varies widely due to the relative geographic isolation of its peoples, and the climates in which foods are produced.
Oaxaca’s gastronomy is known for its “seven moles,” chapulines
, Oaxaca tamales
in banana leaves, tasajo and mescal
Regional variations include the wide variety of vegetables in the Central Valleys region, fish and shellfish in the Coast and Isthmus regions and the year-round availability of tropical fruit in the Papaloapan area on the Veracruz border. Like most of the rest of Mexico, corn is the staple food, with corn tortillas, called “blandas” accompanying most meals. Black beans are preferred.
Oaxaca produces seven varieties of mole
called manchamanteles, chichilo, Amarillo, rojo, verde, coloradito and negro.
These moles and other dishes are flavored with a variety of chili peppers such as pasillas Oaxaqueños, amarillos, chilhuacles, chilcostles, chile anchos and costeños. Epazote
and hoja santa
are favored herbs in Oaxacan cooking. The last is indispensable for the preparation of verde version of mole.
Chocolate, which is grown in the state, plays an important part in the making of certain moles, but is best known for its role as a beverage. The cacao
beans are ground then combined with sugar, almonds, cinnamon and other ingredients to form bars. Pieces of these bars are mixed with hot milk or water and drunk. Oaxaca cheese
is a soft white string cheese which is similar to mozzarella. It is sold in “ropes” which are wound onto themselves into balls. It is eaten cold or lightly melted on quesadillas and other dishes. One unique aspect to Oaxacan cuisine is the consumption of “chapulines,” which are a type of grasshopper that has been fried and seasoned with salt, lime and chili pepper.
There is a saying in Oaxaca, “Para todo mal, mezcal, para todo bien, también” (For everything wrong, mezcal; for everything right, too.) Alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks (as well as food items) based on the maguey plant have been consumed in many parts of Mexico since early in the pre-Hispanic period. The tradition of the making of the distilled liquor called mezcal has been a strong tradition in the Oaxacan highlands since the colonial period. One reason for this is the quality and varieties of maguey grown here. Some varieties, such as espadín and arroquense are cultivated but one variety called tobalá is still made with wild maguey plants. It is made with the heart of the plant which is roasted in pits (giving the final product a smokey flavor) and is sometimes flavored with a chicken or turkey breast added to the mash. It is mezcal, not tequila
, and may contain a “worm
,” which is really a larvae that infests maguey plants. The final distilled product can be served as is or can be flavored (called cremas) with almonds, coffee, cocoa fruits and other flavors.
The town of Santiago Matatlán
calls itself the world capital of mezcal. The best known producer here is Rancho Zapata, which also has a restaurant. It is owned by a man that goes only by the name of Tío (uncle) Pablo, who won first prize for his mescal in Chicago in 2003. In many parts of the Central Valleys area, one can find small stands and stores selling locally made mezcal on roadsides.
Now you have an idea of the “food offerings” you can understand better our quest. Jared, my new friend joined me for our tour of Monte Alban, a ruin in remarkable condition considering it was built over 2000 years ago. We first decided to check out another hotel recommended to me by one of the guest here. It is the Posada Margarita. We got another map and after some research and walking through lovely Oaxaca, we found it. It was about $27 a night. Private room with bath and internet connection. It was available the week I needed it so paid one night to hold it and we headed for the bus departure point for Monte Alban.
We arrived, booked the mini bus then waited around for about 15 minutes until it pulled in. The ride was only $5 and a short 20 minute ride up and up and narrow potholed road along the edge of a cliff similar to the Grand Canyon! We arrived at the front door while all others were stopped 1/2 mile down the road or dropped off there in a taxi to walk up the steep incline to the entrance.
We spent about 2 hours walking around, taking pictures, visiting the on site museum and having coffee before heading back to the parking lot for our return trip.
The driver wasn’t full as some left earlier or later. The driver started hawking a cheap fare back until he filled the van and we arrived before the bus stop to drop the new passengers , collect cash under the table then drop the rest at the bus stop. We got out with the contraband passengers. It was right at the Market that Jared had visited before so he gave me a tour.
It was the finest market I had been to in the world. Not a lot of seafood, not the largest, but the best quality products, variety and food stalls! We ate a lunch of Corona and Tlaypala. A lady selling chapulines, a type of grasshopper that has been fried and seasoned with lime , salt and chilies, offered me a sample. I regretted not taking offerings in Chiang Mai Thailand so this time accepted. They were crunchy and delicious. Like a snack food but can’t tell you which one. She suggested I buy some and sprinkle them on my Tlaypala.
We left there and stopped in a Cacao Shop where they open Cocoa nuts and then roast the seeds and grind into Cocoa for beverages and over 7 types of Mole used in cooking. It is a rich chocolate paste with different combinations of spices from roasted chilies to cinnamon. We sampled a bit then separated to freshen up and meet up later for dinner.
I took some photos in the market, and on the way back. I also stopped in the bookstore to pickup a bus route map as well as a Oaxaca Map. When I arrived I signed up with International Living travel newsletter that specializes in rentals and sale of property all over the world. I’ve been smitten.
I showered and met Jared at 100% Natural to go to a place he suggested. Monday it closed for the holiday so we grabbed a place nearby. I had some reasonable priced wine…first time at a restaurant…and a chicken breast with goat cheese and spinach accompanied by black beans.. Neither one of our dishes were really special but good. Service was friendly and good. I didn’t photo the food..just our exit.
I slept well and decided to sleep in while Jared invited me to a tour of the most Volumious Tree in the world. I suggested we meet after he returns for dinner this evening at the 100% Natural since they are good and weve been there three times and had very little to eat…Monday a.m.