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Report from Michoacán (and two days in Mexico City) (long)

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We had a great trip, and we’re glad now to be back in our own bed. Thank you all for your suggestions. We hit several of the recommended vendors, but we never actually sat down in a restaurant for a meal. I did spot all the mentioned restaurants in Pátzcuaro, though.

Ah, the food. Some old favorites, some new discoveries, some bad encounters.

High points:
Pan de natas: Loved this stuff years ago, and was thrilled to find it again. Seems more wide-spread now. The best I’ve had was sold outside the bus station in Uruapan. There was a touch of citrus peel in the crusty topping before Christmas, but that little surprise was gone when I bought it again twice a week later.

Gorditas de natas: Thick, creamy pancakes that need no adornment. Chewy, doughy inside. Tiny and hot off the griddle one night at Uruapan’s main plaza. The same woman never appeared again, and the bigger versions sold cold around Michoacán never compared to hers.

Pulque: Finely tried this in D.F. Why did I wait? Loved it any way, but the blend with nuez was my favorite.

Street food in D.F.: Always great; I love that here, and seldom anywhere else, you can get tacos filled with delicious guisados right on the street, not just the typical asada/tripas/adobada/lengua/etc. Cheapest street food was here too.

Uchepos and corundas in Pátzcuaro: What’s to say . . . they were the best anywhere. Great varieties of atoles in the city, too.

Street food on the island of Janitzio: Were surprised by the variety and quality; not just tourist food. Pleased to satisfy our craving for quesadillas from fresh-made blue corn tortillas. I’m not a whole-fish person, though, so I didn’t have a cup of charales/whatever (tiny sardine-like fish, fried and served everywhere).

Tamales de verduras at a home in Coalcomán: Not vegetable-filled, exactly, but tiny pieces of different colors of fresh (roasted)chiles mixed into the masa and then steamed with no other filling. Good idea!

Other points of interest:
Don Emilio’s enchiladas placeras in Pátzcuaro: This stand was busy, busy, busy! There was no getting near Don Emilio to mention his Internet fame. Long wait, even though we arrived soon after they opened, but very good. My husband recalls them as a favorite from the trip.

Chongos zamoranos: Delicious, but not terribly novel. Reminiscent of an Indian dessert whose name I am too lazy to look up. I see now that they are sold canned; the thought makes me a little queasy. Canned dairy products have never been my thing.

Birria de borrego everywhere in D.F.: For me, you can never go wrong with lamb.

Tepache: Also in D.F. Tasted exactly what I thought a fermented pineapple drink would taste like. Perfectly good, though not being much of a beverage person (wine and pulque aside), I couldn’t come close to finishing the huge glass I was served.

Atole negro in Uruapan’s Mercado de Antojitos: So black! I asked why, and the hurried woman mumbled something about it being made from cacao, but it wasn’t at all chocolately. Anyone have the scoop?

Granadas in Pátzcuaro: Always intrigued when I encounter a new fruit, I had to ask about the green, avocado-shaped item sold on the street. When the woman told me it was a granada (pomegranate), I exclaimed that it couldn’t be! But of course she would know. She insisted that I taste. The seeds were shaped like the ruby-colored pom seeds, but they were all together in the middle of the fruit (no membrane) and were clear or whitish in color. Flavor was sweet at first, then grassy. I did not crave a second taste.

Chavideca in ???: Ordered one of these across the street from a bus station during a quick stop-over. Just two fresh-made tortillas (of a slightly different white flour – corn flour ratio) grilled with cheese and carne asada in between. No other fillings offered. I ordered a “chica,” but they were available in about 6 sizes, like pizzas. I’ve seen a similar item called a “suegra” before, but it carried a choice of fillings.

Low points:
Tamales de harina in Uruapan: Curiosity got the better of my husband. It was even worse than we expected. No filling, no spices. Just a ball of steamed white-flour bread. Reminiscent of Chinese steamed breads, but flatter in flavor. Yuck.

Chepos in Lázaro Cárdenas: Determined to have one more before I left, I tracked down a vendor the night before our departure. They were looser, too watery, and tasted like it was a mixture of canned and fresh corn. I cannot explain the popularity of that woman’s little cart. Also, after 11 days of eating on the street (we never did go to a restaurant), this is what finally made me a little sick.

One street vendor in D.F.: Her beef tasted like fish, and adding her salsa to my unpleasant quesadilla only made it worse. The only truly bad street food I’ve ever had.

Comida corrida in Pátzcuaro, just down from Don Emilio’s: I craved some steaming hot protein en mole/chile with rice and beans, so I sat down at the only vendor who appeared to offer this. We chose our proteins, and he plated them with rice and beans. Then he stuck the plates in a microwave to heat up! WTH?!? The food was sitting cold in its display cases! I thought maybe the flavor would make up for it, but it was just bad. I’m lucky I didn’t get sick.

Thanks again, all!

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  1. It's so exciting to read your post--the best is that you never sat down in an actual restaurant. Smart people, you and your spouse.

    Mmmm...I'm heading for Morelia and Pátzcuaro on Friday, on business, and your report only made me salivate and wish I were leaving tomorrow. Pátzcuaro will be corundas and atole de zarzamora with Doña Ofe, atole de grano on the plaza chica, and enchiladas placeras with my pal Don Emilio. It seems like a long time since I was last there, but it's really only been two months.

    Ohhh, and I'm stopping along the way in Zamora, to pick up carnitas to have for cena with friends in Morelia on Friday night. Carnitas Aeropuerto--the best carnitas on the planet!

    1. Here I am again, with an answer to your question about the atole negro served in the Uruapan mercado de antojitos.

      This atole isn't made with cacao (chocolate). It's made with and gets its black color from toasted corn silks and its flavor from piloncillo (Mexican cone-shaped brown sugar).

      4 Replies
      1. re: cristina

        Interesting... I've seen the corn silks in the spice markets... but had never know what culinary use they might have. Good info.

        1. re: cristina

          Thanks for your reply! I was really wondering about that. Between the woman's mumbling and the din of the eating area, I must have not heard correctly. I heard "something" "tostado," and I guess my mind just filled in the blank. Do the corn silks impart much flavor?

          1. re: maestra

            I've tried the atole negro on several occasions in Uruapan and honestly, I didn't think it had much flavor at all. It's sweet, yes, from the piloncillo, but not much other flavor.

            Did you try it? What did you think of the flavor?

            1. re: cristina

              If you guys google 'Barba de Elote' you will find that from Mexico to Chile... people make Tea out of it for its curative properties. Most seem to think it aids with kidneys kind of like cranberries.

              Maybe its just for coloring & medicinal purposes?