No trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, is complete without a tour of the area’s food. I’m not normally a foodie at home, but when I travel, I love to taste the local flavor, and Mexico is no exception. Spices, sauces and seafood, all served up with extra care and attention.
Here were some of the highlights of my culinary exploration:
Seafood: It only makes sense that seafood is a main staple on menus around Huatulco. Although I didn’t see any fishing boats while I was in the area, there was seafood available at every meal. This particular platter had shrimp, lobster, crab and a couple types of fish. One of the more unusual things I got to taste while I was in Huatulco was shark, which came in a samosa-type of appetizer. I’m not a big meat fan, but I do like seafood, and, except for the standard pieces of fish, I really enjoyed the freshness and flavor of the seafood I ate.
Traditional Breakfast: I’m generally a cereal and orange juice type of girl, with the occasional big, starchy breakfast consisting of French toast or waffles on the weekend. Not so in Oaxaca where a complete, traditional breakfast consists of mole (thick, rich, chocolate-tinged sauce), eggs, a quesadilla and beans topped with cheese. For someone with a pseudo-breakfast sweet tooth, this breakfast is a little too dinneresque for me, but all of the components were tasty nonetheless.
Grasshoppers: Okay, I admit it. The idea of eating grasshoppers did initially freak me out a bit, but our local host in Huatulco was snacking on them like they were peanuts, so I knew they couldn’t be that bad. I just had to get over the fact that I was eating grasshoppers. The grasshoppers are dried but still definitely look like grasshoppers, long antennae and everything. They’re usually served fried with lemon and salt, occasionally with garlic and chili. I put mine on a tortilla chip like a topping, and it was actually really good – a great snack food. I’d eat them again.
Sauces: There were sauces on or available with every meal. These are no out-of-the-jar salsas either, but rather thick, flavorful sauces that don’t just seep into or drip off of food. Spiciness varies, but nothing is what I’d consider to be “mild.” Though I’m not generally into spicy food, I did taste them all and even though some were well beyond my spiciness comfort level, I can understand why someone who enjoyed sauces like these would relish them. Mole, as mentioned above, is probably the most common sauce in the area. It’s often poured over the main dish and is made of whatever seems to be handy: chocolate, bananas, pears, onions, almonds, cinnamon, bread, chilies, herbs … even cookies!
Oaxacan Hot Chocolate: I love hot chocolate. Always have and always will. So when I discovered that Oaxaca has its own version, I was excited to try it. It is served melted, warm and with milk or water. Most Americans would find it to be more bitter than what we’re used to stateside, but then again, we like our chocolate semi-sweet. Oaxacan hot chocolate is bitter, but it’s the real taste of chocolate, and for that reason alone, I like it.
Tequila and Mezcal: Though most people associate tequila with Mexico, it is mezcal that is predominant and famous in Oaxaca. Mezcal is made from the green agave plant, and a worm is placed in each bottle of mezcal. The worm lives inside the agave plant, so placing it in the bottle is a reminder of the plant from which the alcohol is made. People usually drink tequila in margaritas; mezcal, on the other hand, is taken as a shot, with or without salt and lime. It’s got a kick and tastes similar to tequila.
Tortillas: Women make tortillas so quickly the entire process can be missed if you don’t watch attentively. They smack the tortillas hard and fast between their hands, toss them on a sizzling grill, flip them and toss them onto a stone surface, where they’re either covered in cheese and sauce or served up to accompany meals as an appetizer or starchy side dish.
My stay in Huatulco, Mexico, was paid for by the Mexico Tourism Board but all opinions are my own.