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Prelude:San Miguel de Allende challenge

Work has summoned me to San Miguel de Allende on the weekend of 10/25.I have traveled through central Mexico, Aguascalientes(estado de mi familia), Guanajuato(ciudad), Leon, Zacatecas,and Northern Jalisco.The food is amazing, but I haven't done serious hounding there because I was with family or hadn't been very thorough when I was going.

This time it's on.I'm looking for authentic Guanajuatense cuisine, and the best places from carreta to la alta cocina.I haven't seen anything on San Miguel here that is very useful towards my goal.Don't need a view, unless I'm staring at a plate of fiambre! Not looking for Italian or International cuisine.Regional food only.

I've started a parcial list of Guanajuatense cuisine to assist in finding what I'm looking for:Enchiladas Mineras,ensalada de xoconoxtle,rabo de zorra, fiambre,caldo michi,menudo,pozole,sopes, fresa cristilada,bunuelos,cajeta y cocada de Celaya,cajeta de almendra,pan de acambaro,rollo de guayaba,jamoncillos,charamuscas,nieves,pacholas,empanadas de carnitas,cebadina,agua de betabel,agua de mezquite,ensalada Guanajuatense,gallina en naranja estiloTarandacuo,nopalitos al pastor,adobo seco,fritangas de pobre,barbacoa,tumbagones,chiles palominos,gelatina de pavo y lengua,sopas de amor and rosaceas.

I'm looking for some more regional dishes if you know them, and some restaurant recs from those that know the city and its hidden gems.

I will of course share my trip when I get back.

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  1. Street -

    I would get in touch with two people - both of which are extremely helpful and wonderful human beings.

    1. Rachel Lauden - [ www.rachellaudan.com ] who lives in Guanajuato and is a food historian and whose website and subjects I am addicted to. Without a doubt she can get you some of the best suggestions.

    2. Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo - whom Eat Nopal and I recently met and whose hospitality is unmatched. here are some Guanajuatese highlights from his blog:

    Also - I gave Juan a Mexico Desconocido special book on Guanajuato food which he might have access to if its still not boxed up! Maybe he can help.

    There is a dish I have read about Pollo en salsa de uvas which you should look for and I think GTo is ground zero for super rare nieves flavors/

    6 Replies
    1. re: kare_raisu

      "Also - I gave Juan a Mexico Desconocido special book on Guanajuato food which he might have access to if its still not boxed up! Maybe he can help.

      There is a dish I have read about Pollo en salsa de uvas which you should look for and I think GTo is ground zero for super rare nieves flavors/"

      Unfortunately it will be in storage for another month or so. BTW, there is also a dish from Guanajuato that is Pollo en Salsa de Capulinas (the wild cherry common in that part of Mex)... it has the same structure as the Pollo en Salsa de Uvas, and Pollo en Salsa de Xoconostle & Pollo en Salsa de Higo dishes... so I am going to guess its basically the "same dish" served in different seasonal incarnations.

      1. re: Eat_Nopal

        Thanks EN, I'm going to find one of these dishes if I have to buy the ingredients myself and hire a viejita to whip it up.

        1. re: Eat_Nopal

          The capulina isn't grown commercially, so it's only available in season and generally only from indigenous vendors. The season is unfortunately over.

          Fig season is over too, although occasionally we still see a few figs here and there. Figs are another of those fruits that we only see in season.

          Grapes, on the other hand, are imported to Mexico as well as grown in Mexico, so the Pollo en Salsa de Uvas should be easy to make. I doubt you'll see it in a restaurant, but nunca sabe uno.

          And xoconostles are everywhere right now.

          If you're at all interested in cuitlacoche, it's still available although the season is winding down. On Wednesday I bought a half-kilo (25 pesos a quarter kilo) to make salsa for freezing so we can enjoy this delicacy through the winter and spring.

          You'll find wild-flavored helados--ice creams--in Dolores Hidalgo, close to SMA. Shrimp, corn, avocado--you can taste them all.

          And are you planning a side trip to Morelia to visit me?

          PS: Did you know that in Mexico, the black widow spider is called 'capulina'?

          Link: http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com

          1. re: cristina

            Since it is in season as Cristina reports, dishes using xoconostle should be very easy to find. There's the chile-sprinkled xoconostle I mentioned after a visit to San Luis Potosi years ago (see link below)-a very curiously Southeast Asian idea, in its balancing of sour, sweet and hot. But there's also all kinds of ensaladas, with xoconostle providing the sour element. Pico de gallo in this area almost always includes xoconostle. If you ask for one of the humble everyday caldos (caldo de res, caldo de pollo etc), xoconostle will very likely be in the mix of vegetables along with carrots, potatoes, perhaps chayote.

            From old thread:
            Close to this stall, towards the entrance are a couple of ladies on the floor with piles of tuna (prickly pears, magenta-colored) and chile-powder-sprinkled-xoconostle. Xoconostle is another variety of prickly-pear, is not sweet like tuna but very sour and acidic and is used/seen in states like Guanajuato, Hidalgo and SLP. It is available in Chicago at a number of markets inclg Maxwell and the market next to Asi es Guerrero on North. Diane Kennedy has a recipe for a salsa made with xoconostle on p197 which is very similar to the salsa recipe described to me by one of these vendors on the market floor. The chile-sprinkled-xoconostle is quite a tasting experience: like an intensified and even-more-acidic version of chile-sprinkled green mango. ..
            Re: xoconostle and guava
            There are many old family recipes from the Bajio that use this cactus fruit in fascinating ways. DK also records one for a "mole de olla" where she says that the acidity of the xoconostle "brings out the flavor of chile". The Guanajuato volume of the Conaculta "La Cocina Familiar" series has recipes for "duck with xoconostle", "frijoles con xoconostle" and "compota de xoconostle". The best eating in Mexico is still in private homes; again and again, fonda- and restaurant-owners admit to me that what is offered in public houses are merely the popular dishes.


            That's from a thread that includes this little bit on Guanajuato (city). I include the link here for what it's worth. I thought that I had written up on Guanajuato (city) but I guess I never did and here's the little bit by myself that I could find on CH. This specific post also has some information on what I think is geophagy in San Juan de los Lagos:


            Re: pan de Acambaro

            I have written on pan de Acambaro in Chicago many times. Acambaro is politically a part of Guanajuato state of it is closer in culture etc to certain parts of Michoacan as I suggested in this and in many other threads:

            Pan de Acambaro is a recognized denomination on the popular level, but price-wise, there is no premium that accrues to this name. So far, I have not found any pan de Acambaro made/imitated elsewhere and/or NOT made by Acambarenses (the half-dozen or so places in Chicago that offer pan de Acambaro seems to have some true link to the town). That is to say, there is not much to be gained in reproducing pan de Acambaro elsewhere (i.e. in San Miguel). It is distributed (re-sold) by itinerant vendors throughout the area but perhaps not as far as San Miguel. You will have a problem finding it in Celaya for instance.

            I went to San Miguel years ago for one specific reason. To find the prototype or correspondent of a superb item that was available back then at Chicago's Maxwell Street Market. I am talking about the spectacular empanadas made by the sanmiguelenses of the much-lamented El Colonial stall at Maxwell Street Market, which disappeared one day without any reason (it was not for lack of business, the stall was always packed) never to be seen again.

            These empanadas were very special. They were essentially like the quesadillas to be found elsewhere in the market, and also featuring almost the same range of fillings-flor de calabaza, huitlacoche etc-EXCEPT it was deep-fried. The most unusual single fiiling was the sesos which I considered a culinary masterpiece. Seth Zurer wrote a bit about this wonderful thing in this old post.

            2. Brain empanadas from the deep fried empanada lady. I myself ordered an empanada with zuchini flowers, but g wiv's brain-filled version was really fantastic, with an unashamedly creamy brainy texture somewhere between hard boiled eggs and stiff panna cotta. Terrific and savory, if a little strong for ten in the morning

            Here also is a picture of it taken from Seth's photo page.

            I never did find that empanada in San Miguel-despite visiting the market downhill away from the tourist areas. I was told however that these empanadas can be found at night being sold by nighttime vendors. But I had to leave town immediately and could not stay for the night markets. Maybe you could keep your eyes open for these while you're there...


            1. re: RST

              Richard, tremendously heplful.I will give your recs their due attention,thanks.

              1. re: streetgourmetla

                Oops. I meant: you will NOT have a problem finding pan de Acambaro in Celaya (probably sold by itinerant re-sellers who are known to stand at certain corners of the city at certain specific times to vend this product)-my point being that San Miguel might be too far to see pan de Acambaro, but Celaya is much closer. Celaya has a large bustling center and a fascinating market. The souvenirs usually recommended include the famous cajeta de Celaya. Amata of the Chicago Board once told me that a friend (neighbor?) of hers who come from Celaya often talk nostalgically of the "rellena" from her hometown. I think this is almost the same rellena (stuffed large intestine) from Zitacuaro (Michoacan) that I once posted about.

      2. Check our the tacos of Don Thomas, behind the San Francisco church, after six pm.
        Pablito el gordito

        1. Thanks so much for the vote of confidence, Kare Raisu. I hate to admit that I am really out of touch with SMA. Guanajuato's a huge state and I get to SMA only once or twice a year.

          What I can say is that anything with xoconostle is very typical (though also of other states bordering on the Altiplano. Enchiladas mineras according to friends is very recent and a tourist item. I simply hand this on. All the sweets look good, but the specialty of SMA in this line are tumbagones. Find them in the dulces store on Ancho San Antonio. Really great. Fresas cristalizados are a specialty of Irapuato, don't know if you can find them in SMA. Nieves are the specialty of Dolores, less than an hour from SMA. Many of the things on the list I've never heard of--oh dear.

          She's not Guanajuatense but I'm a huge fan of the cooking classes of my buddy Maria Laura Solórzano Ricaud. Mexican cooking is in her bones.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Rachel Laudan

            Hello Rachel.My list of dishes are Guanajuato state specialties, of which I'm keeping an eye out for any of them possibly being in SM.I gathered them up from various sites, and government sites about Guanajuato state.All I will have time for is a couple of restaurants, so I'm just looking for something special.I will look for the tumbagones, thanks.

          2. Hey Street... I think your best bet is to rent a condo & ask the agent to recommend some cooks. Submit your list of dishes and have them prepare what they can do best.

            1. Hey Street,

              I was chatting with my mom a few days ago... and back when they lived in Jalisco... they traveled to Guanajuato a lot for commerce (Leon for shoes & leather goods, Celaya, Silao etc.,)... and she reminded me of the regional specialty Tacos de Nada. This is where they fry up - and i HATE to use this term because some moron will say... see Taco Bell IS Authentic - some "Taco Shells" and then they serve you a "Panchan" of various things to put in them including Lechuga Orejona, Salsas, Recaudos, Encurtios, Quelites, Crema de Celaya etc.,

              1 Reply
              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                Thanks EN.Dorados and Taco Bell, if someone even tries!!!!! I'd like to find a tacos de nada zone where everyone is trying to one up eachother.That would be muy chido.

              2. Thanks RST,EN,KR,PB,RL, and C for all your input.My trip was fast and the free time I had was short, additionally I was being a tour guide for friends which cut down on my efficiency, but what a great time I had.

                Secondly, I'd like to thank Aeromexico for continuing to serve free booze on their flights and to our agent for hookin' up the Aeromexico VIP lounge in D.F., more paloma's than I could count.

                San Miguel is beautiful, and strange,with its Mexico but not really charm. The historic center is a food wasteland as others had mentioned, but we spent one of the mornings walking around finally to the top of the hill to see a great view of the city.There was a fonda near La Parroquia that was promising,but they didn't open 'til 1PM, and upon returning at 1 we discovered that the waitress wouldn't be there until later.With my groaning companions in tow, we went to Aqui es Mexico.A mole rojo and verde, tinga, and the worst chile en nogada ever made.Think, "new from Taco Bell, Chilis n nogaahhhda."The moles?The rojo was just Ok, more beer,please.

                On the way to our gig, I spotted the place.RST, I believe this might be the mercado you spoke of, it's not far from centro, it's called El Parian.I had to wait until the next day, but awoke after another wild night to get to some recon.We stopped for some tortas de carnitas, beautiful, in one of those little stands we are all familiar with.Amazing, my unadventurous companions avoided the exotics, so all the pleasures of pig parts were mine and mine alone.Next, El Texano, for a primordial Bajio style barbacoa.Earthy lamb, with pancita,a substantial consume, and a little moranga thrown in to appease the higher pleasure centers.The moranga had a texture and flavor that'd make you cry.Forgeting that I had many good foods awaiting, I really went to town at El Texano,the hot comal blistering tortillas behind my back, ignoring the disgusted looks form my friends at the sight of me eating blood sausage.

                This area just goes on and on as you are leaving town, we entered a tianguis a viejita called El Chicano.The women were selling gorditas de trigo, and other homebaked breads, nopales, and artisenal products.Nearby, I managed to find room for a gordita with an orange cheese resembling requeson filled with frijoles.In a round pan, rellena, a travesty that I could not taste this.My regrets are crescendoing as I write.

                If I had a full day to investigate El Parian and all its food stalls and restaurants I could have unearthed countless gems, but I definitely was surprized by this encounter in San Miguel.My last taste, a fresh raspado of grosella(gooseberry)engulfed in a swirl of drunken, lazy bees.Best raspado ever.

                El Texano barbacoa

                Barbacoa and pancita




                Mercado El Chicano

                2 Replies
                1. re: streetgourmetla

                  Your friends are silly.... that Blood Sausage looks inocous & so delicious.... am I the only one that thinks Moronga has the texture of Foie with a flavor that hints of Octopus Ink?

                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                    One did try the pancita and really liked it, but yeah, it was a work trip, and a small troup wanted to tag along.Pero no me importa, I killed that blood sausage all by myself leaving no trace.

                    OK, I feel you on the moranga.The only problem with foie is that it doesn't know that it's a street food, too.Moranga is a Promethean gift.Well, I'm exaggerating, but only a little.