When visiting Oaxaca, every meal is a chance to explore the area’s history and culture. To take advantage of it, you’ll have to visit a traditional restaurantone which may not feature the brightest dcor, but will satisfy when it comes to authenticity. At such a restaurant, meals go in steps, beginning with cocktails, appetizers, and then the soup.Be careful not to rush through this delicious course. There’s an Oaxacan soup for every palate, whether you like hot and spicy or cool and subdued. Some traditional recipes include sopa Azteca and pozole. Sopa azteca made headlines earlier this year, as it’s supposedly President Obama’s favorite Mexican starting dish. The prime ingredients are tomatoes, shredded chicken, pasilla chiles, tortillas, and queso fresco. Avocados, onions, garlic and other seasonings are added to give the soup depth and flavor. Read the rest of this entry »

Pilar Cabrera Arroya, chef and founder of La Olla, was one of the driving forces behind the Oaxaca Culinary Tour which occurred this May. The genesis of the tour was in the month Cabrera Arroya spent in Toronto as guest chef and instructor at several restaurants and a cooking school. It was only proper for her to reciprocate, and the Oaxaca Culinary Tour invited chefs, writers, and Mexican food lovers of all types to experience the rich and delicious history of the state.Cabrera Arroya’s La Olla was one of the restaurants which opened up to visitors, along with Los Danzantes, La Catrina de Alcala, and Casa Oaxaca. However, these restaurants present only one side of the state’s dining experience. Another perspective was provided by villagers who illustrated traditional methods of making hot chocolate or chicken and mole tamales.The Tlacolula marketplace, held on Sunday, allowed visitors to literally immerse themselves in the community of Oaxaca, talking with vendors and sampling Oaxacan delicacies like tejate and pulquean alcoholic drink made from fermented aguamiel. This warm and welcoming instance of international hospitality showed how food can truly bring nations and people togethera lesson that is more important than ever in today’s modern world.

If you think American baristas can be strict, wait until you see the tejateras of Oaxaca. These makers of Oaxaca’s signature drink spend hours cleaning the mamey seeds which provide the foundation, just to get the drink to be the right color.Tejate is a cold drink which dates back to before Hispanic culture. The mamey fruit seeds and flowers are an important part of the recipe, along with maize and cinnamon, but these are not the most important. That honor goes to rosita de cacao, a cacao tree native to San Andres Huayapam renowned for its medicinal properties. The flavor of tejate is hard to describe, but it is sweeter now that it is no longer made with the traditional chiles.Oaxaca also prepares two other traditional cold drinks. Especially good during the hotter months, aguas frescas and tuna are still popular any time of the year. Aguas frescas come in a variety of flavors, but are all made of sugar and water blended with a fruit, cereal, or seed. Tuna is a type of aguas frescas made from the prickly pear cactus fruit. Read the rest of this entry »

Given its reputation as a culinary hotspot, it’s not surprising to find Oaxaca at the center of a forgotten food revival. However, just which snack is coming back in vogue may surprise you. They’re called chapulinestoasted grasshoppers.In Oaxaca, they serve a role filled by nachos or peanuts in America: as cheap snack food served at sporting events, which is currently gaining popularity. The earliest reference to the food, however, appears in Fray Bernardino’s 16th century work, General History of the Things of New Spain. Chapulines are also used as the filling for a variety of foods, such as stuffed tlayuda.The majority of chapulines are harvested from the milpa fields where they live. The catch is cleaned thoroughly and stored for two to three days before being boiled with garlic and herbs and then toasted in a comal. Lemon juice and worm salt are traditionally added during the toasting process as well. If you’re interested in trying chapulines for yourself, make sure you get them from a reputable source, as uncleaned catches can carry parasites or chemicals which can affect humans.