REVIEW w/ pics: Mexican Outdoor Food Stands in Boyle Heights
Every Thursday through Sunday in Boyle Heights, from 7pm to 10pm, you can feast on a variety of sopes, gorditas, huaraches, pozoles at food stands that line Breed Street, across from the Big Buy Foods grocery store. You may even encounter some things you won't normally find at regular sit down Mexican restaurants.
For example, there's the pambazo, which is a special bread (white bread with a crust) dipped in a red guajillo pepper sauce and filled with something like potatoes and Mexican sausage or refried beans and than is garnished with shredded lettuce, salsa, cream and queso fresco. By the time, we got to a stand that sold that, we were already too full, but there's always next time.
Than there was this unique and absolutely delicious salsa that I've never tasted before. Basically, it's salsa de semillas (seeds) and was made up of peanuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, chile de arbol and peanut oil. It was nutty, flavorful, spicy, but not in an overboard sort of way. Truly amazing!
As for the various foods I tried, along with my 2 other fellow foodies (one of whom introduced us to this foodie lover's find), we started with a sope with tinga (spiced pork and beef stew), It was topped with refritos (refried beans), cabbage, crema mexicana and cotija cheese. By the way, a sope is like a thick cornmeal shell that "cups" the fillings.
It was with the sope that I first tried the salsa de semillas. The sope was absolutely delicious on its own, but I think the salsa de semillas took it to another level. I also found the meat to be tender and flavorful.
For our second round, we had a quesadilla with a potato and chorizo filling topped with lettuce, cotija cheese and a guajillo chile sauce. This quesadilla, by the way, is not the regular fan-shaped, folded flour tortilla that you're used to. True Mexican quesadillas are typically circles of uncooked corn masa folded in half and filled with cheese and other ingredients, sealed at the edges, then cooked (or in our case deep fried) until ready for eating.
Just an FYI, while online, I found out about a dish called "sincronizada" (Spanish for synchronized). Apparently, the sincronizada is a tortilla dish frequently confused with quesadillas by tourists because it is what is typically called a quesadilla in most Mexican restaurants outside of Mexico. Sincronizadas are made with a flour tortilla covered with cheese (and other ingredients) and then covered with another flour tortilla and than grilled or fried. A rose by any other name...well, you get the picture.
In my case, I've had previous experience with a Mexican quesadilla so I wasn't thrown by the appearance of the one we ate. Unfortunately, I wasn't too enthralled with it. The filling wasn't substantial enough and comprised more of potatoes than chorizo. Also, after the boldness of the salsa de semillas we had previously on our sope, this dish seemed almost bland in comparison. I would order this again, but with a different filling and a stronger salsa topping.
Third up was a gordita with squash blossoms. The squash blossoms were fried with tomato, onion, garlic,chile poblano and epazote.We topped it with both a salsa de aguacate (avocado) and a chile costeno sauce. For those of you who are unfamiliar with gorditas, think of them as thick corn tortillas that can either be folded over like regular tacos or served as a top and bottom to a sandwich, which is what we had.
Sides included a complimentary nopales salad and onions with habanero sauce. Speaking of nopales, usually, I can't tolerate them because I don't like how slimy they can get. Apparently, when prepared properly, you can say good-bye to slimy. This was the first time I ever enjoyed a nopales salad. I also loved the vinegary heat of the onions!
As for the gordita itself, it was tasty. The combination of the thick corn goodness of the tortilla and the flavorful squash blossom filling was a definite hit.
We ended our feasting with Red Pozole Soup. This soup starts off as white pozole which is a chicken-based broth. White pozole becomes red pozole when a sauce made from dried chiles is added to the soup. Our sauce had California chiles (either guajillo or ancho) that are soaked in hot water until softened.
The chiles are then pureed with onion and garlic and cooked in oil. This is added to the white pozole after adding the meat. The meats added to our particular soup included carnitas, pigs feet and pork skin. Additional flavors are added when you top your soup with chopped onion, radishes, chile de arbole, lime, etc.
Of everything I had, I totally fell in love with this soup. Every spoonful was pure heaven. I could taste the pork, the chile sauce, the lime. I'd go back just for that Red Pozole.
Overall, this was definitely an awesome street food experience and one I'm looking forward to experiencing time and time again.
To see pics, go to:
Food Stand Location:
Big Buy Foods
2233 E Cesar E Chavez Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90033
The food stands are directly across from Big Buy Foods on Breed Street, which crosses the street address mentioned above.
I actually stumbled upon this place about 2 mo ago whilst awaiting my order from La Parrilla. I only remember there being that one fried foods stand on my visit, the one with the cargo van/pink poster. No other vendors. Maybe it's grown..? Perhaps I was late/early. I've been meaning to go back but knew nothing of the hours, etc... OK... the truth is I was too lazy to plow through the ignorance barriers and was awaiting a tek/walkthrough from a true hound... one with more cajones. Ask and you shall receive. Yes, I'm that guy with the Lonely Planet/Rough Guide in hand. Anyway, I MUST check this place out again armed with your insightful intel. Thanks for stepping up and doing the Lord's work.
Regarding that one fried stand: I remember it was moderately hectic. Everyone there was well acquainted with the proceedings and operated with purpose. I was pretty addled, staring idiotically at the line until the Don/purser called for my order. I remember smiling like a moron, brows knitted, débil y avergonzado. RUN! I think I was saved by a nice high school girl working the line. She marshaled me forward and punished me for my indecision by ordering me some pretty plain stuff. A very non-houndish moment.
Anyway, one thing that surprised me was the number of people ordering to-go. Fried anything para llevar is crazy to me. I guess one might poke holes in the styro and hope for the best.
Also, something that's been gnawing at me since my visit is one of the salsas from the tub bar. It might be the middle one in your photo... not sure. It was a sauce of 2 consistencies, a sort of distilled, non-emulsified dual layer deal. Orangish? Not hot... hearty... nutty... earthy... a strange flax-like paint-like aftertaste? I liked. I liked... but it was new to me. Not sure if it was the semillas one you describe.
Anyway... I gotta check this place out again, this time with friends and with purpose. And when I next stumble upon what I perceive to be new chow territory I gotta force myself to moxify and do a worthy recon like you did. These half-hearted efforts must cease!
Actually, you bring up an interesting point. Perhaps during the weekend, there are more stands? Maybe during the weekday, there really is only that one van. That's why I am going back tomorrow to see if there's a difference in the number of stands that are present. Hopefully, all will be in full force. :)
So I went there tonight (Thursday) and there were four stands missing. One was the pozole lady. There was also two other taco stands that weren't there as well, one a steamed taco stand and the other a regular one. Also, the stand that had that wonderfully delicious salsa de semilla also was not present.
So if you want the full experience, I'd say going on the weekend is your best bet and apparently, the stands will sometimes stay there as late 11 pm, even midnight.