Chowing down on huauzontle at Jardin de Rafaela
Huauzontle — I couldn’t pronounce it but knew I wanted to eat it. Had I not been accompanied by dining companion and enthusiastic eater Gina Machorro, it would have been easy to walk right past my culinary objective el Jardin de Rafaela. The humble Puerto Escondido restaurant is hidden behind such a dense screen of palm trees across from Blater Hotel, it doesn’t even look as though there’s a kitchen there, let alone a complete collection of dining tables, hammocks and loungers.
Learn more about what else to do on Zicatela Beach in our Essential Guide to Puerto Escondido
It would have been a shame to miss El Jardin de Rafaela. For more than 20 years, Señora Rafaela Pineda Pineda has been cooking up authentic traditional Mexican dishes. And because her cuisine reflect her roots in the state of Guerrero, she prepares regional dishes you won’t find many other places in Puerto Escondido –like huauzontle.
Huauzontle pronounced “wah-zont-lay” is a wild plant that grows high in the Sierra Madre Sur mountains above Puerto Escondido and Huatulco. It’s delivered to Puerto by farmers only on Mondays and Fridays, so it has to be ordered a day or more in advance. But fortunately for me, Gina had done her homework, made the required phone calls and Rafaela and her staff were waiting for us when we arrived.
After a rather lengthy discussion about bee sting therapy (Rafaela’s other specialty is apiterapia, the medical use of bee venom for healing neurological disorders, MS and chronic pain) which I wasn’t at all tempted to try, we dug into our platters of huauhuzontle.
Rafaela explained that she had prepared the vegetable by stuffing it with a stick of Oaxaca queso panel cheese, then dipped the vegetable and cheese mixture in a light egg batter, fried it and then topped it with a lightly spiced tomato sauce fragrant with cinnamon. It was served on a very large platter with a side of rice and black beans. It sounded a bit similar to my recipe for Guatemalan green bean fritters.
Eating huauzontle looked a bit daunting at first glance. But I decided to follow Gina’s lead which basically involved using your teeth to scrape the greenery off a stalk the size and shape of an enormous baby bottle brush.
The taste of huauzontle was delicious, somewhat akin to spinach or rapini. But because huauzontle is a member of the quinoa family it’s also got a slightly hint of grain flavour. Later I learned that the scientific name for huauzontle is chenopodium nuttalliae and that it’s also known as goosefoot in America. That information didn’t help me remember how to pronounce the word huazontle, but even if it’s unpronounceable, trust me eat it once and you’ll want it again and again.
While we ate, I discovered that Rafaela has a treasure trove of other dishes that aren’t on the menu. She even makes my all-time fave dish– chile rellenos, which are poblano peppers stuffed with chicken, cheese, potato or beef picadillo.
I’ll definitely be returning to el Jardin de Rafaela for more off the menu adventures. Hold the bee sting therapy.
The scoop: You won’t find huauzontle on the menu so you need to call a day in advance to place your order. it’s delivered by farmers only on Mondays and Fridays so place your order in advance of those days. Plan to spend a few hours relaxing overlooking the Mexican pipeline surf or book a bee sting treatment.
Location: Located oceanside on Calle del Morro in Colonia Santa Maria next to the Hotel Blater Beach Club past Azucenas.
Phone: 954 109-2512
Cost: The menu items at el Jardin de Rafaela cost from 50 pesos to 130 pesos for main courses ( $5 – $10 USD). My meal was around 120 pesos ( including the beer).
Hours: 8:00 am- 11:00 pm daily
Food Adventures: Contact Gina Machorro (GinainPuerto@yahoo.com) for more culinary adventures, such as her delicious walking tour of Puerto Escondido. Book in advance for her market tour.