Hello! I am sitting in the beautiful pink courtyard of 200 year old hotel in Puebla, Mexico listening to a trio sing live Mexican ballads and sipping on coffee as I type this. The first leg of our Mexico Trip has been dreamy. I have been continually astounded by the richness of Mexican food and culture.
It is such a shame that America’s proximity to Mexico sometimes blinds us to the diversity and beauty of the culture and cuisine of our southern neighbor. I hope that by sharing some of the foods that I’ve been cooking this week you will be inspired to try a new recipe or to travel to Mexico for yourself and experience some of this magic.
This week started with an enchilada class in Mexico City at Esgamex. We made six different enchiladas from different regions of Mexico and I was hard pressed to pick a favorite after we got to taste them all. The chef there deeply impressed upon me a respect for traditional Mexican cooking techniques. One of the things he said that stuck with me most was when we worry too much about appearance we actually end up altering the recipe or the food that we are cooking. As a food blogger, I often find myself cutting things a certain way or serving meals differently than how I would if I were just eating it myself, so this definitely struck home. I do think that food can be art, and that it is ok to spend time styling food and cooking with esthetics in mind BUT his comment, and the humble but delicious presentation of the enchiladas in the course, certainly made me question my motives and practices. (More pictures here)
Tuesday we headed to Casa Jacaranda and learned to cook Cochinita Pibil, Sopes, Salsas, and a sweet corn tamal from Guerrero. This class started at el Mercado Medillin where we learned that goods were brought to the mercado by boat as recently as the mid 1900s. I loved hearing about the waves of immigrants that have come to Mexico City and the impact they have left on Mexican cuisine through foods like tacos arabes and flour tortillas. I was also astounded by the beauty and abundance of Mexican produce in the market- I’m pretty sure the mango I ate there was the best mango I’ve ever had. I was shocked to touch some chiles secos in the mercado and to feel their pliable and soft skin. By the time I get chiles in Boston, they tend to be brittle and even dusty! After the market tour we headed to Beto’s home to prepare the meal. His gorgeous home and cooking school is located atop a gorgeous boutique hotel. Beyond the market tour, the cooking techniques and the food and drinks we prepared, Beto impressed upon me a deep desire to host people, to make my guests feel like family, and to share Mexican cuisine with others.
Wednesday we started off our morning at El Cardenal in the center of Mexico City and after devouring some delicious pan dulce, enchiladas, and eggs we headed to la Biblioteca Herdez to dive into their diverse Mexican cookbook collection with over 4,900 volumes. Here I engrossed myself in books about tamales, salsas, and Mexican history. I found a recipe from an hacienda dating back to the 1700’s! After our restful morning we headed to an airbnb experience on Pan Dulce. This was my first airbnb experience and though I was not quite sure what to expect, I loved getting to take a small class and learn the basics of how to make a classic Mexican bread, pan dulce. The resulting conchas were perfectly moist and flaky on the inside while the concha topping was perfectly crunchy. I foresee lots of conchas in the near future. (More pictures here)
Thursday we partook in EatMexico’s Journey through la Merced. La Merced is not the safest neighborhood in Mexico City so I appreciated having a tour guide to lead me through the market, sharing the stories of the store owners, while sprinkling in a bit of Mexican history and culture. I honestly cannot even recall everything that we ate and my phone died halfway through the tour so you only get a short glimpse of the tour, but I was especially impressed by the tacos de lengua. The cow tongue was hacked off, peeled, diced and placed on warm corn tortilla for me on the spot. Topped with cilantro and salsa this taco was a work of art. After a dozen or so stalls, when I thought I could not possibly eat more food, we ended the tour at a small restaurant where a requezon, guacamole “cake” topped with chapulines was presented to us. Our tour guide was delightful and I loved getting to know Lola from Lola’s Cocina better. (More pictures coming soon!)
Today, Friday, we arrived in Puebla where we will be for the weekend before we head off to Oaxaca. I’m so excited to keep sharing everything that I am learning with you in the next two weeks. Make sure to follow along on instagram for daily updates.
Finally, I can’t leave you without a recipe. So bringing together my love for something totally Mexican, agua fresca, and something from Boston, my new home, I have some Rhubarb Agua fresca for you.
I made this rhubarb agua fresca right before coming to Mexico for my friends birthday party. The Rhubarb agua fresca tasted like a mild, tart pink lemonade. It was delicious and refreshing. Although, I didn’t add anything else to the agua because I wanted it to be purely agua fresca, I bet it would be great with lemon, hibiscus or with strawberries!
Notes: You can strain this to different degrees. I only strained mine with a normal mesh strainer the first time and it was kind of pulpy which I was OK with. However, if you want a clearer and brighter pink drink, then you should strain through a strainer and cheese cloth but know that this will yield much less liquid. The Rhubarb Agua Fresca is best within a day or two.
Rhubarb Agua Fresca
Yields: 5 cups
Rhubarb Agua Fresca
- 1 lb of Rhubarb, washed and cut into small pieces
- 1 cup of sugar
- 4 cups of water, or enough water to cover rhubarb completely
- Place rhubarb, sugar and water in pot and boil for 10 minutes or until rhubarb starts to come apart.
- Place the entire contents of the pot in blender and puree completely.
- Strain the puree through a thin mesh or sieve into a pitcher.
- Then add water until rhubarb reaches your desired level of tartness. For me this was about 2 more cups of water.