Wednesday, February 11, 2009

glistening: A Study in Mexico City Street Food (Epic)

I haven't traveled much yet, but where ever I have been to, I've noticed that street food really tells a lot of its country. Here in the U.S, capitalist land of permits and taxes a plenty, street food is a scarce commodity. It's tasty, wholesome and most importantly--affordable, probably would do wonders nowadays. Don't see why it has to be such a condemned offense (some of the vendors cited get ridiculous fines). To those courageous few, the vigilante vendors willing to risk their life's bacon-wrapped, chile & lemon doused investments get trashed (literally, right in front of their faces when caught), I salute you, thanks.

Mexico City on the other hand, maintains its Survival of the Fittest a tad more tribal. The population here brims at 19.2 million people, 3rd largest in the world, and our economy's recoil has back lashed to a "Crisis" (Spanish pronunciation) of their own. Against the odds, vendor's feed their families through the specialized selling of any good, mostly foodstuffs.

It's pretty much impossible to walk anywhere without getting bombarded with inaudible decibels of specialized chants slanging anything from pure 'Nestlè' milk chocolate bars to Mexican boxed cookies.

Beautiful corn in every single way imaginable, mother grain. And of course, chile's of all kinds will be in almost everything.


Rusticity is the key word.

A whole ear of corn, unadorned, un-husked and corn silk in tact, simply grilled on wood. Powdered chile, fresh lime and salt, 'tis all.


My personal favorite is anything combined with this:


Huitlacoche, the divine fungus parasite that sometimes infests a fortunate few treasured here. Mostly used in Quesadillas and as a topping on stuff, it is one of the more pricier options.

When dehydrated, rehydrated and mashed up, maize turns into a more filling doughy mass--masa in Spanish. Based on it's treatment, this is transformed into a plethora of wholesome delicacies. A staple ingredient guaranteed to be at least a little apparent (yes, it is that swoon effect) every where though will be luscious pig fat.


Tlacoyos are one way.


This torpedo shaped treat is common among central Mexico, receiving its roots from the native Nahuatl tribe. Traditionally made with purple Masa and stuffed with pureed Fava beans or pinto beans. These are griddled up, topped with requeson, a tangy Nopal salad and red or green chile.

The more famous Huarache also got its start in the streets here.


Roughly the size a more girth-y clown shoe, here, topped with squash blossoms, dried queso anejo (like Parmesan) and dried seasoned meat.

Traditional, cake-y textured, corn-husked, green or red chile Tamales are commonplace.

bad ass tamales

Most Tamales run out by early morning.

Banana Leaf wrapped Oaxaqueños are gaining popularity, bigger and more moist.


Due to recent health concerns (and price) chicken prevails over pork in most fillings now. A recent method of rationing them is to Sandwich one between a freshly baked, split Bolillo roll.


Taco's, of course, are the foundation of Mexican Street Food, Mexican cuisine as a whole really. In fact, the noun of "un taco" (a taco) has come to mean eating any type food/nourishment, even if there isn't an actual taco involved.

The infrastructure of Mexico: The Tortilla


Traditional fillings are basically any cut of meat from a cow. Many types of offal has become more popular because of recent economy stuff. Al Pastor though, marinated pork that is naturally tenderized by pineapple's acids, roasted on an open fire spit..will never die.

al pastor

Barbacoa, whole lamb that is cooked in moisture-retaining Maguey leaves in a hole-oven about 6 feet deep in the ground, overnight until it is god-like, is the tribal archetype of Mexico city tacos.


Traditionally reserved for Sunday mornings (most run out of the stuff by 11AM), they are becoming more and more quotidian and common. Albeit, those daily vendors tend to conventionally cook it and ration it out throughout the week.


Seafood is a rare delicacy, always loved. But to most chilangos (native term), it is not habituated, thus usually forlorned.


Ceviche de Pulpo (marinated raw octopus)

An ancestral treat universally seen through out all Mexico is roast chicken and other fowl (turkey legs, quail etc.). Just simply brined and served with steamed tortillas, not griddled. Those potatoes that are usually underneath, where all the rendered fat droplets accumulate...are worth the extra cost.


As you may have noticed, fat is not feared here, at all, as seen in the plethora of steaming kettles seen through out the provinces.

deep fried

Deep fried Gorditas, stuffed with either cheese, beans or braised chicharron (fried pigskin)..


Flaky shrimp Empanadas ("turnover's") get the fryer treatment.

Flautas ("flute's") aka 'Taqito's', ideally showcase this cuisine's take on contrasting textures, creating a textural epiphany with julienne crisp Iceberg lettuce, dry shredded cheese and goopy sour cream.


Mexico city have their snacks down, reaching perfection with it's endless selection. Typical Frituras (fried things) include fresh cut potato chips and Papa's Francesas(french frys) using the most widely available spuds: Yukon Gold's. Along with a myriad of fried flour things (cheese puff things, green puff things, Churros etc) and fried chili-ed legumes (Fava & Garbanzo beans, Peanuts, Peas).



A Fava bean with an edible peel.

Frutero's (fruit vendors) and Jugueros (juice vendors) are life savers, literally a crucial counter against everything else.


Papaya's a natural digestive, and Mamey's--a tropical cousin to a Cherimoya--just taste heavenly, a super rich caramel, sweet potato-y flavor.


Jugueros are people that juice and liquefy just about everything, notice those quail egg's (believed to be a natural cure to impotence)


More yang for all this yin are the indispensable accouterments guaranteed to be available along side. Minced up Cilantro, Onion, Red & Green chile, Lime Wedges and the occasional Nopal salad.


pollo to balance

Beet juice and Vinegar marinated onion's and a super-smoky red chile; this assortment is usual at places where they offer poultry.

These things enlighten all food here, with it's ethereal refreshing and fat-cutting qualities.

And as my hereditary sweet shows it, portable sweets are the most available, running wild in this food haven.

My favorite being the plethora of paleta's made available through a monopolistic Michoacana brand, Michoacan, another state, claiming to be their birth place. All natural, still, just fruit pulp, sugar and water or cream, that's it.


This guy though, is the epitome of street food. He has this portable wood oven that he totes around, yes, as easy as a tote-bag, but one that slowly smokes sweet potatoes and ripe plantains to sweet serenity. I remember I was lucky enough to run into him the last time I came, around two years ago. Who knew "The Secret" would actually work? It was pure sweet, creamy destiny that our path's crossed again. Served with a choice of condensed sweetened milk, honey or strawberry jam.


Street food god's were on my side: a Mezcal vendor was passing by behind me, another rarity. Mezcal is the liquid extracted from the Maguey plant, basically virgin tequila. Intensely rich, the cut up pieces of it's huge stems--when cooked--creates this fiercely, smoky, sweet amber chewable treat, it is inedible, so the juices are just sucked. But I must of merited my karma highly, he also had the edible heart of the Maguey plant...mmmm, sacred food.


The heart is where the light is , seriously, a ray of light was on the heart pieces!

Like Maize, Amaranth grain dates back to Aztec time, amazingly nutritious as well, just not as celebrated. Available widely as a quick, rice crispy-granola type pick me up, called Alegrias.


If you are really, really might find yourself face to face with this:

donkey meat

Deep Fried Donkey Meat that is cured with red chile, known as Chito, by local's. Tough, overly stringy with a different gamy bite, I just had to smuggle a mouthful back in to the states. It is waiting in my fridge, I am still not ready for all of it.

Of course, there is A LOT more, but for right now...this concludes my analysis, pheew.


pleasurepalate said...

Wow, what a lovely and tasty journey you took me on. :)

Anonymous said...

Gracias/thank you; u took me to a place that I haven't been to but your walk thru affords me the experience as if I was in the hot city of Mexico. Our ancestors birthplace is a WONDER that u brought to life; your write up transcends mere description. Mexico's basic earth food that our people sustain is a true blessing.

I read your blog and applaud your talents; what others are missing, I selfishly hoard to myself.

Thank you again, Gracias.

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Teenage Glutster,

Great report! :) Thanks so much for the insight into Mexico City Street Food! :) I'm jealous and hope to try that out one day.

Loved the Al Pastor spit, and the Borrego looked delicious! :)

Anonymous said...

I love u bby.<33
please send me some foood.:}

Anonymous said...

That really was an epic post. Great job of combining food and anthropology. The donkey meat looked tempting, and your photos of the mamey and lamb were mouth watering.

Anonymous said...

That really was an epic post. Great job of combining food and anthropology. The donkey meat looked tempting, and your photos of the mamey and lamb were mouth watering.

jjenvy said...

You made my mom's and my mouth water with your pictures of that awesome food.Thanks!
YUM :)
~peace and much love,jjenvy~

Right Way to Eat said...

That deep fried Donkey meat looked like BBQ Pork. LOL!

It was great meeting you last night. We got to do this again soon! BTW, Our Gourmet "Pig" friend said that you suggested a marathon within a marathon. Which place is that?

BTW, epic post!!

mattatouille said...

damn, that's some crazy awesome eating. I need to go back to my home country (well not technically home as the US is really home for me) and eat away. I hear I could eat for weeks on end without eating the same thing twice...there's so much different food from our respective countries that people haven't discovered. Jonathan Gold's been to Korea too and he had a short report last night, but I'd like to travel that country with him and discover some crazy stuff too.

Maybe you could convince him to go with you to Mexico.

Kirby! said...

WOW! Amazing post. It seems kind of like living in an endless farmer's market!

Anonymous said...

You seemed to use a plethora of plethoras.