A glimpse into my world of food

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Travel Series: Tacos Tacos y mas Tacos, Mexico City, Mexico

I have to admit that I have always made fun of people who think that Mexican food is just about tacos, but the variety of tacos in Mexico City was impressive and even though I wanted to try other dishes such as mole and tamales, I ended up eating A LOT of tacos.

My favorite was the rib eye tacos at El Califa. We headed here for a late night snack after the Black Eyed Peas concert, and like any popular late night eatery in the world, there was a long line of drunk people waiting to sink their teeth into these delicious tacos. I suppose taquerias are considered fast food joints except it's actually faster and everything is cooked a la minute. The waiter brought us four different salsas (verde or green, which is the spiciest, tamarindo, roja or red, and asada) and of course, a bowl of limon (they only really have limes so limon is the word for limes, not lemons). Basically, for the rib eye taco, what they do is cook the thinly sliced rib eye and oaxaca cheese separately on the flat top, stick them together onto a tortilla and voila, you have a piping hot, cheesey, delicious taco. We also ordered grilled onions and avocado to accompany our tacos. I had the chuleta (pork chop?) taco as well but I had two of the rib eye tacos because it really hit the spot!

My friend took me to a market near Polanco where we ate breakfast at four different tacos and quesadilla stands. They cost 8 Mexican pesos each (a little less than one US dollar). The plastic plates were lined with plastic bags to eliminate the dishwashing process and payment was made based on an honor system- customers state how many they ate and get charged based on that. Although these stands look homogeneous at first glance, each has unique condiments and provides different cuts of meat prepared using various cooking methods. At one stand, every taco was topped with fried potato strips (that tasted like mesquite bbq...), at another they had pickled radishes with chilies and at another, the only meat they served was from a goat's head. My favorite at this market was the taco de lengua (cow tongue). Paired with fresh fruit juice, this was easily one of the best breakfasts I've had in my life.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Travel Series: Taqueria Hola, Mexico City

It's unfortunate that many Americans (and I suppose other people) have a skewed/inaccurate perception of Mexican food because what I saw in Mexico City was very impressive. The produce sold at the markets were fresh and beautiful, and the variations for tacos sold at the taqueria stands were endless. Sure, restaurants have to cater to the taste of its main market, but where did all that bad Americanized Mexican food come from?

As soon as I arrived at my friend's apartment in Condesa and put my bags down, I headed out to explore Mexico City. My first stop was Taqueria Hola (the name certainly doesn't sound convincing but I read about it in the Lonely Planet and it was a few blocks away). I felt like an idiot watching the locals do their thing. Because I only speak a little bit of Spanish and there was a way of ordering and eating the tacos, I was dumbfounded... It wasn't anything complicated but it was all new to me so I observed for a while before working up the courage to order. I asked for the chicharron con queso but they pork skin they gave me was braised, not fried...?
All the stuffing were displayed in clay pots and there were lime wedges, two different chili salsas and sliced onions with jalapenos for people to take themselves. There was an extra tortilla underneath to eat with the excess filling that spills out. The tortillas tasted like corn- I had made them at school before but the tortillas you get in the US (at least in NY) are usually made with wheat flour. I actually find it to be an accustomed taste so I prefer the wheat flour tortillas.

The great thing about a taqueria is that everything can be served fast (faster than fast junk food) so you can keep ordering if you're still hungry. As I stood by the counter eating my first tacos, I saw the other customers ordering one by one. When I was done with my first, I asked for the picadillo with what looked like cactus (quite slimy looking). The texture was somewhat similar to szechuan pickles.