Monday, August 27, 2007

Ricas tostadas en El Pochote

This tostada is on my top 10 list of things I love to eat in Oaxaca, and pretty high up, too.

I’ve raved before the Mercado Organico at El Pochote before, but I will rave again. On the far wall from the entrance, next to the lovely Korean woman selling baked goods, there is a husband-and-wife pair that sells tostadas with a wide range of topping choices. A tostada is a crunchy taco, but not those U-shaped boats we all ate growing up, made by Taco Bello or Dos Pasos or whatever they called themselves. It's flat, a little ripply usually, and not as hard-crunchy as a tortilla chip, thinner and crisper.

There are an array of topping choices, sparkling with different colors. Each tostada starts with a thin base of black bean puree, and then, you have to start making some decisions. There are nopales, cactus paddles, one that is spicier than the other, but both deliciously tart and fresh. There are sauteed mushrooms, and one type has small kernels of corn, too. There's spicy chicken tinga, shredded white chicken breast, and then two kinds of requeson, a fresh ricotta-like cheese. One has green specks, herby, and the other is spicier and redder, but not actually hot. Just fragrantly spicy. You can thin avocado sauce drizzled over everything, as well as salsa. No matter what combination you get, one topping or 3, it's 15 pesos. You feel almost righteously healthy eating so many vegetables, but you're not making any sacrifices.

Probably my favorite is half spicy nopales, half mushrooms with bits of corn, topped with the spicy requeson, and then drizzled with both salsa and guacamole. It’s so simple and yet illustrates so perfectly what I love most about Mexican food, the way fresh, bright flavors and textures contrast and complement each other. (To think, melted cheese over everything represents Mexican food to most Americans!) The slightly tart nopales, the savory mushrooms, the spicy salsa, the creamy requeson, the crunchy tostada. It’s hard not to get it all over your face, but it’s worth every messy bite.

I think the wife recognizes me now, she smiled so broadly at me this weekend. It's my Saturday morning ritual!

(This is my 100th post. Can you believe it?)


Isaac said...

Damn, that sounds like a good place to eat. You have just suceeded once again in making me hungry.

How much does that 15-peso price translate into, in dollars?

Anna said...

Hey, Grace, just wanted to let you know how much I've been enjoying reading your blog! Your adventurous, independent-minded spirit comes through loud and clear.

In response to:

"(To think, melted cheese over everything represents Mexican food to most Americans!)"

the partial answer is that melted cheese over everything, and simple meat and starches (including wheat tortillas), *is* authentic Norteno food. Take a drive through Baja or Sonora sometime, and you'll begin to regret that cattle were ever introduced to the Americas, with all the queso fundido and machaca that they entail. The older generation of Mexicans in the US, as I'm sure you know, came from the North. One of the best Oaxacan restaurants in LA is around the corner from my office, and yet most of my many Chicano colleagues all turn up their noses at it as "weird." Since I love Oaxacan (and Yucatecan-- yum!) food, as well, let's hope that with the more recent wave of immigration from the South these expectations of what Mexican food "should" be will change...

Lina said...

Yep, I agree. The superfine corn tortillas that you find in Oaxaca are common in Southern Mexico whereas Northern Mexico has the flour tortillas. But I'm surprised that other Mexicans consider Oaxaqueno food as weird considering that even within the country, the state is recognized for its culinary distinction.

AppleSister said...

15 pesos is about $1.35. Mmm!

That's interesting, about norteno food being melted cheese. It reminds me of this book I read on the history of Indian food and how what the first immigrants brought to England and the U.S. affected what even immigrants from other regions cooked in restaurants. Anna, at least you have Oaxacan restaurants in LA! It was my first taste of mole negro 4 years ago at Guelaguetza that led me to come here...

AppleSister said...

I wonder if it's a Mexican-American thing. Erin also said that her Mexican-American friends all prefer flour tortillas to corn, whereas I've only had one flour tortilla in my life that I really loved. I hate how they generally get all gummy in your teeth.