The Al Pastor was way better...
We travel to be surprised, right? While picking my favorite five dishes took some deliberation, coming up with five different foods or dishes that surprised me on a trip to Mexico should have taken me all of five minutes. But for some reason I wasn't expecting this. I have a vertiable library of Mexican cuisine in my condo courtesy of Rick Bayless, Diana Kennedy, and Susana Trilling, and have researched and cooked as many authentic dishes as I possibly could in the past three years. So how come I was wrong about so many things? Almost everywhere I turned in Mexico I was bewildered by some detail I’d never thought about, and which shattered my expectations. Luckily, they all turned out to be those good kind of surprises--cases where my preconceived notions actually hid something more intriguing and delicious.
1. The Tacos
Carnita Tacos at Mi Mercado in Coyoacan
I expected to find some kind of insight about the taco during my two weeks in Mexico. By seeing it in its homeland, I’d formulate some kind of hypothesis on the correct proportion, contents, and preparation to create some kind of Grand Taco Manifesto. But I can’t. While I ate tacos nearly every single day on my two week trip through Mexico City and Oaxaca, I left more confused than when I came.
Goat, Al Pastor, Chorizo and Potato, and Chicken Tinga Tacos
I found them tiny and rolled, like the petite little al pastor tacos found at El Huequito. But I also encountered huge, generously filled ones from Tacos Gus in Condesa, where dozens of great cazuelas of stewing meats and vegetables were open for examination. Some were fried like taquitos, and others were housed in unnaturally soft and pillowy corn tortillas.
The fillings were just as diverse. I ate thinly shaved versions of Al Pastor, juicy hunks of carnitas, and tongue so tender it nearly disintegrated in my mouth. But I also ate rajas with queso, mushroom with crema, and vegetable guisados stuffed with squash and corn. The possibilities for tacos are endless.