Archive for the ‘Street Food’ Category|
Sunday, March 3rd, 2013
Pork and lard play such prominent roles in Poblano cuisine that it’s tough to make a case for replacing them in typical “street” foods like chalupas, tacos árabes, tlacoyos, or even tortitas de Santa Clara. Yes, soy proteins and vegetable broth, oil, or shortening can be substituted in traditional recipes, but the resulting flavor is rarely the same. Perhaps this is why so many local cooks continue to use pig parts and products: They’re both delicious and customary.
That said, being the gastronomic capital that it is, the city of Puebla also offers some intrinsically meatless fare that’s truly fantastic, such as elotes, molotes de papa, and huauzontles capeados (see descriptions below). These popular antojitos are relatively easy to find at neighborhood puestos and market stalls — and, with a little careful ordering to avoid the unnecessary addition of animal fat, almost everyone may enjoy them.
I say almost everyone, because most of these snacks rely on either eggs or dairy products as key ingredients, and some are cooked on the same surfaces as meat. If you’re a strict vegetarian or a die-hard vegan, you may have a difficult time finding casual foods you can enjoy in their intended forms. Striking out curbside? At least a dozen vegetarian restaurants in Puebla cater to your dietary needs. When navigating menus at other eateries, be aware that classic sauces like mole poblano and pipiánes, vegetable soups, and rice dishes often contain chicken broth. Other tips: Always ask whether the beans contain bits of meat or lard (¿Los frijoles llevan algo de carne o manteca?). Order green salads and fruits in higher-end establishments, where it’s likely the produce has been properly handled and disinfected.
So, who’s hungry? Here are five delicious and (mostly) vegetarian street foods to enjoy in Puebla.
Elote or esquites
The state of Puebla is sometimes called “the cradle of corn,” in part because the oldest kernels in the world were found near the city of Tehuacán. Elotes and esquites celebrate fresh maíz. An elote is typically a tender ear of white or blue corn that’s boiled, put on a stick, slathered with mayonnaise, and sprinkled with coarse Parmesan-like cheese and chile powder (from mild to spicy) to taste. Esquites are the kernels cooked off the cob, often mixed with onion, chile peppers, and butter. They’re served in a Styrofoam cup and topped with the same condiments plus a squeeze or two of lime juice; you stir and enjoy them with a plastic spoon. I’m partial to Elotes Zavaleta (Calzada Zavaleta #3908, Col. Santa Cruz Buena Vista Sur, across the street from Office Depot), where the choice of toppings includes homemade peanut and habanero salsas. Chileatole is available, too. 16 pesos. Open 5 to 11:30 p.m. daily.
Closely related to quinoa, these wild greens are a personal favorite. You typically find them capeados, or coated in flour and egg batter and fried, with or without their inedible stalks removed. For a truly tactile experience, buy huauzontles at a city market such as Mercado de la Acocota (16 Norte at 6 Oriente, Barrio del Alto) and devour them at room temperature, pulling the stalks through your teeth to remove the broccoli-esque flowers. For a more refined experience, try them at La Casita Poblana (16 de Septiembre #3912, Col. Huexotitla) restaurant, which serves them several ways with the stalks removed. I can’t resist the huauzontles en caldillo, or two bunches paired with cheese, battered and fried, and then bathed in a garlicky tomato broth. 15 to 115 pesos. Market and restaurant open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
Quesadilla de flor de calabaza y champiñones
Squash blossoms, mushrooms, epazote, and melted cheese inside a corn tortilla that’s handmade to order. What’s not to like? Order yours sin grasa at Quesadillas y Gorditas La Paz (Aljojuca #25, Col. La Paz) to avoid the liberal addition of pork fat, which is otherwise used to add flavor and grease the comal your quesadilla is fried on. Still hungry? Order a memela (a.k.a. gordita), or corn dough that’s filled with black beans, shaped into a thick, oblong tortilla and cooked on the griddle. The staff says the beans are lard-free. Order a gordita en bandera con todo, sin grasa and it’ll arrive sporting red and green salsas, crumbled cotija cheese, and chopped onions. A selection of fresh juices and smoothies is also available. 10-21 pesos. Open 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. daily (until 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday).
Molote de papa
As a mid-morning snack or a late-night treat, these deep-fried pockets of corn dough stuffed with mashed potato hit the spot. La Poblanita (5 Poniente #114, Col. Centro) tops each of its made-to-order molotes with your choice of red or green salsas and sweet crema. I prefer the green, because the acid of the tomatillo cuts the grease of the soy oil used for frying. Other vegetarian fillings, which the proprietors make at home and bring to their tiny stand in Tupperware-type containers, include huitlacoche (corn smut) and tinga con quesillo (a meatless tomato-chipotle sauce with string cheese). 17 pesos. Open 8 a.m.-midnight daily.
Torta de ejotes con rajas
When it comes to sandwiches, green beans with chile peppers and onions may seem like an odd combination, but it’s a winning one at Tortas El Girofle (2 Oriente #15, Col. Centro). Other meatless choices include potatoes or eggs with the same spicy rajas, served in modest portions atop a torta de agua with the center crumbs scooped out. Add avocado, if you’d like. Whichever entree you choose, make sure to order your sandwich sin frijoles, because the beans here are flavored with sausage. Carnivores, in the meantime, must try the chorizo ranchero, whose closely guarded recipe is practically a local legend. 16 pesos. Open 10 a.m.-midnight daily.
¿Se te antoja algo más? You’ll find other vegetarian street foods in Puebla, such as savory and sweet camotes (sweet potatoes), falafel (garbanzo bean patties, often with beet salad, offered by many purveyors of tacos árabes), and fruits or jicama served with chile and lime. If you have a favorite, please feel free to share it by leaving a reply with the delicious details below.
—Rebecca Smith Hurd
Wednesday, May 9th, 2012
If I had to describe my life last week in Puebla in a single sentence, I’d say that I died and went to some sort of foodie Zion. Seriously, my experience was that divine: I spent seven whole days sampling a smorgasbord of regional cuisine, from humble street foods to elegant restaurant fare, crafted by talented cooks and chefs from around the state. I wish that I could eat so well on a regular basis, but alas neither my waistline nor my pocketbook would support it. That said, for one glorious, mouth-watering week, I ascended to gastronomic heaven in Puebla de los Angeles, the original city of angels.
What made it so great? Everything from preparing mole poblano on a traditional metate with cookbook author Mark Bittman to savoring the contemporary dishes of chefs Angel Vázquez and Pablo Salas paired with small-batch Mexican wines. My schedule was jam-packed with eating, drinking, cooking, listening to experts, and having close encounters with a few of my favorite food bloggers and celebrity chefs.
Want the juicy details? Proceed with caution. This post is likely to make you hungry.
They had all convened in Puebla for the first International Mole Festival, one of the many festivities commemorating the 150th anniversary of Cinco de Mayo. Indeed, my culinary bliss was made possible, at least in part, by the state’s international affairs office, which recruited me last fall to help organize and promote the event. Unlike previous mole festivals in Puebla, this one not only celebrated Mexico’s most iconic dish, but also demonstrated its influence on a global scale.
My role in the mole festival was relatively modest, but being involved left a big impression on my mind, my heart, and my stomach. So, I thought I’d share the highlights of my week’s worth of good eats — and food-related activities — in Puebla, in the hopes of enticing others to visit and attend future events.
April 29, 3 p.m.: My in-laws and I descend upon Texas B-B-Q (29 Sur 722, Col. La Paz) to celebrate my husband Pablo’s birthday a day early, given the busy week ahead. Although foreign visitors may bristle at the thought of eating brisket in Puebla, carnivorous locals can appreciate meat cooked to fall-off-the-bone perfection, Lone Star State-style — and this is arguably some of the best barbecue south of the Texas border. The restaurant, which opened in early March, marinates its brisket in a special dry rub, smokes its own sausages and beef and pork ribs for hours, and makes its own secret barbecue sauce. It also carries a nice selection of imported beers (although, sadly, not Shiner Bock). We capped off our meal with an off-key rendition of “Las Mañanitas” and passed a complimentary Texas-shaped waffle, topped with berries and whipped cream, around the table. Our stomachs were primed for the rest of the week!
April 30, 7:30 p.m.: Angelica Bravo Gutiérrez, owner of La Casita Poblana (41 Poniente at 16 de Septiembre, Col. Huexotitla), arranges for a special tasting menu of some of Puebla’s more exotic delicacies at her restaurant. She and I had previously chatted about the fact that I often want to try certain dishes but feel too ashamed to order a huge plate of something that I may not enjoy. As an alternative, she serves up small plates of what seems like half her menu: gusanos de maguey (edible caterpillars), escamoles (ant larvae), tacos de sesos (pig brains), tostadas de pata de res and tinga (pickled cow jelly and chicken stew, respectively), guajolotes (sandwiches of fried-bread and shredded beef), huazontles capeados (deep-fried greens similar to goosefoot weed with panela cheese and an egg coating), chalupas (fried tortillas topped with salsa, onion, and shredded pork), sopa de médula (bone marrow soup), huazontles en salsa roja (the same goosefoot smothered in a tomato-based sauce), huitlacoche (corn smut), pipían verde con pechuga de pollo (chicken breast in a green pumpkin-seed mole) and, of course, the house mole poblano. Whew! Angelica paired each “course” with various Mexican wines, our favorite being a 2009 bottle of Equua, a blend of Grenache and petit Syrah from Baja California.
May 1, 10 a.m.: I return to La Casita with writer Mark Bittman. Mark, a featured speaker at the mole festival, was putting together a new presentation for Puebla and wanted to make mole poblano the old-school way. I tag along as his Spanish interpreter. We meet with veteran cook Doña Ramona in the kitchen. Flanked by a small team of helpers, she explains and demonstrates the process of charring, toasting, and/or frying various ingredients. She then slowly, laboriously begins grinding everything to a smooth, glossy paste on her metate, a 45-year-old slab of volcanic rock that her family in San Pablo del Monte uses to make everything from basic masa for tortillas to elaborate sauces like mole and pipián rojo. Mark and I take turns learning to press the well-seasoned mixture of fruits, nuts, and chiles into a fine paste, which is later brought to a boil and finished with chicken stock. Our version comes out a bit spicier than the restaurant’s recipe. Although this probably has to do with the chiles, I imagine that somehow the fire in Popocatépetl’s belly (which long ago created Doña Ramona’s kitchen stone) has somehow ignited our dish.
May 2, 9:30 a.m.: I pick up celebrity chef Rick Bayless — who’s traveled overnight from Chicago to get to mole festival on time — at the Mexico City Airport. He’s accompanied by Amado Lopez, his chef de cuisine at Xoco in Chicago. As if Rick’s culinary prowess and love of Mexican cuisine hadn’t won me over long ago, I become a fan for life during the two-hour car ride to Puebla when we start chatting about politics and agree that Jon Stewart should moderate a U.S. presidential debate. I’m further impressed when he spends what little time he has in Puebla (like 15 hours) visiting a friend’s new bakery, eating tacos árabes, and tweeting about a street vendor’s five flavors of potato chips. Later, during his talk, he shares personal notes that he took during his first visit to the state capital decades ago.
2:15 p.m.: I’m hungry. I wander among the International Mole Festival food stalls operated by cooks from 10 different municipalities around the state, from Chignahuapan to Huejotzingo. Everything looks and smells divine, but I gravitate toward the Pahuatlán booth. This small town is Puebla’s newest “pueblo mágico,” known for its natural beauty, artisanal goods (such as papel amate), and salsa de chicales (giant ants ground up with chiles served over pork). How could I resist? I’m so glad I couldn’t, because the spicy, savory dish was to-die-for.
May 3, 10 a.m.: A series of talks about mole poblano by Puebla-based chefs begins, with Alonso Hernandez and Rodrigo Ibañez discussing its origins, Liz Galicia and Carlos Zorrilla sharing its traditions, and Angel Vázquez and David Fuentes tackling innovation. For me, this is the most exciting part of the festival. After all, it’s said that Poblanos are among the most talented cooks on the planet — and we’re finally getting to hear from some, on their home turf. They explore the legends surrounding the dish’s invention and subsequent evolution, agreeing that conflicting stories merely add to its allure. “No one has the ‘authentic’ recipe,” notes Carlos (a.k.a. Zorri). “Everyone can vary the ingredients.” Alonso refers to mole poblano as “the king of all sauces,” one versatile enough to combine with anything from beef ribs to lasagna, which Angel and David later underscore by passing out a chocolate truffle with mole poblano ganache that leaves festival attendees begging for more (see Friday).
“The best mole is the one served in my house. Right, Mom?” —Chef Liz Galicia
5 p.m.: A group of foreign friends and restaurateurs are interested in a market tour, so we head off on foot to Mercado de la Acocota in Barrio de la Luz. En route, we stop at a molino to see where busy cooks (who don’t have time to use a metate) go to get their masas and moles processed in large batches. We stop at a grocer to buy chiles and find cured goat preserved from last fall’s traditional slaughter in Tehaucán. We search for a lady inside the market who makes a mole with this meat but come up empty-handed. We console ourselves with a sandwich from Cemitas Beto and a pineapple soda.
7:45 p.m.: We cap off a spectacular day with dinner at El Mural de los Poblanos (16 De Septiembre #506, Col. Centro). After admiring the brand-new Cinco de Mayo-themed painting in the entrance hall, we sit down at a table for nine to enjoy a flight of mezcal (with expert tasting notes from foodie Lesley Tellez), a couple bottles of Barón Balché, grilled panela cheese, and assorted salads and entrees, including an exquisite ensalada de verdolagas (microgreens mixed with local cheese, tomatoes, nuts, and avocado) and arrachera (flank steak) grilled to perfection and served with crispy sweet-potato chips. Tip: You know you’ve picked a good restaurant when Mexico City-based chef Monica Patiño and her entourage are dining a few tables away.
May 4, 3:30 p.m.: Pablo and I head over to foodie Adam Goldberg’s part-time digs in Cholula, where he’s promised to make us “the perfect cup of coffee.” Adam is a connoisseur of the caffeinated brew and owns the gear to prove it (which he lugs all over the world). No kidding: His coffee-making rig is worthy of a how-to article in Wired. It comprises tools for calculating, measuring, and testing whether any given beverage has the proper water-to-coffee ratio. Or something like that. In any case, the man knows how to whip up a strong, well-balanced cup of joe at high altitude (7,000 feet)!
5 p.m.: Back to those mouth-watering mole truffles. When the chef himself offers to teach Gloria Dominguez, a California restaurateur, how to make them and then invites you to join the class — and bring a few friends — how do you say no? You don’t. So, I turn up at Intro Restaurant (Calzada Zavaleta #5624, Col. Zavaleta, San Andrés Cholula) with my other half and foodies Lesley Tellez and Kate Blood. We watch Angel Vázquez deftly put together a chocolatey ganache filling with mole mixed in, and then we get our hands “dirty” while piping, rolling, and dusting the chocolate-coated candies with pulverized baked tortillas. We sample our work with a bottle of Aborigen winery’s Tinto de la Casa.
May 5, 8:30 p.m. To celebrate the 150th anniversary of Cinco de Mayo, we could have attended the free concert by Marc Anthony at Cuauhtémoc stadium. But rather than fight the elements and hordes of people, we opt to splurge on the special menu back at Intro Restaurant, where Angel Vázquez and visiting chef Pablo Salas put together a contemporary six-course dinner with Mexican-wine pairings just for the occasion. The experience is world-class. Carp-roe tacos with cilantro foam. Snapper sashimi with fava-bean purée, warm butter, crispy artichoke bits, and preserved lime. Pork “meatloaf” with almonds, raisins, and epazote. Oxtail with cactus paddle, cauliflower, and grape tomato salad. Braised beef rib in mole poblano with a bean tamal, baby carrots, and chayote.
Did I mention that I died and went to foodie heaven? Many thanks to all of the cooks, chefs, friends, and colleagues who made my week so unbelievably delicious.
—Rebecca Smith Hurd
Sunday, February 13th, 2011
The very mention of Puebla should conjure images of food in every traveler’s mind. Cooks from all over the state are responsible for developing some of the most delicious, iconic cuisine of Mexico—including the internationally beloved mole poblano and the widely misrepresented chalupa. Both dishes were invented ages ago right here in the capital city. Today visitors to Puebla can sample these and other regional recipes at the brand-new Mercado de Sabores Poblanos (market of Puebla flavors).
The market, part of a downtown revitalization effort, opened Feb. 5. It satisfies three municipal needs: increasing tourism, providing a quality space for vendors who specialize in gastronomy, and re-purposing an unused space in the historic center, Mayor Blanca Alcalá said last weekend in an official statement. Alcalá, whose term ends Feb. 15, believes the market will drive future social, economic, and urban development in Puebla—and ensure that poblano cuisine remains one of the city’s biggest attractions. The project took about six months and $4.1 million (50 million pesos) to complete, according to the online newspaper PeriodicoDigital.com.mx.
The Mercado de Sabores Poblanos is a huge U-shaped food court where more than 130 vendors prepare and sell an array of typical street and restaurant fare.
The market establishes an unmistakable modern landmark in the city center. The building’s facade features a vibrant tile mosaic designed by acclaimed painter José Lazcarro that calls out the names of regional dishes. Inside, artist Luz Elvira Torres continues this motif in metal sculptures that dangle from the ceiling, adding a splash of color amid a sea of the white tile that covers the vendor stalls. Laminated signs identify each stall and share a few recipes. By design, the Mercado de Sabores Poblano appears orderly and pristine—a sharp contrast to the chaotic traditional Mercado Venustiano Carranza across the street. Read: What it lacks in charm, it makes up for in hygiene. Meanwhile, the older market is being renovated to house butchers, vegetable growers, and other merchants who did not relocate to the new building, according to a parking attendant who works in the neighborhood and various news reports.
The message: Come to the Mercado de Sabores Poblanos to eat. Go elsewhere for the old-school Mexican market experience.
The food choices are, in a word, abundant. Visitors can sample tacos árabes (pork wrapped in pita), pelonas (sandwiches on deep-fried bread), memelas (bean-stuffed corn tortillas topped with salsa, onions and cheese), pipián verde (chicken in green mole), cemitas (Puebla’s take on the torta), camotes (sweet potato candies), and much more. Vendors range from independent food purveyors to well-established businesses like As de Oro, El Girofle, La Choza del Pescador, and Tacos Tony. Hungry yet?
Mercado de Sabores Poblanos is located on 4 Poniente between 11 and 13 Norte, about halfway to the 4 Poinente bus station from the center of town.
Tuesday, September 7th, 2010
Conquering a continent isn’t easy, especially when its indigenous people do not subscribe to your belief system. Back in the 16th century, the Spaniards decided that the best way to overcome religious dissent in the New World was to dismantle or diminish important indigenous structures. In Cholula, one of the oldest continually occupied sites in the Americas, Cortes and his cohorts built a Catholic church on top of the Great Pyramid and started honoring their own patron saint (in this case, the virgin of the remedies) on the same day that the locals paid homage to their most revered gods.
Fast-forward a few hundred years and ancient and modern beliefs have fused into a single, glorious celebration. The festivities begin a week prior, when Cholutecans from various neighborhoods lead a midnight procession through town, bearing lanterns and images of the virgin. Much to everyone’s relief, we imagine, the practice of sacrificing a local resident to Quetzalcoatl or another pre-Hispanic god on Sept. 8 — now the virgin’s feast day in Cholula — has evolved into an entirely symbolic gesture. After the final Mass celebrated at the church, worshipers today burn a chubby paper-mâché doll with fireworks instead of offing a real person. This human stand-in, called el panzón for its big belly, is stuffed with apples that fall out as the doll goes up in flames.
“The annual fair of Cholula is a sample of the folklore and the way of life of the people from this area,” city officials say.
People from all parts of Puebla and adjacent states travel to Cholula to pay their respects to the virgin and the ancient religious site. The market that centuries ago naturally occurred at the base of the pyramid, as the result of so many merchants and farmers coming to town, in 1950 evolved into an annual regional fair. The 2010 Feria Milenaria runs through Sept. 16 in San Pedro Cholula. The line of street vendors literally stretches from the pyramid, up the main drag, to the zócalo. Visitors can sample all sorts of regional specialties, from pan de nata to pulque, purchase arts & crafts and household wares, and enjoy carnival-style thrill rides. The city’s tourism chief told local press that he expects 100,000 people to attend this year.
Photo credit (El Panzón): Isabel Muñiz Montero, 2007