With a culinary scene as vibrant as its brightly painted stucco buildings, Oaxaca specializes in soulful, rustic staples such as charcoal-grilled tlayudas. Read about my trip to Oaxaca here, and find a recipe for those tlayudas, as well as recipes for pico de gallo, molletes and tomatillo-avocado salsa.
Here are seven other lessons I learned in Oaxaca.
- Cook directly on coals. Vegetables such as chilies, tomatoes, tomatillos, onions and peppers, as well as chorizo or other sausages, pick up great char.
- Mashed black beans and stringy, melty cheese are a marriage made in heaven. The oozy chew of mozzarella (similar to Oaxacan quesillo) combined with the richness of creamy black beans is otherworldly. Put it on a tortilla and that’s breakfast, lunch or dinner.
- Asiento adds flavor. Even though we do not call for it in our tlayuda, the toasted, unrefined lard is a wonderful addition. Just a schmear adds an instant savory foundation.
- Build salsas from whatever you have on hand, including avocados, tomatoes, chilies, tomatillos or peppers. Roast, grill or broil most of them first to add flavor, then blitz in a processor.
- The tortilla is more than a wrapper. If you can find a source for freshly made tortillas locally, take advantage of it. The good ones have superior texture and flavor. Fill them with just about anything.
- Instead of sandwich bread, use toasted rolls with some of the filling removed. This is why the Mexican torta is so wonderful—a crisp hollowed-out roll beats store-bought sliced bread any day.
- Finish dinner with a shot of mezcal. It won’t get you drunk, but it’s a nice way of honoring your guests. It’s also a good digestif.