8 foods you don’t want to miss in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca
There’s no better way to dive into a culture than by sampling the local cuisine. Here are a few of the top most adventurous foods to try in and around Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico.
1. Chapulines: Crunchy, toasted and spiced grasshoppers are delicious in tacos or on their own as a quick snack. Take a food tour with Gina’s Walking Tours for an introduction to these crispy critters or buy some in Benito Juarez Market and experiment with them as topping for your favourite dish.
2. Tamales de Tichinda: These warm tamales are stuffed (and accompanied) by fresh black clam-like mollusks. Look for them near the Colotepec River or try them in the towns surrounding Chacahua Lagoons National Park. You can also see them for sale on Saturdays at the Benito Juarez Market.
3. Salsa de Chicatanas: At the beginning and end of the rainy season, locals gather baskets full of flying ants as the insects escape from their flooded nests. The black ants are then toasted on a clay grill called a comal and then ground in a molcajete to make salsa de chicatanas, a treasured spring delicacy. The ants are so prized you won’t often find them in the market so your best bet is to search out a salsa cooking class with The Mexykan where you’ll prepare and sample a variety of salsas. Or, befriend one of the local chefs such as Chef Quetzalcoatl Zurita who specializes in Oaxacan cuisine at his restaurant Almoraduz near Playa Principal.
4. Cuitlacoche: This unique black corn fungus is so revered for its earthy flavour that it’s known as the Mexican truffle. Appearance-wise, the delicacy may be as appetizing as a lump of coal, but the black gold fetches top dollar in local markets.
5. Mezcal: There’s a reason that artisanal mescal, tequila’s quirky cousin, is steadily earning its place on bar shelves worldwide. While tequila production is restricted to only one type of agave, skilled Oaxacan mescaleros craft mezcal blends using up to 20 different types, resulting in subtle nuances in flavour ranging from citrusy to smoky. For an adventure in Puerto Escondido, try a shot of Don Franco, a potent local liqueur. Or, join the Spirit of Oaxaca Mezcal and Beer Lover’s Cultural Tour, taking place on November 1, 2014 and sample mezcal de pechuga, crafted by suspending a raw chicken breast over a vat of mezcal, in communities in the valleys on the way to Oaxaca City.
6. Nopal: Visitors are likely to raise an eyebrow when first spotting the prickly plant on the menu, but nopal cactus is one of Mexico’s most iconic ingredients.Try it for yourself at the market, where you can watch Zapotec vendors remove the spiky spines, peel the rind and then stack the shiny paddle-shaped leaves to go. With its delicate, tangy flavour, cactus is versatile.
7. Mole: This staple, which can refer to a variety of traditional sauces, takes hours to make and is a must-have at any Mexican celebration. Though Oaxaca is known as the Land of Seven Moles, if you’re forced to choose just one, go for the mole negro: a rich, spicy and smoky-sweet sauce made from tomatoes, almonds, raisins, chocolate, plantain and chilis, including the rare chilhuacle variety, grown only in southern Mexico.
8. Paletas: Icy paletas, made by freezing purified water with sugar and fruit, offer a quick and delicious way to cool off in the heat. Expect to find watermelon, guava and mango along with exotic creations like gooseberry or jicama with chili and gardenia petals.
As if that’s not enough culinary adventure, I heard from a reader that it’s also worth trying ants eggs (escamoles) cooked with Epazote in tacos. And , the worms used for the worm salt toasted in tacos or to rim a glass for a mezcal cocktail. I’ll report back on those experiences in an upcoming post. Be sure to subscribe to A Taste for Travel blog to receive it in your in-basket. .