North America, Travel Stories

A Taste of Oaxaca

I’ve been slacking here. The truth is, I’m bug bitten, sunburned, and just plumb worn out. I can’t stop coughing. I also can’t stop smiling. A week ago my entire family and I were in Greenville, Illinois celebrating my sister’s graduation from college. Two days later my sisters and I were sleepily shuffling through the airport of Mexico City after a 24 hour whirlwind of bus rides and train connections. That’s when it finally hit me. I’m back. It’s been six long years since I spent a semester studying abroad in Morelia, a colonial city just a few hours from the capital city. It’s been six years, but as I walked through the gate, I immediately recognized the scent of so many things mixing together: open markets and dirty streets, smog and fresh flowers, lavenderías and panaderías. The memory was so strong, so nostalgic it felt like I’d never left.63_503920412967_5138_n
                                 Morelia, 2007

Our first stop in this beautiful country was Oaxaca, a colonial city in southern Mexico, famous for its cuisine and stunning cathedrals. We were only there a few short days, barely enough to get a taste of the city and what it has to offer. Here’s a list of the food we tried and some of the delicacies we missed:

A Taste of Oaxaca
Tlayudas– these are a specialty in Oaxaca, although we’ve seen them sold in the parks in Mexico City as well. They are large tortillas stuffed with cheese, beans, and an assortment of meat. The tortillas are folded over on themselves and served with tiny limónes and salsa.

Quesillo- A type of white cheese only found in Oaxaca, often fried and stuffed with onions, small pieces of meat, or mushrooms. It is rich and filling. It kind of reminds me of what fried string cheese might taste like texture wise, but the flavor is far superior.

Mezcal– This is a specialty type of alcohol made from the agave plant. Unlike tequila which is only produced from the blue agave plant, mezcal is fermented from a variety of agave and then aged anywhere from 1-15 years. I shared a shot of the mezcal reposado, which tasted stronger than tequila but had a much smoother finish. It’s often custom to take a shot and then suck on a slice of lime covered in chili. I also tried a creamy mezcal flavored with coconut which reminded me of a Bailey’s or Kahlua.

Chapulines– These are grasshoppers flavored with a variety of chiles. They come in several sizes- small, medium, and large, but according to locals the smallest ones are the best. We didn’t get the chance to try these delicacies which is unfortunate because the saying goes, “Si comes chapulines, te vas a regresar a Oaxaca.” Or, “If you eat grasshoppers, you’ll return to Oaxaca.”

Chocolate– Oaxacans are also famous for their own variety of Mexican hot chocolate which is blended with flavors of vanilla and cinnamon. We had the chance to taste some at the home of one of our friend’s and it was delicioso.

Mole– I always thought Puebla was where the best mole was, especially after trying mole poblano, but actually Oaxaca takes the prize in this category as well. There are at least eight different types of mole-a sauce with a variety of ingredients including chocolate and chiles. I tried mole oaxaqueña on a tlayuda with cheese and shredded chicken and it  was very good.

Now, to distract you from your growling stomach (aren’t you glad I didn’t include more photos of delicious food?), here are some of the sights and scenes I captured around Oaxaca for your viewing pleasure.
        Posing outside Santo Domingo, one of the oldest cathedrals in Oaxaca.
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Views from one of the many nooks and crannies on the top level of Santo Domingo.
Watching an afternoon storm roll in, typical of the rainy season here in Oaxaca.
                                   Street art never gets old!

DSCN9378Standing on one of the tallest pyramids of Monte Alban- Zapotec ruins just outside the city.

Have you been to Oaxaca? What were some of your favorite dishes?

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