20.3.16: Arjun and are visiting Mexico for two weeks. A country we have long been fascinated with and finally booked our tickets when a dear friend of our announced he’s getting married in the picture perfect town of San Miguel de Allende.
After much research and planning we picked three cities to visit in addition to the wedding venue: Puebla, Oaxaca and Mexico City. All picked solely for being great food cities. People also tend to throw a beach into the mix, but we weren’t too keen because it would be way too hectic and also, right before Mexico we were in Miami for a weekend.
Right off the airplane at Mexico City, we converted currency to Pesos (with clear instructions from a friend to do so after we exit customs for better rates) and bought local SIM card from Oxxo, the convenience store chain, also at the airport. We went to the counter to buy bus tickets to Puebla, a 2 hour ride away. There’s a bus every hour, so there’s no need to buy them in advance and the prices don’t change for last minute bookings.
First impressions – even for a bus ride, we had to go through a security check, baggage tags were handed out and once we were on the bus a security guard walked around to take photos of every passenger! That wasn’t all, every 30 minutes a security guard paraded the aisle. Comforting and unnerving at the same time. Peering outside the bus windows it’s like a slightly more developed India. Soon enough we hit the highway and were on our way out of the city.
So, our first stop, Puebla.
Home of the famous mole poblano, the legendary city created by angels for mortals, Puebla is distinctive for its Talavera tiles, college culture and exemplary street food.
Get a map of the city from the tourist info centre at the Zocalo and check for leaflets on the current events in the city. The one with the local gastronomic calendar caught my eye, it enlists seasonal specialties in Puebla ranging from huitlacoches (corn fungus) to their famous Chile en Nogada.
EAT in Puebla
Taqueria y Jugueria Los Angeles
Calle 25 Ote. 411, 72530 Puebla, Pue., Mexico
We landed up at the Taqueria at 8AM, right when it was scheduled to open. They clearly don’t see many early-risers because the chairs were still turned over on the tables and there was just one cook and the owner. We hesitated a little, even considered walking to the Mercado Melchor Ocampo nearby, but the warmth of the owner won us over. Just as we were talking, the owner brought out a table and chairs. Even a personal coat hanger. And I’m only glad we stayed. We communicated with him through smiles and gestures and the two Spanish words we had quickly learned – comida (food) and jugo (juice). We tried to decipher the menu and ordered a breakfast better suited for a heavier meal. But we didn’t care. We were ravenous, and the choices tempting. We started with large, and I mean large jugs of fresh juices. A mix of orange, pineapple and watermelon for me and a horchata, a rice and cinnamon drink for Arjun. [This turned out to be the best horchata I had during the entire two weeks in Mexico]. Everything we ate was superlative. I even made a little note in my notebook stating a) Great customer service is a joy. b) Pastor + pineapple = genius. We walked out with happy bellies and a handshake from the owner who wondered how we found out about this little restaurant that was a mile away from the tourist centre.
La Cemitas y Tortas Poblanita
Av 5 Ote, Centro, Puebla, Pue., Mexico
Cemita is a very innocuous word for a sandwich that could feed a monster (scroll all the way down for a better photo that showcases the sheer height of this sandwich). Turns out, cemitas are the pride of Puebla. The ingredients that sit between two pieces of bread are (usually, but not limited to) breaded fried chicken, avocado, boiled egg and capsicum salad, soft cheese, stringy Oaxacan cheese (quesillo) and a special herb, papalos. Plus a gazillion condiments placed alongside as is de rigueur in Mexican cuisine. We didn’t stop at cemitas. We ordred a torta, an open faced taco made with a thick, crispy tortilla and a pozole, a simple, comforting chicken and hominy soup. Excellent, all around. With stuffed bellies and half a cemita packed to go, we headed onward to our next destination.
Fonda Santa Clara
Av. 3 Poniente 307, Centro, 72000 Puebla, Pue., Mexico
A bit touristy, but great nonetheless, these are probably the kind of places where you’d be able to sample three different types of mole on a plate. Thoughts on mole: interesting…but not for us (for now). Photographed below, red pipian mole, the famous chocolate mole and green pipian mole.
SHOP in Puebla
At the Mercado El Parián, you can shop for local ceramics and handicrafts. I did fancy a few things but held back because because I was worried I’d get ripped off because it was such a tourist magnet.
Around the corner from the El Parián market I discovered a ceramic shop where I bought a few dessert plates. Beautiful, hand-crafted pieces. Definitely haggle here.
I read about this little artisan collective in Puebla on the Oaxaca culture blog. I was instantly drawn to the design. I even caught up with the updated address but this was nowhere to be found. If you do find it, remember me, and share a pin maybe so I can go there on my next visit (fingers crossed).
Av. 4 Poniente No.911, Centro, 72000 Puebla, Pue., Mexico
For supremely beautiful local ceramics that you will consider getting a shipping container for.
WALK in Puebla
Everywhere. The zocalo is a good place to start your wanderings. And if you’re looking for more touristy things to do, have a look at the local city site.
A local health store in the historical centre of Puebla, Mexico.
A little bakery we walked past and tried some of their sweet breads on Avenida 16 de septiembre
A fruit vendor at a street corner in Puebla, Mexico.
The impossible-to-eat sandwich at Cemitas y Tortas La Poblanita. This cemita is made of a chicken Milanese, boiled eggs, green peppers, stringy cheese, soft cheese and avocado.
When we have eaten too much, a town square or a beautiful church is our rest stop.