a Peruvian restaurant in San Francisco. “Puebla” she answered unhesitatingly. Since we entered Mexico, I have been searching vainly for that wonderfully complex, rich food. Although I knew that I would not find moles until we reached the interior, the food along the coastline has been nothing to write home about, mostly made to serve American tastes. Whenever we ate at a ‘palapa’, an open shelter of palm leaves on the beach, the food was simple, peasant food, albeit extremely fresh. The ‘salsa’ was a simple mix of various chilies, the food was rarely spiced.

The Benito Juarez mercado – a food binge

prawns chickens chocolate veg-vendor

As we entered the state of Oaxaca and moved away from the coast, things started looking up. In Juquila, a pilgrim town situated high in the mountains where resides the ‘virgen’ – an extremely revered figure all over Mexico – we started seeing moles on the menu. Bright and colorful tables set cafeteria style adorned roadside stalls welcoming weary pilgrims with enchilada con mole, caldo de camarones (prawn soup) and the ever present carne asada (grilled meat).

The awesome asado of the market

asador flames meat food-stalls

When we entered Oaxaca we finally reached the Mecca of food. Even the touristy (but pleasant) cafes around the zocalo, the main plaza, served complex moles. Yesterday we went to the Benito Juarez market selling fresh meat, fruits, vegetables, flowers, cheese. It was a feast for the eyes and the stomach – the numerous food stalls selling caldo de res (beef stew) enchiladas with many kinds of moles – rojo, negro, verde. But the icing on the cake was the barbecue section of the market. Through what Fred called ‘the gates of hell’, we saw an extremely crowded section with smells of sizzling meat masked by thick smoke. Stalls selling chorizo, fresh and aged beef, tripe and chicken lined the sides of the corridor. Handpicked by the hungry customers, these meats were barbecued over open flames with fresh vegetables and served on large, round cane plates with freshly made tortillas. Yum!

3 Responses to “Food, fish and fun in Mexico”

  1. fred says:

    sitting in el cafe del theatro in Oaxaca
    some of these pictures look familar!

  2. madhuri says:

    Farmers market pictures are lovely. Although i dont see any vegetables other than chillies :-)
    Do the open meat stalls smell?

  3. Neena says:

    Hi Madhuri,
    I think Mexico would be a difficult place for vegetarians, however much
    the guide books try to convince you otherwise. Meat stalls don’t really smell, but barbecuing meat does! We had a feast at the “gates of hell” and it does smell of roasting meat.

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