Monday, September 03, 2007

Quesadillas or Empanadas?

La Maga de Empanada- The Empanada Magician.

I've only been in Mexico City for about four hours and already it feels like I've done it all.

Ana came to pick me up at the airport with her aunt. The aunt can't speak English and I can barely manage a hello in Spanish but she's a jovial lady who's constantly laughing which is always fun - especially as we crawl in traffic through this sprawling megalopolis.

As we make our way through the city, I realize that I have no idea where we are in relation to anything I've seen on any map. We could be thirty miles from the airport or three hundred yards, I just don't know where we are but the sights are amazing. So many things about this city, from the interior design, to the architecture, to the roadways and to the street vendors remind me of life in Manila. It's a foreign country for sure, but it's strangely comfortable. Many people say it's one of the most dangerous cities in the world, and since it's the second largest, I believe it.

Regardless of the danger, there seems to be little concern for driving around with the windows down...

After a brief stop at one of Ana's cafes, we head to pick up her mom and then to the supermercado to do a little grocery shopping. The store is huge and it's like one of those SuperWal*Marts that has everything else in addition to groceries. Of course, the food captures my attention. The diversity of ingredients that I've never seen in the United States in amazing. I'm fascinated. I want to shop. I want to try out a wide swath of stuff they have here. From the fresh peppers and nopales to the amazing assortment of cheeses, like the Queso de Oaxaca. I make a mental note to come back and shop.

After our excursion, mom and aunt are ready for a snack and want to know if I'd like to try quesadillas, little do these women know that I'll try just about anything. We stop in front of the supermarket at an empanada stand and they recommend the jamon y queso "quesadilla".

Being Filipino, I'm very intimate with empanadas - that little pie filled with assorted meats and veggies. And while I like them in general, I'm a fan of the deep-fried empanadas and this lady's got a small vat filled with boiling fat, and I love her for it.

The evidence of sheer eating glory.

As Ana orders, she grabs a few from the pan of fresh next her and drops them in the hot oil. It boils angrily and I'm excited. Once golden brown, she pulls them out with tongs and cuts them lengwise to expose the filling and allow you to add your choice of queso blanco, crema, salsa verde y salsa roja. I go for the crema, blanco and verde.

As I bit into the empanada, it's amazing. The corn based crust is perfectly fried to an outer crisp while still being tender on the inside. The queso and jamon have melted together into brilliance and the shredded cheese, crema and salsa verde add a light punch while smoothening it out.

Ana's mom and aunt ask if I want more, but I decline. Of course, I want more. Heck, I could eat four of them, but I don't want to put a bad (read:proper) impression only a couple hours after meeting.

But I still don't understand why she calls them "quesadillas", I'll have to find out later.


Anonymous said...

As Anthony Bourdain said in his travel show, Mexico has wonderful street vendor food. Hope you get a chance to sample many different things. Any good tienda in a Mexican enclave should carry those items you are looking for. Be careful though because the city is dangerous! We all would hate to hear that you were abducted by a gang of young maidens, dragged back to their village, and forced to be the community concubine.

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Anonymous said...

Damn you and your jet-setting, epiwandering ways .. as if we're not jealous enough of the globe-trotting, but the pictures & ridiculously descriptive blogging make every foodie drool with envy. Damn you, Salazaaaaaar ..

Viva la Mexico ! Stay safe, have fun & eat well, my kuya-in-law.

true said...

I hope you made it over to mercado de san juan. And if you see any street food with cuitaloche as the featured ingredient, you should give it a try... I've never seen it sold fresh in the US.

Anonymous said...

true..If you are interested in purchasing huitlacoche in the US, contact He sells it both fresh and frozen. He is located in western Mass.

onocoffee said...

I did happen find out why Ana calls them "quesadillas" and I know them as "empanadas."

Turns out that they are one and the same and my understanding of "quesadilla" is tainted by the American bastardization of the quesadilla, thus limiting my ability to comprehend what a "quesadilla" really is.

Senora Guadalupe Lopez, also from D.F., who runs Fiesta Mexicana here in Baltimore cleared things up for me the other night.