Although it goes against every instinct I have toward self preservation – not to mention a few basic precepts concerning proper food handling and hygiene – I go nuts over street food in Mexico. Funny, I wont drink the water but I’ll gobble up just about anything served from a street cart that has a line of locals eagerly waiting. Here are a few highlights from this past weekend in Playa del Carmen.
Soft corn tortillas filled with melty shredded pork are topped with salsa and chicharron, or cracklings. Somehow it feels more authentic – and sanitary – that the woman behind this cart is wearing a spotlessly clean, white Mayan dress.
The crunch of flash fried tilapia gets the perfect complement when topped with a little pico de gallo, pickled onion, and a squirt of fresh lime. I could eat fish tacos every day – its one of the few foods that I actually crave.
Tamales stuffed with chicken are wrapped in banana leaves before steaming. The moisture from the leaves coupled with the cartiledge of the chicken breast creates a rich, almost custard-like consistency that I’ve never experienced before.
At this corn stand, green corn tamales get sweetened with a little butter, sugar and cinnamon before being steamed in corn husks and eaten with a dash of fiery habanero sauce. The chili doesn’t overpower the corn, rather it heightens the intensity of the sweet corn flavor.
Whole ears of white corn are sprinkled with lime juice, smeared with mayo, and rolled in Oaxaca cheese before getting a final dusting of salt and cha moy, or chili powder. This puts roast corn dripping with butter to shame.
Paletas de hielo is essentially chopped and frozen fruit on a stick. This is pineapple, studded with chile piquin. The liaison of spicy chili and sweet fruit elevates it above a simple snack food to the level of digestif.