Title: I love this Oaxacan food!!! Location: Oaxaca, Mexico
I have been told by many people that Oaxaca (pronounced wahaka) is an essential stop for any tour of Mexico. The city's art scene and culinary delights are world famous and the ancient sites in the surrounding countryside are spectacular. I arrived in Oaxaca in the middle of Semana Santa and I wasn't sure if I would be able to find a place to stay, but it turned out to be no problem - The city was certainly crowded, but there were still several beds to be found. I waited in the bus station until the sun came up, as I usually do, and then I walked the nearly two kilometers into town, enjoying the empty, early morning streets and the well preserved colonial architecture. At breakfast I was introduced to my first Oaxacan treat when I ordered 'chocolate con leche' instead of coffee. Oaxaca is known for its chocolate and high-quality chocolate can be found in everything from the delicious drinks and candy bars to the richly flavored (and delicious) mole negro, Oaxaca's most famous dish. I had been excited about getting to Oaxaca for a while because good chocolate is hard to find in Mexico and I had a major craving! The rich flavor of the cocoa beans combined with almonds, sugar and a hint of cinnamon excited my taste buds as I enjoyed the slightly coarse drink and I immediately knew that it was the best hot chocolate I had ever had, better, even, than the marsh-mellow infused hot chocolate that warmed my body and soul around the cold winter campfires of my childhood. I later stood in awe as I watched the men in the sidewalk chocolate shops make the chocolate right before my eyes. They started by carefully measuring the required ingredients and then they poured the crushed cocoa beans, almonds and canola (I am not sure what this was, but it looked like a piece of bamboo) into the first of two grinders. The liquidy paste that poured out of the grinder mixed with the sugar in the hopper and then it was all stirred together. The final step was to pour the whole mixture through another, finer grinder and the resulting mixture was slightly coarse in texture, which is what I liked the most about it. Over the next several days I tried many of the culinary delights of Oaxaca, pollo con mole negro with its dark, spicy sauce with just a hint of chocolate, pollo coloradito with its delicious red mole sauce and mole verde, a wonderful green soup with pork and beans. All of the food that I tried in Oaxaca was delicious, but my open mind slammed shut when it came time to try another Oaxacan delicacy called chapolinas. I tried to make myself eat the chapolinas on three different occasions, but each time I laid my eyes on the giant, overflowing platter of lime and chilly covered roasted grasshoppers, which the smiling old ladies carried around, I got the urge to loose my mole! Spanish immersion classes have been going great! I have been learning a lot and the new skills are very useful around town to chat with the locals and other travelers.