Eating Local in Puerto Escondido

I spend most mornings in Puerto Escondido picking up fresh provisions from the local Benito Juarez market. The produce is perfectly arranged in tidy piles, or tied into bundles, and is of utmost freshness. The most popular provisions such as nopales are cleaned and often pre-sliced and put into bags for five or ten pesos, making it easier on the consumer.
Separate rows with cheese makers, fish, chicken and meat vendors display their daily offerings in the open air and are absolutely spotless.
Besides the beach there is nowhere I’d rather be, especially on Saturday, the market day, when vendors and farmers make the long trek from their ranchos to set up make-shift tables or simply set things down on the ground to display their wares.

Let the fun begin.

Great bundles of hoja santa, the saint leaf – a staple of the Oaxacan kitchen. Its anise-like flavour and aroma enhances stews, moles and tamales, and is always available every morning, freshly picked.

Farm fresh eggs, their yolks a deep yellow colour from a steady diet of corn and garden scraps, are a welcome addition to my kitchen.

The local chile tuxta is everywhere right now, being sold in red, yellow or green, or in combinations of the three.

Ripe tomatoes are also everywhere and we are eating them every day. I especially love the pleated indigenous variety (criollos or tomates rojos tecos) seen below. Lovely sliced in a salad, something we’ve been eating a lot of this week.
A lovely woman and her young daughter were selling roses from their farm and made sure that we were aware that they were grown by her family, not in a huge greenhouse factory. A bundle is currently gracing our table.
Cilantro, at a couple of pesos for a small bunch, is sold with its flavour-packed roots. I threw the roots into a chicken broth one day. The leaves have been added to everything – from morning omelettes and guacamole to nopale salads and salsas. As it should be.
I’m also using a lot of purslane, available at the market in big bunches for only five pesos!

I’ve been serving it with a slice of queso ranchero, bought from Ines, one of many cheese-makers at the market. It’s sold wrapped in a huge green leaf, that Ines said was from a water plant. It doesn’t impart any particular aroma or flavour, just decoration. And it’s so beautiful.

Knob onions.

Squash blossoms.
Indigenous squash (calabaza).
Lots of freshly-made tortillas are for sale, piled high in white pails lined with plastic, and wrapped in multi-layers of embroidered linens to keep them hot.
Memelas are also for sale, packaged up fresh in plastic bags. All that’s needed is a little bag of asiento – rich caramelized pork drippings – to spread on them, followed by a sprinkling of queso.
Tamale vendors are in full force on market day, and we enjoyed black bean and hoja santa tamales on a break. I call these session tamales because they’re not too thick on the masa, making it easy to devour more than one. In fact, they are sold in sets of three, for ten pesos (around a dollar!).
We also enjoyed sweet tamales with squash and pine nuts, wrapped in banana leaves.

This slightly fuzzy leafed and slightly fuzzy photo is oreganon. Big leafed, its pungent aroma is a cross between mint and oregano. It’s been exquisite to use in its fresh state, added to a pot of black beans and a chicken stock. (Update on oreganon: according to Diana Kennedy‘s book, Techniques and Ingredients, this plant is native to Africa and has taken root in many areas of Mexico, and shows up mostly in markets of Veracruz and Campeche. But now, I guess it’s doing a bit of travelling and showing up on the Oaxaca coast).
Beyond foodstuffs, the market is chock-full of herbal remedies, including horsetail for your kidney ailments and stalks of chile de palo, used not only for flavouring foods, but as a tea for gastritis.
Calla lilies, one of my favourite flowers, are sold in big bunches, again, picked fresh from somebody’s farm.
Herbs, chard, carrots, lettuce, garlic; the abundance and the affordability is outstanding.
And lots of fruits and vegetables I’m still unfamiliar with.
Including this alien life form tuber.
Jicama are displayed with their vines, but are cut away when you purchase some. Now, that’s service!
Tiny wild tomatillos make a lot of work for any cook, especially compared to the regular variety, but are still a prized ingredient.
Inside the market, a vendor we regularly buy from, carries a wide variety of dried beans, chilies and spices. Everything is meticulously displayed.

Some ingredients that go into our daily diet.

Mandarins are also in season and are sold for pennies, or pesos, anywhere from five to eight pesos for a kilo.

We juice a kilo every morning for breakfast and later for sunset margaritas.

Although there are many restaurants and comedors to choose from in Puerto – serving everything from regional specialities to sushi and Italian pizza – the market is too good to pass up. Find a place with a kitchen and feast on a finely-tuned locavore diet – one that includes coffee, chocolate and mezcal. One that you can only dream about in Canada.

7 Responses to “Eating Local in Puerto Escondido”

  1. Sivia says:

    wishing I were experiencing a sunset margarita, great photos that transport us to being right along your side.

  2. Erica says:

    Your alien life forms look like Noni fruit to me!

  3. Thanks, Erica.
    Any idea on how they are used, and what brought you to the blog?

  4. nina says:

    My parents stay in Puerto 4-5 months a year. I’ve been twice now. Love the market!

  5. Erica says:

    Most people just juice the noni when they’re super-ripe and mix the juice with their other favorite juices as it can be a bit bitter. It was thought of as a super-food like acai for awhile in the States and Mexico too. I live in Xalapa right now (just til June) and I was googling stuff about Mexico and food…

  6. Thanks, Erica. I’m assuming they’re super ripe when they’re soft? Peel first?
    I don’t think I’ve ever tasted them, but just in case I do…
    And thanks so much for posting about them. I’m thrilled you stumbled upon the blog.
    We enjoyed a trip to Xalapa two years ago – but really only touched on food finds – they’re somewhere on my blog. I’d love to return. If you have any suggestions of where to dine and dig around I’d love to hear about them.
    All the best,

  7. Erica says:

    Xalapa is fantastic for food! There’s a great tamale place on Ursulo Galvan towards los Sauces market. Mercado Rotonda has killer food counters with shrimp soup. I eat at lots of the vegetarian restaurants around too. I love the little antojitos shops and there’s one south of the center – can’t remember the name or the street but it is fantastic. I like Cubanias for cocktails and Cuban food. Still need to try a bunch of places!
    Oh and I have no idea about the noni – never actually done it myself.

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