Kiwi food YouTubers Thomas & Sheena Southam are on an eternal quest to find the most delicious local food the world has to offer. This week, they check out the best bites in Oaxaca.
Oaxaca: diverse indigenous cultures, the home of mezcal and many would say the beating heart of Mexican gastronomy. If you find yourself in Oaxaca, chances are you're going to want to stick around for a bit, the list of Oaxacan food you must tick off warrants at least a week in this vibrant state of Mexico. Here are a few dishes to get you started:
1. Oaxacan mole
Think mole and a thick chocolate sauce slathered over enchiladas will come to mind. You're not far off the mark but in Oaxaca you won't just find mole negro (the "classic" one containing dark chocolate), you'll discover six more you have to sample. Vying with the state of Puebla for the honour of being the birthplace of mole, Oaxaca's is best eaten at small fondas - mom and pop joints found inside local markets. Comedor Chabelita is one such place - sample enchiladas bathed in a mole coloradito - a sauce containing spices, garlic, chocolate and smashed plantain or mole verde - a verdant green mole redolent with tangy tomatillos, coriander, jalapenos and earthy pumpkin seeds ladled over chicken and served with rice.
Eat it at: Comedor Chabelita, Mercado 20 de Noviembre, 20 de Noviembre S/N Locales 97,98 y 99, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez. Open daily 7am to 9pm.
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The king of Oaxaca's street eats is the tlayuda. It's Mexico's answer to the pizza - a giant crispy tortilla brushed with asiento (pork lard) and smeared with refried beans. Often topped with quesillo (Oaxacan string cheese), slices of avocado, lettuce and tomato and bulked out further with thinly sliced pork, beef or chorizo. Comedor Chabelita (mentioned above) do one which is well worth eating.
One of Oaxaca's most unique drinks is found in the form of tejate, a pre-Hispanic beverage said to be the drink of the gods and made from the pip of the mamey fruit, cacao, corn and water. Find a vendor at one of Oaxaca's traditional markets serving their tejate from giant tubs, pouring the beige liquid with foamy, curd-like froth, into a bowl for you. It's a unique flavour - earthy, nutty and a bit chalky _ but undoubtedly refreshing.
Drink it at: local markets
4. Meat Alley
The food is great but it's the atmosphere of meat alley that's the biggest drawcard. Located within Mercado 20 de Noviembre, this temple to meat sees vendors grilling thin sheets of steak, pork and strings of chorizo, plumes of smoke swirling overhead as they shout for your business. Choose a stall, the amount of meat you'd like (you can order 1/2 and 1/4 kgs) and take a seat. Vendors selling tortillas, salad, guacamole, salsas and limes will pop by so you can construct your perfect meal. Warm tortillas, smoky meat and zingy salsas washed down with a cold beer. Don't miss this!
Eat it at: Mercado 20 de Noviembre, 20 de Noviembre S/N Locales 97,98 y 99, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez. Open daily, 7am to 9pm.
What better way to cool down than with a nieves? It encompasses all frozen treats but generally refers to ice cream. Oaxaca's specialty is leche quemada con tuna - burnt milk with prickly pear cactus - it's a winner of a combination. The magenta scoop of prickly pear is sweet while the burnt milk is savoury and slightly smoky. We've been known to devour two servings one after the other - perfect for beating the heat!
Eat it at: local markets