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.

  1. Cook directly on coals. Vegetables such as chilies, tomatoes, tomatillos, onions and peppers, as well as chorizo or other sausages, pick up great char.

  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

For more, check out The Top 10 Places to Eat and Drink in Oaxaca and The Best Kept Secret in Oaxaca.

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