Eating in Oaxaca
One of the absolute joys of Oaxaca is the food and it’s amazing on a lot of fronts. There is of course the excitement of the strange, they use insects here, as in many parts of the world as food. So it’s not at all unusual to see grasshoppers, ants or agave worms as ingredients. I had a really nice ground fish and ant pate as an appetizer one night.
There is the beauty of specialty in Oaxaca. Oaxaca is known for it’s chocolate, it’s cheese, it’s vast array of Mezcals and moles. In fact it seems to be the mole capital of Mexico. I’ve heard so many numbers thrown around about the number of different moles that exist here that I have no idea what number is correct. However, what I can say with confidence is that it is easily dozens as I’ve seen that many different types of moles here on menus and in the grocery stores. They also make a lot of use of flowers in the food including the most common, flores de calabazas which are squash blossoms. We’ve all been to a fancy restaurant and had an edible decorative flower on a plate. So we’ve all eaten a few flowers with our meals, since being in Oaxaca I’ve far exceeded the amount of flowers I had eaten in my previous 54 years.
There are all of the standard types of food you would expect in a Mexican City, there are tacos, tostadas, tamales, taquitos, empanadas, enchiladas, lots of salsas, shrimp cocktails and lots of different seafood available. There are also Oaxacan takes on some of the standards, Tlayudas are particular to Oaxaca, HUGE tortillas that are filled with beans, meat vegetables, the local quesillo cheese and cooked over the grill. Tlayudas are somewhere between an enchilada, a tostada and a burrito.
There are also massive amounts of amazing deserts, from a very standard churro dipped in melted chocolate, to specialty ice creams and all manner of fruit based tarts. The thing is that in southern Mexico there is a dizzying array of fruits available, some fruits I’ve never even heard of before. So this allows chefs to create all manner of interesting ice creams, tarts, crumbles etc…
Since I’ve been in Oaxaca I’ve eaten very well and put on a few pounds to prove it even though I walk 3-5 miles every day. I’m not complaining. The other aspect of food in Oaxaca is how inexpensive it is. If you ate out every day it wouldn’t be super expensive, probably the best meat I’ve had at a restaurant in town was at Casa Oaxaca. My entree, suckling pig in an almond mole sauce, a drink, all the normal fancy meat accompaniments, desert and a twenty percent tip was US$30. The thing is, this was a five-star meal, this meal was on par with meals I’ve eating in NY, Los Angeles, Vegas and San Francisco, the only difference being that the same meal, at the same quality in those cities would have easily cost me US$150 – $200. Since I’m renting an apartment here I’m able to prepare most of my own meals which I really enjoy. This also means trips to the markets which are fabulous. Massive amounts of seasonal fruits and vegetables that are insanely expensive. I typically buy a standard full-sized grocery bag full of tomatoes, cilantro, cucumber, green onions, chilies, peppers, potatoes, avocados, bananas, limes and apples for about US$5. The avocados would cost that alone in the US.
I expected the food to be good here and fairly inexpensive, but honestly it’s far better and far cheaper than I imagined, it’s made for many happy days here in Oaxaca. ~ Rev Kane