Devouring Puebla

Puebla, a two-hour drive from Mexico city, is smaller in scale and known for its colonial buildings and ornate tile work. Wandering the cobblestone sidewalks, there is always something unexpected that comes into view. Like this photo studio with the taxidermy lion seemingly smiling for a photographer off to the right.

The Poblanos are fiercely proud of their culinary traditions. Every street has multiple restaurants announcing chilies en nogadas, tamales, mole poblano, cemitas and other delights.
The ubiquitous tamale steamer stands proud waiting for customers.
We combed the historic centre in search for our favourite tamale vendor. They used to be near the Hotel Colonial but had moved up the street tucked into an entranceway.

From 9 am until they sell out – usually around noon – members of the Estrada Garcia family feed the masses that stop by for one – or three – of their delicious tamales. For the sweet tooth, tamales dulce de pina or pasas.

The famous mole poblano….
and the most incredible tamale I’ve ever had called the jarocho. Steamed in banana leaves with chicken and a tomato sauce with distinct hits of comino (cumin) and an hoja santa leaf surround, the texture of the masa was smooth and creamy. It was also folded in a way to create a rectangle and firmly held the tamal while devouring.
ETA: Speaking with chef/author Rick Bayless about this and doing some subsequent reading, the masa in these tamales is cooked like a polenta (masa colada), thus making it creamy and smooth.
The jarocho costs 2 pesos more than the regulars, but I would gladly pay triple that. An amazing experience that I’ll never forget.
In addition to tamales, the family also make three types of atole (a hearty hot masa-based beverage) – plain, chocolate and one with rice.
Here is a photo of the two siblings during a break.

A stop in Puebla is not complete without a stop at the Mercado Gastronomica where vendors compete for your business with their comida corrida menus, a concept I wish someone would attempt in the city where I live. Fast, economical and nutritious food for around $3.50. and under. What could be better?
I enjoyed a caldo de pollo, a clean tasting broth with vegetables, and my husband enjoyed a pipian verde with chicken. A pipian is a rich sauce made with pumpkin seeds and spices.

The other vendors competing for attention here sell cemitas, a Pueblan specialty sandwich. We went for the Super Cemita stand where a colossus of a man made multiple cemitas at a time. Choose between milanesa or barbacoa and the layering begins: avocado, meat, Oaxacan string cheese, more avocado, dressing, salt, alfalfa, chilies en adobo and the sesame-topped lid. Enjoy!!Take that, Subway!

Time for an afternoon liquer at our favourite place, La Pasita. The hours are sketchy but usually they’ll open for two hours between 2:30 and 4:30 pm.
Part curio shop stacked floor-to-ceiling with oddities and souvenirs of worldly travels….La Pasita is famous for its raisin liquer served in a caballito glass with a tiny square of goat cheese and tiny raisin on a toothpick.
Lusciously sweet and only 20 pesos.
Until another year, adios Puebla.

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