Oaxacan village food?
I'm gonna be living with a family in Oaxaca this summer for 8 weeks and I was wondering what the everyday meal for a campesino (maybe indigenous) family in the villages in the Valle de Oaxaca or the Sierra (norte or sur) would be (between 1/2 and 4 hrs away from Oaxaca City). Are there any regional specialties beyond the usual mole (usually a festival dish) and other now mainstream oaxacan foods that i might encounter? I'm sure that it will mostly be corn tortillas (made from the wonderful criollo corn) and black beans, but is there anything really interesting that anyone has experienced in that area.
Lucky you! There are two books you want to buy or get at the library: Susanna Trilling's Seasons of My Heart and A Cook's Tour of Mexico: Authentic Recipes from the Country's Best Open-Air Markets, City Fondas, and Home Kitchens by Nancy Zaslavsky. The first is devoted to Oaxaca. The second includes a chapter on Oaxaca. Not just recipes,but good text! Trilling's book is divided into regions of Oaxaca.
Local agro-climatic conditions where you end up will determine which of the many traditional or many modern maize varieties you end up eating. Most villages up in the higher areas grow combinations of different traditionals and modern varieties. I especially enjoy the blue maize tortillas. Same with beans - although these are different colors and certainly not the black beans favored in the Caribbean. You'll have tortillas, beans, rice, fruit, some vegetables, chicken, beef. Remember that within rural communities in Mexico, there is considerable social and economic stratification - wealth and status varies greatly in ways that often are not so visible to the outsider's eye (at least initially).
There are remote fish farms in the mountains north of Oaxaca. Not industrial level--just a little restaurant on a winding mountain road seemingly in the middle of nowhere with fish swimming in an in-ground tank maybe 6 x 6 feet. Also lots of wild mushrooms in the rainy summertime in the mountains, if you know where to look. Cepes as big as your head, and poisonous ones that look like they're right out of a fairy tale. Also some very interesting herb teas that you won't ever see in a restaurant, whose names escape me. And tejate, the drink of the gods, made from the flor de cacao, which is a must:
Well, I'm back. I've been putting off writing all of this for a few weeks, but I had such a great experience.
I lived in a town called Santa Ines del Monte, in the mountains about an hour west from Zaachila. Its pretty small, about 1200 people split up between 4 or 5 communities spread out over the mountain. Its a pretty typical rural mexican town. No "real" jobs, but most people work in their milpa (for consumption), harvest duraznos and cut leña to sell in zaachila. It's pretty poor, but the people are so generous with everything. Many emigrate to work in the US, because it's the only way to make enough money for a house.
The day begins with "cafe" which can be anything from chocolate, to coffee, to atole. It's confusing, because you arent sure when you're getting crappy Nescafe or something good. But most often, its chocolate. Almost everyone makes their own special chocolate blend. It usually has a mixture of toasted peeled cacao, sugar, almonds, and canela. The people with bigger families put more sugar. It was always delicious. With it, there comes bread. Pan amarillo (a nonsweet round bread with ajonjoli on top), Pan de Yema, tostadas (rusks) and different kinds of pan dulce. All of it is well made (by bakers in Zaachila) and delicous. Its so much better than in the US.
The women here still make their masa out of homegrown maize almost every morning. The corn molinos are located at different spots in town. They make big (like 12 inch diameter) tortillas blanditas on huge clay comales over a woodburning stove. They are so good when freshly made...slightly crispy on the outside, but still soft and pliable. When they dont have masa, people eat clayudas, which are (equally as huge) chewy and kind of hard tortillas. But they are still good. They are an accompaniment to food, as a pose to the tlayudas in Oaxaca. The blue corn kind is the best
What people eat every day is often very simple, but hearty and delicious. These are eaten for either almuerzo (breakfast #2) or comida:
-Frijoles de olla: Just plain old BLACK BEANS boiled with epazote, onion, and sometimes whole garlic cloves. These are grown nearby, and people are very proud of their quality. They also sometimes cook a type of lima-sized black/purple beans called frijolon with ejotes (green beans).
-Sopa de fideos: Again, something you could find in any mexican pueblo. Different small shapes of pasta (but most often vermicelli) cooked in a broth of water, tomato, onion, garlic, and parsley. Its eaten with tortillas, canned jalapenos en escabeche and queso del rancho (a crumbly tangy cheese) on the side.Its good, but you get tired of it after getting it 50 billion times.
-Sopa de papitas: the same as sopa de fideos, but with diced potatoes.
-Arroz: rice cooked with the requisite tomatoes, onion, parsely, and garlic. It's either dry (seco) or wet (caldoso). Comes with tortillas.
-Eggs: You get eggs at almost every meal. Fried sunny side up, into crispy "egg nuggets", or scrambled (sometimes with other ingredients like chiles). Its usually tasty enough, but sometimes too salty.
-CHILE CON HUEVO-
any color Chiles Canarios (aka manzanos), roughly chopped (a good amount)
chop some white onion
tomatoes, chopped medium (same amount as the chiles)
sal al gusto
Fry the chile in oil until cooked. Add the onion and tomato and fry until onion is cooked. Add the eggs and stir until all is well cooked.
-HUEVO CON CHILITO-
chiles serranos rojos, sliced in half
epazote, roughly chopped (a lot)
eggs, lightly beaten
sal al gusto
manteca or oil
Fry the chiles in oil until they begin to get soft over medium high. Add epazote, huevos, and sal. Cook until eggs are set, like scrambled eggs.
All right, I'm getting tired of writing for now. I'll fill you guys in about the regional specialties (the interesting part) tomorrow.
-Pollo Enchilado: Chicken, cut into large pieces and marinated with a paste of chiles guajillos, black pepper, roasted onion and garlic, and cumin. The chicken pieces are wrapped in avocado leaves and then steamed in a large pot over the wood fire. It's set on a rack, over a caldo bubbling with diced carrots, potatoes, and ejotes (along with more chile paste). This is served like a soup on the side. It's eaten with an avocado salsa, tortillas, lime wedges and thin, avocado leaf scented black bean paste. Can also be made with pork
-Barbacoa de chivo: Same seasoning as pollo enchilado, but baked in an underground pit, surrounded by maguey and avocado leaves. The caldo additionally includes chickpeas and chopped goat organs.
The preceding two are made at almost all clausura (end of school) parties and some bday parties
-Sopa de calabacita con guías: This is a great soup. Calabacitas chopped into large chunks, guias (squash vine ends), chipilin (a local herb), elotes are cooked together with some other ingredients. It's slightly thickened by "masa de elote", fresh corn ground on a metate and added back into the soup. It's served with roasted chile de agua or chile canario and lime wedges
-Mole de metate: This is the town's mole. It's not the as complex as other moles, but its still rich and satisfying. It's brown colored. From what I've asked people, its made with bread, tortillas, chiles secos, almonds, cloves, chocolate and some other ingredients. This is THE town fiesta dish. Its also made for birthday parties and when family from out of town visits.
-Frijoles con patitas: Black beans cooked with pig feet. The feet are cooked to a perfect "unctuous" (though I hate that word) texture.
-Empanadas de frijol y queso: Large tortillas blandas folded over and filled with black bean paste, epazote, and quesillo. They also make it with crumbled queso del rancho.
-Frijoles blancos con camarones secos: I had actually cooked this before from Susana Trillings book, but It's made a little differently. White beans, cilantro, tomatoes, onions, and dried shrimp. Its seafoody and delicious.
-Caldo de cangrejo y camaron: Small, almost meatless river crabs (from a small river at the base of the mountain) and dried shrimp in a chile-tomato broth. Its pretty good, as long as you dont try to eat the crabs. They're just for flavor.
-Carne en salsa: Strips of tasajo (salted beef) in a thickened mole amarillo-esque sauce with sliced potatoes.
-Carne Asada: This was one of my absolute favorite meals. Its usually eaten on thursdays, after they go to zaachila to buy groceries (no fresh meat is sold in Santa Ines). The tasajo is grilled directly on the wood fire (at my host-cuñado's house it was done in a broken wheelbarrow), along with cebollitas and chile de agua. The cebollitas and chile de agua are peeled, dowsed with lime juice, and served with the meat. Grilled chorizo (in links) is often there as well. Its eaten with clayudas most times.
-CHILES CON QUESO-
chiles poblanos, cut into lengthwise strips (lots)
onion, thinly sliced
queso del ranco or queso fresco, loosely crumbled
epazote (a couple ramitas)
poquito de leche
sal al gusto
Fry chiles in oil until they become cooked. Then add the cebolla and epazote until onion is soft. Put in queso, and a tiny bit of milt, and stir until the cheese melts. Really good eaten with tortillas, and a soup (fideo or papita) on the side.
-Mole Amarillo: oxtail or chicken in a chile/tomato/onion/garlic/miltomate sauce thickened with masa and flavored with hoja santa.
-Memelitas (at the telesecundaria): Oval tortillas with pinched up edges cooked on a comal. Covered with asiento, bean paste, quesillo, and a wonderful spicy green cilantro chutney-tasting salsa.
-Atole de Maize Tostado: Atole made with ground, toasted corn. Sweetened.
Notes about the food:
-A lot of the times, they dont bother with making a salsa. They roast chiles, peel them, and cut them into strips instead. Sometimes they add lime juice.
-They love salsa valentina
-I didn't find a lot of pork here...when people can afford it, its usually beef, chicken, or chorizo
-Out of all of the sodas there are here (big soda drinkers in this town), the only good ones are Gugar Piña soda and the coke in a glass bottle
-Aguas frescas are pretty bomb when they make them from scratch (not powder). I was served the flavors of pineapple, mango, guava, and tuna verde at different points.
That's all I got for now. If I remember anything else, I'll add another post
Pic 1- Tortillas being cooked
2- Pollo Enchilado at a clausura party
3-Sopa de calabacita con guias