(Sorry, just had to get that out of my system. The whole time I was in Puebla, the home of mole poblano, I had that dumb joke running through my head. But really? The mole? Hot damn, it’s so good.)
Peter and I took a food tour with Eat Mexico, the same wonderful folks we did a street food tour with two years ago in Mexico City. Not only have they branched out to Puebla, but the guide is the woman behind the excellent All About Puebla blog.
Peter and I put on our stretchy pants and met Rebecca in the center of the zocalo. As usual, we thought we knew stuff (mole, cemitas), but we knew jack. She promptly marched us off to a place with molotes, jarochas, chanclas and pelonas, among other things.
Now, as I type, I could not tell you what molotes really are. The shape has evaporated, and I just remember the tastes: we had one filled with potatoes and cilantro, which tasted like a samosa, and one filled with brains, which were silky and surprisingly beef-flavored.
The pelona is clearer in my mind because it’s, get this, a deep-fried sandwich!!!!
Rebecca explained all this rationally, about Puebla’s long tradition of baking a variety of wheat breads and so on, as though it were perfectly normal to dunk the outside of a bread roll in hot oil till it gets shatteringly crunchy, and the fill the inside with something hot and cheesy and fabulous.
Peter and I were so busy gobbling that we forgot to take photos. Sorry.
Then we marched on to a place that called itself a taqueria oriental, which specializes in tacos arabes and tacos al pastor, on dueling vertical spits.
I don’t know why it delights me so to see Arab culture mashed into/absorbed into/flourishing in Mexico, but it does. Tacos arabes are basically shwarma in form, but still Mexican in flavor (the pork helps).
They were allegedly invented in Puebla, in the early 20th century. The skewer technology either enabled or improved the taco al pastor (not sure which–any food historians know?), and wow, the ones we had were some of the best ever.
If I continued with this blow-by-blow account, we’d never get anywhere. Suffice to say, we also stopped for strange and wonderful cookies and candies I’d never heard of, detoured for mysterious candy apples, and, best of all, walked for a while, out of the historic center and into a part of the city we hadn’t yet gotten to see. On the way we passed a peaceful protest.
By the time we got to the market we were bound for, our appetites had been magically restored. We strolled around ogling all kinds of things, and asking people pesky questions. We bought a kilo of homemade mole. We saw huitlacoche in situ!
And then we ate cemitas. Just as Rebecca promised, every component of this amazing sandwich was perfect.
You can’t see all the gorgeousness in the photo, but the string cheese was unstrung into fine threads, the milanesa was hot and crispy, the chipotle was homemade, all smoky and brown-sugar-sweet. (Ohhh, so that’s what chipotles en adobo are supposed to taste like!) A man came along and sang a sad song on a guitar, and a woman rolled up and sold us a big plastic bag full of fresh pineapple juice. It was one of those crystalline this-is-why-I-love-Mexico moments.
Then, as if that weren’t enough, we went and drank sweet-and-boozy drinks on a tiny balcony in a pretty arcade.
Puebla. So much more than mole!