We confess we’re feeling rather sheepish writing a blog post about food, since Mexico Business Blog is supposed to focus on business and trade. But we’ve read so many wonderful posts on Mexican food this past month, what with the fiestas patrias and all, from noted food bloggers like Cristina Potters, Nicholas Gilman, Maura Hernandez, Brad A. Johnson and others, that it reminded us of a long-held source of puzzlement: Why are some of our most bestest favoritest Mexican dishes so rarely – or never – seen or heard about in wider discussions of Mexican cuisine?
It may be that we hold these dishes so dear for the memories associated with them. Perhaps if you fell in love while on Spring Break in Cancun, you think Corona is the world’s greatest beer. OK, bad example. But we insist – these Mexican delicacies are fabulous, they are deeply ingrained in our fondest memories of Mexico, and why the heck do we never hear about them?
1) Espinazo en salsa verde. Back when we were penurious youths (before becoming adults of the same description), shuffling around the streets of La Roma, La Juárez and La Doctores here in Mexico City, espinazo en salsa verde was an absolute staple at the greasy spoons and markets that were the closest thing to a restaurant we could afford. We recall it as a sort of spicy green broth chock-a-block with chunks of stewed pork spine and weedy leaves called verdolagas. OK, it’s way better than it sounds, and I’m heading over to El 96 on the corner of Valladolid and Colima right now to order some.
2) Pambazos. The pambazo is the Rodney Dangerfield of tortas, a sort of country cousin to the better known torta ahogada of Jalisco.
We recall them as something like a tough hamburger bun dipped in red chile sauce and stuffed with greasy fried chorizo, potatoes and maybe refried beans and garnished with shredded lettuce, crumbly cheese and fresh cream. In our mind’s eye they are stacked high on plastic-covered tables at local fairs, markets and the occasional kermés in towns around the State of Mexico. We also seem to remember them in a miniature version, almost bite-sized depending on how wide you can open your mouth. OMG I want one now.
3) Papadzules. A specialty of Yucatecan cuisine, papadzules are probably the best known item on our list, but still may be untried by many who are already Mexican food lovers.
The quintessential papadzul is like an enchilada except the tortilla is dipped in greenish pumpkin-seed sauce resembling an industrial coating, stuffed with hard cooked egg and topped off with tomato sauce. We recently were invited to appear on a local television morning show in Mérida, Yucatán, and when asked by the host what we liked about Yucatán, we answered “papadzules.” The program hosts and studio audience went absolutely bananas. Say no more.
4) Discada. In our memories discada is something like the Mexican equivalent of Appalachian fried baloney, and belongs to the northern region known as “La comarca lagunera.” It consists of any mix of leftover cold cuts chopped up with onions and peppers and fried on a plow disc, hence the name. Years ago we spent a summer working out of Torreón, Coahuila, on a project that involved a lot of leaving before dawn to drive out to the ejido lands in the surrounding desert. We were so impressed that these lonely roadside discada stands in the middle of nowhere were packing in the customers, we had to try for ourselves, and of course we were hooked. Recommendation: For optimal enjoyment, stay out drinking until 4:00 a.m. before driving out to the desert to have your discada on the side of the highway.
5) Torta de pulpo. This is sort of a bonus item as we admit that torta de pulpo, or in English the eyebrow-arching “octopus sandwich,” is as far as we know not a traditional Mexican dish. But it is one of our strong favorites from another branch of our youthful memory lane. Nothing up our sleeve here: Big chunks of fried octopus in spicy red sauce served on a telera hoagie roll. Years ago, torta de pulpo was our order of choice at the once-legendary Mexico City sandwich purveyor El Hipocampo, housed in an imposing casona at the corner of Insurgentes and Vito Alessio Robles across from Plaza Inn. El Hipocampo has since gone downhill through rampant franchising and the casona became a bookie joint above a 7-Eleven, but we’ll always have the memories of those chunky chunks of spicy deep-sea goodness, *sigh*.
Extra bonus item: Speaking of Yucatecan cuisine, are huevos motuleños the best or what? Seriously, and this is not an apocryphal anecdote for the purposes of this post, we once rented a car and drove out to Motul on the Yucatan peninsula to find out if the huevos motuleños in Motul were better than in other places. The entire affair turned out to be an adventure, involving a sleeping municipal president, a cenote being converted into a discotheque and frankly unjustifiable quantities of liquor, but this is *cough cough* a business blog and we can skip the details. The upshot is that it was true! Huevos motuleños were better in Motul! That’s how we remember it anyway, and really, a plate of huevos motuleños lasts only a couple of minutes, and the memories last forever, right?
But enough of our personal taco memories, we’re going back to writing about regulatory environments and import duties where we belong. We promise we’ll leave Mexican food writing to the pros (see above) from now on.
To read about our participation in the Mexico Today program, please go here.