My Culinary Souvenirs

Rest assured that I will never be sporting a tank top with CABO emblazoned on the front. Nor will I wear a straw hat with a band around it announcing Puerto Vallarta. My holiday souvenirs lie in the open air food markets of Mexico and this trip was no different. Constantly being on the road for a month was my only deterrent for bring back much more. I once brought back 10 kilos of sea salt one beach holiday, but what I found this time was  enough to keep me, my friends and this blog sated until the next trip south.

Below, clockwise, we have: the smoked chile pasilla de Oaxaca, a bag of toasted ground- by hand on a volcanic stone metate- black beans (just add water for a taste you cannot believe). Two bags of chintestle, a paste from those luscious smoked chiles along with garlic and salt. And Mexican sea salt from Salinas purchased in the Puerto Escondido market.

The smoky chintestle is used for salsas and marinades, and is sometimes known as pilgrim’s paste, something that can be taken travelling and spread on a tortilla for savoury sustenance. The restaurant Los Danzantes in Oaxaca was serving it in a pasta dish with mushrooms and tomatoes. That was a bit of a revelation and I’ve made it a couple of times since with success.   A little goes a long way and these two bags will probably last me around 6 months.
The toasted ground black beans are from Teotitlan del Valle and is a breakfast staple, mixed with water and spread on a fresh tlayuda, like the way one would spread butter on toast.
From the market in Papantla, Veracruz, a bag of chilie pequin, a fiery little bugger. Don’t they look just like rice krispies?
Presenting the chilie Tuxta from Puerto Escondido, looking very much like a little dried strawberry.
Next on the runway are chilie guajillos from the Sonora market in Mexico City. Really good ones: good size, pliable and fragrant.
After a wonderful lunch in Xico, Veracruzwhere I enjoyed a bean dish flavoured with avocado leaves, I found a vendor in Xalapa who sold bags of the ground avocado leaves for 5 pesos a bag. Its anisey aroma is intoxicating, and I found myself sniffing the bag numerous times before packing it away.
Found in one of the Xalapa mercados, the prize of this trip was penca, the outermost layer of the maguey leaf (or century plant). Sometimes known as mixiotes, it’s similar to parchment paper in thickness and consistency and serves as a cooking bag for chilie-marinated meat and poultry.
I’m saying I’m sorry right here and now because the product has been deemed illegal to harvest. I will never buy them again – actually I have never seen them for sale before, ever, I swear – and I promise I will treat it with the utmost respect when I use it.
Here they are in the their unfurled state.
Along with some chilie de arbol, giant plump raisins, a bottle of tequila and a coffee liquer, – oops, I almost forgot I have a bag of hardwood ash from Teotitlan del Valle to make a very special salsa – my larder is looking good. T shirts be damned.

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