Oaxaca Stole My Food Heart
My food heart has fallen in love once again. It’s always been a fickle thing – sending love letters and endless praise to the likes of Japanese, Greek, and Swiss cuisines. Playing hot and cold every other week; never selecting just one cuisine to dedicate its true allegiance too. Well, my food heart has found its new fling: Oaxacan Cuisine.
With each explanation of my Mexican itinerary, exclamations of “You’ll LOVE Oaxaca’s food” and “Oaxaca’s cuisine is special compared to the rest of Mexico”, my anticipation of good eats was at an all-time high.
But what is so special about Oaxaca’s cuisine? Why does it receive such rapturous praise? Well, let me share some mouth-water details with you my dear readers:
The Province’s mountain and valley geography creates micro climates and distinctive cultures that can produce a variety of food options. Every part has unique food options: Vegetables are grown in the central valley, fish and shellfish come from the Isthmus Region, and tropical fruits grow in abundance on the East borders near Veracruz.
Oaxacan cuisine is slow food at its finest. One of its main specialities is the prestigious dish called Mole which takes hours to cook. The city is known known as “The Land of the Seven Moles” and these seven Moles are: negro (Black), rojo (Red), verde (Green), amarillo (Yellow), coloradito (Deep Red), manchamanteles, and chichilo. Mole is a sauce made of a variety of chillis native to the Region, blended with Chocolate and nuts. The best part about Mole is it distinctive to each family as every recipe is blended uniquely to the families desires – You’ll never have the same exact taste twice.
Herbs, spices, and chillis add another facet of flavours to each dish. Hoja santa, Epazote and Pitonia are three of the most common spices attributed to the distinctive Oaxaca flavours. And chilli peppers – oh the variety of heat they contribute: Amarillo, Negro, Mulato, Passilla Mexicano, Chipotle, Rojo, Chiltepec, Costeno Amarillo, Costeno Rojo, and De Agua chilli peppers.
Like all of my favourite cuisine’s – desert is imperative to my hearts desires. And Oaxaca comes in with shining armour since cacao beans are grown in the Region. And what do Cacao beans produce? Rich, Addicting, Endorphins-producing chocolate. Chocolate confectioneries line downtown Mina Street which has a curious scent of dust, diesel and chocolate. This girl went on an Oaxacan chocolate binge – regrets left at the door of each restaurant.
So if I ate so well – how can you?
First: Go to Oaxaca, Mexico
Second: Eat at these Oaxacan Restaurants
La OllaAddress: Calle Reforma 402
Oaxaca’s most famous cooking school is operated out of the kitchens of La Olla and they deliver with savoury dishes that leave you begging for more. More upscale and prices to match – $300 Pesos ($25 CAD for appetizer, entrée, dessert, and drink). Menu and waiters speak English.
I ate: Organic Salad, Chicken Negro Mole, and Pastel de Chocolate
Las Quince LetresAddress: Calle Mariano Abasolo 302
More everybody looking for a traditional, family-run restaurant recommended by locales – Las Quince Letres is it. The menu and waiters are Spanish only (time to practice!), but there is variety in the menu and it’s difficult to pick just one. Hours are sporadic and it was always bustling, even at 3pm on a Wednesday. My meal came to $220 Pesos ($17 CAD for appetizer, entrée, dessert, and drink)
I ate: Sopa Oaxaquena, Estofado Almendrado con Medallones de Pollo, and Flan
Flor de LotoAddress: Calle Morales 509
While most of Oaxaca’s famous dishes include meat, Flor de Loto does traditional meals for Vegetarians and Vegans. The place has a hippy vibe but the meals of the day are superb in taste and price; $55 Pesos ($5 CAD for appetizer, entrée, dessert, and drink)
I ate: Sopa Venus, Verduras al Gratin, Flan, and Pineapple Chaya water.
And since alcohol, specifically Mexcal, is part of Oaxaca’s gastronomy – “Para todo mal, mezcal, para todo bien, tambien” (when everything’s wrong, mezcal; when everything’s right, too)