Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mazatlan - Part 3: New Taste Sensations

Mexico is a place of culinary delights and adventures. In my last entry I wrote about our fabulous mesquite grilled fish dinner at the beach side palapa along Mazatlan’s malecon.  Now I’d like to highlight some other wonderful food experiences.


Tamales are the perfect food – tasty, healthy, covers all the food groups, visually appealing and eco friendly. When my “garden” man recommended them to me one morning I was buying bananas at his truck, I was eager to give them a try. He keeps them hot in a yellow cooler on the tailgate and offers: Chicken or Beef?

Note the scarf!  It is chilly early in the morning.

Wrapped in corn husks and tied neatly, they are cut open to reveal a stuffing of meat, tender/crisp vegetables such as carrots, jicama, potatoes, green and/or red pepper, surrounded with corn meal that has the consistency of polenta.

Beef Tamale

The whole packet is steamed and the end result is such a succulent, smoky morsel that you are already thinking of when you will have your next one. They leave you feeling comfortably full with lots of energy for the day. Doug loves hot sauce on his, though I love the subtle unspiced flavor.


I hate pumpkin and feel lukewarm about zucchini, but when my garden man suggested I try and empanada I didn’t hesitate. This tasty, turnover-type bun is filled with a sweetened squash paste that defies description. The bread surrounding it is neither sweet nor salty, but a perfect covering for the stuffing inside. We warm them in the oven, then eat them with the fresh fruit of the day – often cantaloupe, green grapes, and oranges, also recommended by my garden man.

Chiles Rellanos

I convinced Laura, from Chirpy, that the garden man was the best bet for ultra fresh produce. One morning she joined me at his truck and her eyes lit up when she saw the poblanos peppers.

“Have you ever had Chiles Rellanos?” she asked, with a twinkle in her eye.

I had to admit that I knew what they were, but had never indulged. I had always considered them too gross looking and probably very fattening. Boy, was I wrong!

Laura and Paul invited us over to Chirpy one night and she made this fantastic dish. It was as light as air, tasty, but not overly spicy, a light crust of whipped egg white on the outside, surrounding a crunchy mild pepper stuffed with queso fresco. She had created this gorgeous dish in a frying pan to the perfect temperature allowing all the textures to exhibit their finest qualities and have the cheese soft inside.

This is not the dish Laura served, but gives you an idea of what the finished product looks like.  I was so excited to eat her chiles I forgot to take a picture.

Alongside the chiles she served a piquant salsa that complimented the mildness of the dish. Of course, all of this was served up on the most colourful hand painted Mexican plates – a perfect compliment to the meal.

A sampling of colourful Mexican plates

Oh!  Did I forget the Roija?

Thank you, Paul and Laura, for such a memorable evening!


All around markets, on street corners, by the beach, you will find a little stand selling churros. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out what these strange looking things were. Long skinny pastry-like things, were they sweet or savoury?

Finally I got up my courage and bought a few from a street side vendor in Durango. He gave me a great toothless grin and popped an extra one in for the grand total of about 50 cents for 4. Delicious hardly describes them. They are, indeed, the Mexican doughnut, but not so sweet you feel like your teeth will melt (like one at Tim Horton’s), but just right. Later on that day we passed a little shop that had a churro machine and I could see how they were made. I don’t see a lot of churros in my future, but they sure are good for a treat!

Churro Street Vendor


As soon as our eyes open in the morning Doug and I think: coffee! We like it dark and strong and smooth. Over the years we have developed a house blend that began with Vienna Blend from the Pot of Gold Roasting Company on Thetis Island.

When that became too expensive, we experimented until we found that mixing a bag of Costco’s Kirkland Brand Starbucks Expresso beans with their House Blend, we were able to create a reasonable facsimile of our Pot of Gold favourite. For this trip we stocked up in Canada and then again in San Diego. Now we are almost out, so began an exploration for a Mexican replacement.

Here in Mazatlan we were lucky to find The Looney Bean. (   This little coffee company has the only coffee roaster we have found to date in our travels here and produces two dark bean products – a house blend we found rich, but slightly bitter and another smoother product called Chiapas.

Heavenly mornings!

We were so enamoured we tracked down the shop that has the roaster (in Cerritos) and bought 10 pounds that had just been roasted for a grand total of 850 pesos, or approximately $70.00.

Looney Bean Shop in Cerritos

When was the last time you paid $7.00 a pound for freshly roasted beans from a boutique coffee shop? We are more than relieved to know we will continue to enjoy our morning buzz!

Mazatlan Mercato

Most large towns we have been in have a mercato of some sort – a place for locals to sell their wares. These public markets have everything from soup to nuts, fish mongers and butchers have stalls side to side with candy sellers, clothing shops and food stands.

A different kind of candy store!

It’s always a colourful experience, though a little stressful as all the sellers are competing with each other for your pesos.

Colour and motion everywhere!

Architecturally, Mazatlan’s mercato is special. It was designed by the Eiffel brothers – the same guys who designed the famous tower in Paris – and you can see evidence of their art nouveau style throughout.

 Upstairs are more food stalls and one day we enjoyed a very inexpensive seafood lunch there with Carl and Cristina from Bambeleiro.

Carl and Cristina - note the cathedral spires in the background - the mercato is just a few blocks away from the historical district

Truly, we have delighted in all the new food we have encountered along the way and look forward to many more culinary adventures in wonderful Mexico.

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