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(Mostly) Street Food in Mexico City (Many pics)

(Mostly) Street Food in Mexico City (Many pics)
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  • (Mostly) Street Food in Mexico City (Many pics)

    Post #1 - January 23rd, 2008, 6:43 pm
    Post #1 - January 23rd, 2008, 6:43 pm Post #1 - January 23rd, 2008, 6:43 pm
    Though feeling definitely spoiled after an amazing trip to the Iberian peninsula over the holidays, the need to keep moving away from the chill brought my girlfriend and I to Mexico City. I was again blown away by the simplicity and focus on fresh ingredients of a cuisine that just gets too convoluted in translation to suit American tastes.

    We started the first full day at my regular haunt when I visit town, Cafe El Popular, near the Zocalo:
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    Nothing says good morning like a tall glass of freshly squeezed Jugo de Mandarina:
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    They had some new huevos specials, including perennial favorite, Huevos Oaxaquenos, which were blazing in a salsa spiked with chilies arboles. This rendition was unique in that the quesillo was rolled into the center of the omelet:
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    After a midmorning siesta, we hit the dizzying Mercado de Merced, which was a new journey for me. It was breathtakingly sprawling, over the top, too big. But perhaps the single greatest concentration of color north of the Tropic of Cancer:
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    This place is like Maxwell Street Market's whole family on growth hormones. It rightfully feels as though it is the vendor of provisions to a city of twenty million plus people.
    Sometimes it gets really clumsy being the tallest guy in the crowds tens of thousands deep, so unfortunately we had had it with the crowds by the time we hit the meaty stuff- I was also being sensitive to my more squeamish traveling companion.
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    So, we headed across the Fray Servando overpass to Mercado Senora, a market known for its catering to a superstitious clientele:
    Deer's eyes, any one?
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    Olokun?
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    These delightful little guys were ominously described as "diablos de mar":
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    Starving from near exhaustion, we hit the quesadilla stand. Watching the woman so rapidly hand form the tortillas was mesmerizing. Then griddled on the comal:

    I am not sure that I have ever had a tlacoyo. Are they stubby and pinched shut? Are they always topped as well as stuffed? I've heard that they are frequently made with blue corn. But what do you call a hand formed disc of masa folded around a filling, a quesadilla without cheese?
    This was perhaps the best thing I ate all trip. I don't think that I had ever had fresh huitlacoche before and it is entirely different beast, fresh, light, and tangy, with earthy mushroomy base notes:
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    Unfortunately the sun didn't hit the filling quite the right way with the squash blossom quesadilla, but this was a taste of early summer in January:
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    The elotes guy had these funky mottled blue kernels. And my girlfriend spotted his cauldron of green porridge, which turned out to be a new discovery: Chilatole. Savory atole fortified with green chili and studded with said corn kernels. It was the most elemental of corn poblano soups. Tasting first of squeeze of lime, then sweet roasted chili, with a base of comforting masa and corn on corn bursts of sweetness.
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    What struck me unusual at this point in our afternoon of grazing was the abundance of unadvertised vegetarian food. I was half full without sampling any meat. Happy girlfriend and I were learning new secrets about real Mexican eating. This food makes the very best out of the very least.
    The next treat, also vegetarian, was ethereal and mysterious. It was a toasted blue corn tostada topped with a smear of frijoles, cold stewed nopales, cilantro, queso fresco, and blistering hot salsa.
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    For dinner, following tradition, we ate at Cafe de Tacuba. The dishes are hit or miss by Mexico city standards- not too bad by American standards. I've had sensational cochinita pibil here and so so cesina. It is a fairly encyclopedic menu and I consider the place a sort of academy of Mexican dining.
    Oaxacan tamale was really good, not as good as versions off the Zocalo or even Maxwell Street, but satisfying:
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    Serviceable pozole rojo:
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    But then again, after all the exciting new things we were eating out in the real world, there are some places you frequent for something other than the food alone:
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    My favorite restaurant meal happened at a surprising moment at a Lonely Planet recommended spot, Restaurant Techinanco on an inconvenient stretch outside of the archaeological site at Teotihuacan. It was one of the most laid back places I have ever eaten:
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    This ensalada de nopales was like four bucks:
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    On a major huitlacoche kick I sampled something new, mole de huitlacoche. The sauce was simply huitlacoche fortified with stock and garlic, but it was delicious.
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    Our dining out itinerary was cut short by an unfortunate run in with Monteczuma (it was ironically not street food or even Mexican food), so my girlfriend went on a saltines and Gatorade diet. And I went on an al pastor diet. But seriously, I had every intention on checking out Pujol or Izote, but I had to eat on the fly while out procuring banana smoothies. And Pastor it was. This was my first, right across from the hotel, unnamed hole in the wall. Dig the spears of pineapple shaved from atop the cone. Eating these perfectly charred garlicky gems I was really thinking "damn, it would be really hard to top these".
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    So I tried the so-called inventor of al pastor, El Tizoncito in Condesa. I was most assuredly not complaining about the impressive tower of chips and salsa:
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    But this joint was busy. And as we've learned from Professor Wiv's theory of crowd ratio to pastor perfection, al pastor needs time to carmelize and crust to its ideal consistency:
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    The nice thing about these wee taquitos, though is that the don't fill you up so fast and give you a chance to sample all the yummy salsas.
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    So down the block to Saveur recommended (sorry no link) El Guero, where a mighty spread of different taco fillings in cazuelas meet a horde of in the know citizens for an almuerzo on the go.
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    Pick a filling, eat one, order more. Again, a surprising find of so many vegetable fillings, I opted for quelites, a fritter of a tangy young green. A stuffed taco rounded out with queso fresco and salsa verde, pretty dang filling:
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    This place rocks, its hard to find though, since the sign explains little more than a greeting:
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    The hunt for the best al pastor continued the next day. I scoped a popular spot from the previous day and showed up earlier than the typical early/mid afternoon lunch crowd. I went on a limb with an order of alhambres, pick a meat (al pastor!) and add grilled jalapeno, onion, and bacon, blanket of melted cheese optional (I opted out, for a prettier picture, may I point out)
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    I also had a lump charcoal grilled skirt steak huarache with pungent queso cotija. I got so greedy, I nearly forgot to snap a pic.
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    I neglected to get the info on that last taqueria. It was in the Polanco neighborhood on Presedente Masaryk.
    We also stayed in Sayulita on the Pacific coast, which was much more about sun and surf (and cervesa). I did enjoy a dry ceviche tostada as reported by David Hammond in his Nayarit post, followed by a wonderful buck fifty smoked marlin torta. Unfotunately, though, to appeal to the masses of American tourists its back to complicating everything with piles of sour cream and melted cheese. It is really hard to beat the complex range of Mexican cuisine than you can find in the big city. The real street food, the food of the people. Food that tastes good because it is made by folks who understand so well how the few ingredients that they have to work with taste.

    Cafe El Popular
    Av 5 de Mayo 52

    Cafe de Tacuba
    Tacuba 28

    Restaurant Techinanco
    Across from the Piramide de la luna, take gate three from the park and head north
    Teotihuacan

    El Tizoncito
    Tamaulipas 122
    Condesa

    El Guero
    Amsterdam 135
    Condesa
  • Post #2 - January 23rd, 2008, 6:54 pm
    Post #2 - January 23rd, 2008, 6:54 pm Post #2 - January 23rd, 2008, 6:54 pm
    Just simply awesome.
  • Post #3 - January 23rd, 2008, 7:36 pm
    Post #3 - January 23rd, 2008, 7:36 pm Post #3 - January 23rd, 2008, 7:36 pm
    Thanks, m'th'su, that means a lot!
  • Post #4 - January 23rd, 2008, 8:11 pm
    Post #4 - January 23rd, 2008, 8:11 pm Post #4 - January 23rd, 2008, 8:11 pm
    Thank you for the wonderful pictorial.

    Also I have to know what the hell these things are...
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  • Post #5 - January 23rd, 2008, 8:16 pm
    Post #5 - January 23rd, 2008, 8:16 pm Post #5 - January 23rd, 2008, 8:16 pm
    Almost positive that they're the same thing as sea devils in English - skates.

    http://images.google.com/images?gbv=2&s ... skate+fish

    Those look a mite mummified, however.

    Beautiful pics!
  • Post #6 - January 23rd, 2008, 8:35 pm
    Post #6 - January 23rd, 2008, 8:35 pm Post #6 - January 23rd, 2008, 8:35 pm
    Jefe,

    I'm trying to restrain my enthisiasm for your post, but... wow! Simply awesome. I spent a week in Mexico City last year and had some of the best food experiences of my life (and, to be truthful, some of the worst too). Perhaps the most memorable for me was a melon ball scoop out of the flesh of a mamey purchased at the mercado de la merced - a truly remarkable place. Second place for me a delicious quesadilla de flor de calabaza purchased at the Bazaar Sabado from women who were hand making the tortillas as pictured below. Did you by any chance check the Bazaar Sabado out?

    Regardless, thanks for the post, which conjured up terrific, relatively recent memories for me.

    Kenny

    quesadilla de flor at the Bazaar Sabado:
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  • Post #7 - January 23rd, 2008, 9:07 pm
    Post #7 - January 23rd, 2008, 9:07 pm Post #7 - January 23rd, 2008, 9:07 pm
    I love el Bazaar Sabado - I had those quesadillas in 2004, probably from the same women at the same stand.

    As I promised to post in another thread, this is the picture which prompted the staff at Los Girasoles to excitedly shout "rrRRick!" and laugh at the idiot gringo doing the Bayless impression:

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    Tamal de huitlacoche at Los Girasoles, 2004. (apologies for the scan quality, this was in my pre-digital era)

    Shake your head back and forth with me and say "chipo-tle pep-pers." One plate at a time, baby.

    Other Mexico City thread:

    http://www.lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.ph ... 2&start=30
  • Post #8 - January 24th, 2008, 2:32 pm
    Post #8 - January 24th, 2008, 2:32 pm Post #8 - January 24th, 2008, 2:32 pm
    Jefe wrote:I am not sure that I have ever had a tlacoyo. Are they stubby and pinched shut? Are they always topped as well as stuffed? I've heard that they are frequently made with blue corn.


    Jefe, my understanding is that tlacoyos would usually torpedo-shaped, stuffed with beans, and topped with what-have-you. If the shape is flattened out, the tlacoyo would more appropriately be called a huarache (still stuffed with beans and ladled with meat, veg, salsa, etc.).

    Jefe wrote:But what do you call a hand formed disc of masa folded around a filling, a quesadilla without cheese?


    You could be describing a sope.

    Jefe wrote:Cafe de Tacuba
    Tacuba 28


    Whatever the quality of this café, I would visit if for no other reason than that it's positioned on the same route as one of Tenochtitlan’s ancient causeways, the very one Cortez escaped along when Monteczuma died and relations with the Aztecs went very bad. I took a bus ride along this street in the early 80’s, and it was spine-tingling to be traveling the very path that Spaniards and their Tlascalan allies fled along in 1520, pursued by thousands of understandably p-o'ed Aztecs. Current Mexico City, as most probably know, was once an island, kind of a native American Venice, connected to the mainland by causeways, some of which, like Tacuba, are now city streets.

    This post is further inspiring me to make a trip to Mexico City/Oaxaca later this year.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #9 - January 24th, 2008, 3:28 pm
    Post #9 - January 24th, 2008, 3:28 pm Post #9 - January 24th, 2008, 3:28 pm
    David Hammond wrote:You could be describing a sope.


    Are there variations on our hockey-puckesque versions found commonly at Mexican restaurants stateside?

    David Hammond wrote:This post is further inspiring me to make a trip to Mexico City/Oaxaca later this year.


    Oh man, do I wish that I'd had a digital camera on my cross Oaxaca travels of 05. What a place to eat! I had the pleasure of having some incredible home cooked meals while I was there that were unforgettable! Do go and do report back!
  • Post #10 - January 24th, 2008, 3:35 pm
    Post #10 - January 24th, 2008, 3:35 pm Post #10 - January 24th, 2008, 3:35 pm
    Jefe wrote:
    David Hammond wrote:You could be describing a sope.


    Are there variations on our hockey-puckesque versions found commonly at Mexican restaurants stateside?


    Oh, yes. You can get sopes at board favs like La Quebrada and Maxwell Street Market, as well as at Sol de Mexico (contact info below) and a number of other places, street-level and higher end (I'd be surprised if Bayless doesn't offer them regularly at both his regular restaurants).

    Sol de Mexico
    3018 N. Cicero
    773-282-4119
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #11 - November 13th, 2008, 2:47 pm
    Post #11 - November 13th, 2008, 2:47 pm Post #11 - November 13th, 2008, 2:47 pm
    OH! I can't wait! I am going to Mexico City for work next week, and then again the first week in December! I am hoping I am near some of these places so I can wander around after work!
  • Post #12 - November 14th, 2008, 8:48 am
    Post #12 - November 14th, 2008, 8:48 am Post #12 - November 14th, 2008, 8:48 am
    CrazyC wrote:OH! I can't wait! I am going to Mexico City for work next week, and then again the first week in December! I am hoping I am near some of these places so I can wander around after work!


    If you'd like to get a peek at what Mexico City looked like around the time Cortez came a'knockin', there's a beautiful temporary exhibit at the Field Museum that contains many artifacts from Tenochtitlan: http://www.fieldmuseum.org/aztecs/highlights.asp
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”

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