Recently, I returned from a trip to Oaxaca, Mexico. Oaxaca (pronounced wah-ha-kah) is the southern most state in Mexico, and one of the most beautiful places I’ve been. It also has some of the best food – scratch that, THE BEST food I have ever tasted.
Here are a couple of foods in particular that Oaxaca is known for that I fell in love with:
Quesillo (Oaxacan cheese)
I would liken this to a sharper string cheese. It comes rolled like yarn in a seemingly endless ball, and it is put on everything. It melts fantastically into a gooey, stringy mess.
Smoky, bitter, spicy, and a hint of chocolate. It comes in a million varieties, and mole negro is the region’s signature kind. Don’t try this at home; I have found that the best mole needs to come straight from Mexico. Most attempted recreations in the States can’t touch this complex, somewhat polarizing sauce.
Many people will try to dub this as a “Mexican pizza”, but this is only to put it into some sort of American reference. I would say stale quesadilla…which doesn’t sound nearly as good, but is more accurate. This is because the tlayuda tortilla is best when it is past its prime and has a nice stale, chewy texture. It is put on open coals, then topped with Oaxacan goodies. The version I had included refried beans, tasajo meat, avocado, tomato, hot sauce and, of course, quesillo. It was crunchy, chewy, cheesy, and amazing.
Unlike quesadillas that most Americans are used to, Oaxacan quesadillas are similar to empanadas. Tortillas are stuffed with quesillo (I told you it’s put on everything!) then deep-fried. The version I ate in Puerto Escondido also had epazote (a tasty Mexican herb) inside, and was topped with refried black beans, spicy avocado-tomatillo salsa, shredded cabbage and queso fresco. This was the best thing I’ve ever eaten.