One of the great joys, for me, is eating. Another joy is traveling. Not surprisingly eating while traveling is also way up on my list. On a recent trip to Mexico, I remember talking to a friend about the cuisine. “I loved it,” I told him. My friend, Jorge (a native Oaxacan), agreed about my positive thoughts about Mexican food but then began to shake his head after further reflection. The food in Oaxaca is the best, he told me. Fortunately, he was willing to part with a few tips.

Here are just a couple of must-haves for those heading to southern Mexico.

Mole
Mole is a traditional sauce comprising numerous ingredients that is poured over chicken. In Oaxaca, the mole is standard fare year-round, but particularly popular during festivals like, the Day of the Dead. There are seven main varieties to choose from. Jorge is quick to point out that two mole are particularly good, Coloradito and Verde. Coloradito is made with ancho and guarillo chiles, black peppercorn, cloves and cinnamon. Verde mole’s ingredients include serrano or small jalapeño chilies with cilantro, onions and garlic.

Tejate
At one time this drink was given to campanos (farm workers) to help boast energy levels. However, the drink has become popular in the city and at festivals and even at the market. It is a complicated drink made from corn, cocoa, almonds, and seeds and appears to be ,but don’t let the looks of tejate fool you, it’s delicious. Tejate should not be confused with “Tecate,” a brand of beer.

Barbocoa de Chivo and more
Literally, barbequed goat is a specialty of Oaxaca. It is used in tacos and several other mouthwatering forms. Visitors should also look for Oaxacan cheese, tamales, enchiladas and armadillo – yes, armadillo.

A great place to taste not only Oaxacan food, but its culture, is at the Market of Tlacolula. Jorge agrees.

For more information check out www.visitmexico.com/wb2/Visitmexico/Visi_Estado_Oaxaca
Written by Devin Galaudet
Photograph by Guillermo Aldana

For more on Mexico at ITKT