A tlayuda from Doña Favia in Oaxaca, Mexico. All photos courtesy of Catherine Tansey.
Few foods are more Oaxaqueño than the crisp, chewy tlayuda. Affectionately called “Mexican pizza,” tlayudas are large crispy tortillas, warmed on a comal and brushed with smoky asiento (pork lard). Toppings vary but usually include a smear of velvety black beans, shredded lettuce, and some type of salty meat like tasajo or cecina; the best are loaded with the famed chewy, stringy quesillo of the region.
But in my first few weeks in Oaxaca, I quickly saw that not all tlayudas are created equal. Several disappointed me, being either too crisp, too chewy, or too bland. I knew there had to be...
All photos courtesy of Javier Ornelas, except where indicated.
“Bubbles eventually pop, and we, as a community, have to figure out how to sustain a middle class while maintaining Tulum as a vibrant tourist destination.”—Javier Ornelas, of Hotel Ginger in Tulum
Mexico’s food culture is increasingly global.
As the influx of immigrants from all over the world continues to swell, notions about what is “authentic” Mexican food evolve beyond the “tacos and tequila” stereotype.
This is especially true of Tulum, an idyllic, tropical paradise bordered by lush jungle and the Caribbean Sea. Here, you are just as likely to find a German bakery, Italian and Thai restaurants, and Japanese...Read More
Our writer learns how to make cabrito, or roasted baby goat, from a Monterrey master.
All photos by Lydia Carey
It’s mid-morning in Monterrey, Mexico, when Humberto Villareal—“Beto”—picks me up, but it’s already blazing hot. The air-conditioning running, his car is laced with the smell of cigarettes, and his gravelly northern accent takes me a minute to get accustomed to. Beto is a friend of a friend and a local chef in Monterrey. Today, in the early spring heat, he’s going to teach me how to make cabrito, Monterrey’s most iconic dish of baby goat.
Cabrito has a long history in the cuisine of Nuevo León, the state of which Monterrey is the capital. The region’s earliest...Read More
Our contributor takes us to Vinicola Urbana, a wine-producing rooftop vineyard (and breath of fresh air) smack-dab in overcrowded Mexico City.
All photos by Lydia Carey
A pseudo-camouflaged sign sits at the entrance of No. 29 on Mexico City’s posh Avenida Presidente Masaryk. Inside, the security guards will probably ignore you, but all the way to the left-hand side of the lobby sits a woman who will direct you to the elevators, up four floors, and into an empty elevator-bank hallway. You’ll hesitate, confused; walking out what looks like an emergency exit, you turn right and are unexpectedly met by a wave of shamrock-shaped leaves, tiny bundles of grapes hanging daintily beneath...
Our lucky contributor goes behind-the-scenes of barbacoa making in Mexico City.
All photos by Lydia Carey except where indicated.
In every region of Mexico, you will find barbacoa steaming on streetside stands, taking center stage at family gatherings, and being sold by the kilo to hungry market goers. Barbacoa is Mexico’s Sunday brunch, its method is as old as time immemorial, and its recipes continue to evolve at the hands of each barbacoa master, who adds his or her special touch to one of the country’s most quintessential dishes.
The origin of the word barbacoa is most likely from the West Indies, where it describes a type of grill for cooking meat. In Mexico it refers...Read More
Our friends at Eat Mexico tell us why the Merced Market is a Mexico City must-see.
Photos by Christie Pham
Forget what you may have heard about the Merced Market, in Mexico City. In my opinion there is only one real danger: You will, inevitably, time and time again, come home with bags full to overflowing with unnecessary items that you found impossible to resist. Personally, I have at various times and with varying degrees of regret purchased 3 kilos of sliced nopal cactus, a frog tamal, a bag of violet-colored beans from Puebla, a dozen mini tlacoyos that fit in the palm of my hand, and a set of white porcelain espresso cups—and I don’t even own an espresso maker. Each...Read More
I wrote this piece, about spontaneously spending el Día de los Muertos with a family in Oaxaca, several years ago; it’s based on an experience in 2004, when we spent six weeks backpacking around Mexico. Six years later, we returned to Oaxaca to study its cuisine and found Rafael, having saved his business card (see at bottom). Lots of hugs and mezcal were shared all around.
From my seat on a wooden bench outside the corner store, I took in the busy scene.
Children with painted faces dashed by. Families with wheelbarrows laden with flowers and tapered candles lumbered up the road. Food vendors lined the dusty path as far as I could see—an exciting array of cheap dinner...Read More
Edam cheese. Photo: Yvwv
Yucatecan food—even that found along the so-called Riviera Maya, the coastal corridor between Cancún and Tulum—is markedly different from “Mexican food” as most of us know it, as we learned while traveling the region last week. One reason is, of course, the pronounced Mayan influence, but many more groups have left their mark on the cuisine here as well, from the British and Spanish to the Lebanese and even the Dutch. The latter’s influence can be witnessed in one enduring main ingredient—Edam cheese, called queso de bola here—and is particularly unexpected for someone who’s traveled across much of Mexico before. No one knows for sure how the cheese got...Read More
Tacos for breakfast in Tulum
Traditionally, Scott and I are stay-up-late, wake-up-late kind of people. This all changed a year ago, of course, when our son was born and the definition of “waking up late” became 8am. Most days we’re in bed by 11pm and up by 7am, though baby boy has pushed the 6am envelope more times than I would prefer. On Mexico’s Yucatán coast last week, however, where the time difference was a small but still meaningful-in-a-baby’s-world two hours, all bets were off.
We’d heard the horrors of time-change travel with babies, one reason why we rather timidly selected east-coast Mexico for this trip (it’s also a nicely manageable four-hour flight from New York)....Read More
You'd be hard-pressed to find a more perfect snack food than the taco. It's cheap, it's portable, it can comprise a wide range of ingredients—meats, veggies, cheese, salsas—and textures (if you've never had crunchy chicharrón atop your taco, drop everything and go find some). We love tacos all across the U.S.—carne asado in L.A., egg-potato-bean in Austin, our favorite lengua tacos in Queens—but nothing beats the motherland. As we gear up for some travel through the Yucatán Peninsula, where cochinita pibil tacos for breakfast await, here's a look at a few favorite tacos we've met in Mexico.
Taco al pastor
The mighty taco al pastor, local to Mexico City and Puebla: Thin...
Lucky number 7! We’re pleased to announce our seventh destination guide on Kindle: the Oaxaca Food & Travel Guide, now available on Amazon.com. Oaxaca is celebrated for its cuisine, but knowing what to look for—and where to find it, particularly when it comes to navigating the labyrinthine markets and choosing street vendors—is essential. Enter our latest guide, which directs you to 40 delicious dishes and drinks in Oaxaca, from the best tamales and empanadas to the harder-to-find, veggie-fresh sopa de guias. And mole, of course! Aside from our usual How to Burn It Off and Where to Stay info, this guide also includes some bonus recipes from renowned Oaxacan chef, Pilar Cabrera.
Traditional dishes from Zirita, a culinary workshop, in Morelia.
Morelia, capital of the state of Michoacán, Mexico, is quietly beautiful, the kind of pretty where the dowdy female lead takes off her glasses, shakes out her ponytail, and wows the guy at the end of a rom-com. The food, though, is exactly the opposite: It’s the mean girl with the tiny waist who knows how to wield a fierce high heel—or, in Morelia’s case, a fierce tamale. A recent eating whirlwind through the historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage site sprinkled with pale pink stones, revealed a ferocious food culture: hot with chile negro, strong with the bold flavors of local fruits and vegetables, and woven...Read More
Felisa Rogers drove from Oregon to Oaxaca (and back) this winter in search of the perfect down-and-dirty, no-nonsense torta. Here are a few of her favorites.
A torta in Mexico City
The delights of driving the length of Mexico are manifold, but in my world, the taco and the torta reign supreme. On a recent 6,500-mile odyssey to Mexico and back, an unspoken mission developed: I’d find the best tortas, from the best hole-in-the-wall torterias.
Many classy restaurants in Mexico serve tortas, or sandwiches, but I see no reason to order a torta at a nice restaurant. The primary point is the price—typically, any establishment in Mexico that calls itself a restaurant is going to...Read More
It can get you drunk three different ways and it’s not your college boyfriend — moreover, the maguey (or agave) plant is used to actually treat syphilis, not cause it. A look at the humble maguey’s role in Aztec and Mexican life, past and present.
The maguey cactus, native to Mexico, is best known for its place in alcohol, specifically tequila, but it’s also eaten in a variety of ways, used to make fabric and clothes, and taken for medicinal purposes. Not a looker, this giant, spike-covered plant somehow made its way from desert cactus to unexpected star of ancient Aztec (and later Mexican) civilization, permeating food, drink, clothing,...Read More
I have a weak spot for hot chocolate in the winter—and now that my selection of quaffable vices is limited by pregnancy, man, do I have a weak spot for hot chocolate. Many afternoons I’ll go out hunting for one around 3pm, or I’ll make some at home. If I’m feeling naughty, I’ll accept a dollop of whipped cream or throw some marshmallows into my steaming, milky cup.
But how could I have forgotten about churros?
In the Spanish world, churros—those thin, fluted, deep-fried pastries—and hot chocolate go together like milk and cookies in the United States. Opinion is divided over who, exactly, invented churros (Spanish shepherds? Portuguese sailors via the Chinese?), but it’s safe to...Read More
“I try to portray the colors of the Oaxacan landscape in the food I prepare: color, color, color! Oaxaca is such a vibrant place, and having this reflected in the food you eat here makes Oaxacan cuisine even more enjoyable.”—Chef Pilar Cabrera,
Tell us about your job.
Currently I manage the kitchen of my restaurant La Olla, in Oaxaca, Mexico, and I am also the cooking instructor at Casa de los Sabores Cooking School.
What led you to become a chef?
I started cooking at an early age. My love for the smell, taste, color, and texture of food motivated me to go to university and get a degree in Food Engineering and Nutrition. After graduating I worked for Herdez-McCormick in...