Knee Deep In Oaxacan Chili
What better way to get into the soul of a place then through native food, like the fried grasshoppers pictured here? If you like Mexican food, Oaxaca, the city of 7 moles(mo-lays), is your town. The markets are wonderful, especially for those brave enough to try new things.
Chilis chilis and more chilis. Chilis for breakfast lunch and dinner. Maybe its even possible for dessert. Chilis fresh and dry in endless sizes, aromas and shapes — smoky, red, black, yellow, big, tiny and all levels of both mild, and very kaboom level hot! Sacks and sacks of chilis that smell delicious in a way you can really experience in a Oaxacan market stall.
Here I am at our B&B stepping out for my morning yoga fix. Let me tell you it is challenging to have a “moving meditation” amid the intoxicating aromas wafting from the “hood”. Scents of fresh coffee beans and cacao mixed with cinnamon, sugar and almonds spilling out of the kitchen as the ladies spent an hour preparing mouthwatering traditional Oaxacan food for breakfast such as the stuffed pepper you see here. This ain’t cornflakes!!
Oaxaca’s native foods such as chocolate, squash blossoms, chilies, and even fried grasshoppers, date to pre-Hispanic times. Oaxacans mixed these foods with ingredients brought by Spaniards-such as raisins, cinnamon, and almonds to create their own cuisine. Our friends Joyce and Eloy had arranged a day-long cooking class with a well known local chef, Nora Valencia. Mexican markets took on a new meaning with a Oaxacan culinary expert as our guide. Nora, showed us how to distinguish a deep red, smoky scented pasilla chili from a handful of look alikes. We sniffed and tasted our way through the mercado, but the smiling and friendly women at the market stalls must have been used to cooking school students because they gave us samples and made time for our little group.
Our cooking class had the feel of cooking dinner with friends-except that creating a four course meal involving over 31 ingredients which included stuffing and cooking four different types of chilis is hard work. Nora gently directed us and worked alongside. The stuffed chili dish was one of the most complicated dishes I had ever seen, much less made. I will try it at home but we may need a reunion to pull it off! All the chopping and grinding and blending and hours of effort produced a four course feast we enjoyed about 3pm. The complex flavors require a lot of work and I hope I have the fortitude to try it on my own.
Our feast was missing at least one Oaxacan snack: chapulines (grasshoppers). The saying goes, those who eat chapuline will return to Oaxaca, but I’ll be back anyway.
Our B&B in Oaxaca – STAY THERE!! http://estanciadevalencia.com/
Our cooking class – Nora is fabulous!!! http://www.almademitierra.net/index.html