Sunday, July 10, 2011

Hanging At The Tianguis

Entering the Tianguis de Obrero Mundial.

In America, we have our Farmer's Markets. In Mexico, they have Tianguis. Weekly markets that move from place to place daily. Live in any neighborhood (colonia) in the capital and you're bound to have a weekly market that sets up on your street selling just about anything the hungry chilango could want. Fruits, vegetables, meats, kitchen utensils, meals, starches, mole - it's all here for the taking.

And really, what is Mexico more than a place to try wonderful ingredients. Times like this really make me wish that I had my kitchen here in Mexico to go absolutely ballistic. While this may sound disparaging to our American farmers markets, I find Mexican tianguis to have an amazing selection of produce and the quality is very high.

Fresh tripe.

Much of this has to do with latitude. Fresh bananas, pineapples, limes and papayas - all truly "local" because Mexico has the right climes to grow this produce year-round. Then come the meats. I notice that the chickens are quite yellow and I'm thinking that this is due to the fact that they must be pastured. Senora Garcia assures us that they paint the chickens. Maybe but the remnant feathers on the birds look white to me - would they too be yellow if they were painted?

Looking around, the assortment is just massive. I see stuff I only read about from Diana Kennedy. I'm fascinated by the huitlacoche (corn fungus). I stare and I stare, and the vendor must think I'm nuts. Piles of ground mole tempt me. Could I have a taste? And then maybe ten kilos? Can you vacuum seal that in plastic to avoid problems with the US government??

These guys offer mixed veggies ready to make soups.

Clothes, jewelry, bedsheets and those typical Mexican coveralls that make you look like you're raiding the Wild West, all fight for your attention. One stall has a wide selection of motion pictures on DVD. I want to search for Transformers 3, just because.

It's Sunday and everywhere I turn, I see people in green or black futbol jerseys. They look so cool and I want one. Do they make them in my size? I imagine myself as Pablo Berrera working the ball and being loved by the masses.

Cecina Adobada Taco.

Finally, we make our way into the food area of the tianguis. Seemingly limitless stalls of food vendors selling what amounts to a moving, roving Cocina Mexicana Heaven. So many delectable treats to try. Barrels of agua frescas, battle shields of chicharron, piles of varied porks, stacks of corn tortillas, you just can't try them all.

I opt to try just a few items. One of each only, please. I want to sample the flavors. Most places in America that serve carnitas just serve "carnitas" - here, they break them down into the various parts of the pig. In Mexico, it's not enough to simply tell them you want a carnitas taco, you need to specify that you want the calf or the lower leg or other variations that I still don't understand.

Michoacan Style Carnitas Taco.

After sampling some of the local tacos, I spy on the agua frescas people. The last time I was here in April, I noticed the aguas guy at the Anzures Tianguis had an amazingly red watermelon agua fresca that was clear with no bits of pulp. It looked unnatural. I've been making watermelon agua fresca since last summer and I've never achieved results like that.

Which made me wonder if some of the aguas being sold were of the Klass brand powdered mix variety. Of course, most of the aguas look like they're handmade. They've got seeds or bits of this and that floating in them but that stunningly clear and red watermelon got me thinking.

Chicharron con Queso Quesadilla.

What also got me thinking were the horchatas. I only recently started making horchata on the weekends at Spro, grinding rice and canela then mixing it with water and sugar. It's quite simple and features a slight grittiness due to the ground rice. The only times I've tried it without the grit is when it was made from a mix.

Maybe it's the romantic idealist in me but I would like to believe that everything in Mexico is made from scratch, in the traditional way. But, as long as it tastes good, I guess it's all good. I guess I'm going to have to do more investigating. Poor me.

Chicken Flauta.

It's not even noon and already Senora is thinking about dinner. I like that about Mexico. Food is important. It's not some sort of hashed up meal made from microwaved frozen chicken tenders. Even when Mexicans don't want to cook, there's a plethora of vendors to choose from who are only happy to sell you anything and everything you need to eat at home - already cooked.

The Mixote Guys prepare us a bag for dinner. Inside is a half pound of Mixote, a stack of corn tortillas, limes, red and green salsas and picked red onions. No one will go hungry tonight.

Consome with garbanzo beans and rice.

Some of the vendors offer seating and on a Sunday morning, the place is packed. We grab three seats and begin to order. Since I've already eaten two tacos, I keep it on the low drive: a chicharron y cheese quesadilla, a consome and half a flauta. The consome is new, a simple pork broth with a little garbanzo beans and rice. It's savory and slightly sour, reminding me of Filipino Sinigang. I like it.

After a nice meal, we wander the stalls and find our way to the nieve guy. He's got a surprisingly wide selection of sorbets - considering he carted them all here. I choose a combination of rice and cheese, just to see how my own queso ice cream compares. The queso is smooth with chunks of cheese, I like it and feel reassured that my own version isn't too far off from what's here in El De Efe.

Mixote Meal in a Bag.

Woah, fresh huitlacoche!

Fresh Mamey.

The Man With Mole.

The Nieve Man.

Mamey y Cajeta nieve and Arroz y Queso nieve.