Oaxaca Cooking, Restaurant Review
La Toscana gets high marks for ambiance, service, and its great food.
A cello soloist might accompany your lunch of Italian favorites or Oaxacan dishes served in an elegant old building with an enclosed patio. Article
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Oaxacan cuisine can have its exotic side, especially when the restaurant lists grasshopper on the menu,
This might be a novelty to the visitor (you must try them) but many locals grew up dining on them chopped finely and roasted with chiles. (Tastes like Chicken)
The staples of the fare predate history and one of the most important of them is corn. Served at nearly every meal in a pancake-like tortilla, the staple was actually first hybridized in the region about five to seventhousand years ago (Corn is an intentional or serendipitous cross between two grasses that grow wild in the local hills)
The other staples forming the age old recipes are squash, beans, and chilies. Often these are stone-ground along with seeds and other spices to make a sauce, called locally Mole.
Onion, an old world plant now plays and important part in the cooking as does beef, pork and lamb, grazing animals brought by the Spanish. The chicken is also crucial to the cuisine but the old staples will still make their appearance at every meal.
The bean, a new world plant will often appear as a dark brown paste spiced with chile, and a touch of pork fat.
The round flat ceramic griddle used to cook tortillas, the comal, has been found in archaeological sites nearly 4000 years old.
The comal, pictured at the left in its modern metal version, has not changed in 3500 years except that some cooks prefer the metal type for durability. .
Purists still prefer the ceramic comal but they do break often.
Oaxacan villagers and vendors still cook with the charcoal fire beneath the Comal, although some use bottled gas.
The cook at left uses the center for active cooking and the sides for keeping the food warm.
The cook will spread a thin coating of lime (Cal) and water paste over the surface to prevent sticking
Vegetables come to Oaxacan markets fresh and ripe. Each village has a special market day but many neighborhood markets operate each day in the villages and in the city of Oaxaca.
Oaxacan regional cuisine can become exotic street foods when memelitas, tlayudas, tacos, and the even more exotic roasted grasshoppers get a grilling on the Comal over a charcoal fire at the outdoor market.
The large round cooking surface(large frying pan made of ceramic material) called the comal shows up archaeologically in 1500 BC and is an indication that the cuisine of Mexico got its start when the first tortilla browned over a comal. Grinding bowls make their appearance at around the same time (Three legged Suchilquitongo Bowls) and indicate that Oaxaca's famous Moles(ground sauces) were developing at the same time as the corn recipes developed, particularly the corn paste cooked on the comal called the tortilla.
Oaxacan Cuisine, A Brief History
A traditional kitchen of Oaxaca and one still used in many village homes, the ceramic pot (olla for stews and hot chocolate or coffee, (Café Olla) the round flat ceramic cooking surface over the coals, the comal, an all purpose grill and the surface preferred for cooking tortillas. Charcoal is the preferred fuel
Oaxaca Cooking can seem a cultural miracle to visitors.
The Colonial City of Oaxaca lies tucked between two ranges in South Central Mexico's remote mountain vastness yet it hums with the latest in art, music, and fine cuisine.