Friday, September 07, 2012

You can't beat a gordita!

I make no excuses for preferring Mexican market and street food over  chi-chi, "Author Cuisine" and "Fusion" restaurant dining. (Click for example. See Reply # 166).

The food of the people, although not often prettily plated or presented, and served in inelegant venues, has more soul and taste than any prettified Poodle Cuisine amuse bouches in upmarket Polanco restaurants.

Not only is it more soulful and less overbred, but it costs a hell of a lot less!

Yesterday, we went to the not distant town of Quiroga, Michoacán. Quiroga is famous nationwide for its carnitas de puerco, pork braised in its own fat. But overlooked are other delicious goodies. I was hungry and needed a few things from Quiroga's mercado, so we found a sort of parking spot. I went in search of something to snack on.

plazuela near Quiroga mercado
Just beyond this little plaza is the mercado. It's much smaller than Pátzcuaro's, with less on offer, but Thursday may not be the big market day. To the right, under the traditional blue plastic awnings, are some fresh chicken vendors, and then a couple of gorditas stands.

There were two stands selling these small, thick patties of corn, filled to order with any of a variety of guisados. Mole, habas (fava bean), frijol, pollo, papas con chorizo, queso (in two varieties: one was just queso fresco, the other passed through a thin red salsa before being stuffed into a gordita.); chicharrón—I have probably overlooked a couple.

This nameless gordita stand is run by Bety y Marta, so that is what I shall call it. "Gorditas Bety y Marta". The stand had numerous customers both seated on plastic stools and standing, waiting to order. This is usually a good sign. The food handlers slipped a plastic bag over their hand for handling money. Another good sign.

I put in my order, one gordita de papas y chorizo, the other of queso en salsa. I ordered a papas for Sra. Cuevas, who was waiting in the van, a block away. The gorditas are $8 pesos each. =about 65 ¢ U.S.

There is a special touch to Bety y Martas' gorditas. Afer the usual cooking on the comal, over a fire of glowing carbón, the cook grabs the gordita with long tongs and places it directly into the fire below.

They are removed in a moment or two, and any clinging ash is dusted off with a kitchen towel. Then Marta splits one side of the gordita, and asks if you want it with salsa."Sí.", is a good answer, in my opinion.

There are two options for jazzing up your gordita (not that it needs it. They are very good simply as is.) The first option is a salsa roja de molcajete. This stuff is thrillingly and deliciously primal. Plum tomatoes, chiles manzanos and garlic are roasted directly in the charcoal embers. Then they are roughly mashed in a molcajete, a volcanic stone mortar with a tejolote, a knob like pestle, also volcanic in origin. A little salt is added. Note that the skins are not removed from the roasted tomatoes and chiles. I suppose that the garlic skins are removed.

roasted tomatoes, chiles and garlic
Here's the rough, crude and absolutely delicious sauce in its molcajete.

Salsa roja de molcajete

The second condiment, in a big bowl on the table holding a mild vinegar and water mixture, with sliced cooked carrots, strips of raw onion, strips of nopal cactus and slices of raw chile manzano,all seasoned with vinegar, salt, allspice berries, I think black peppercorns, and oregano leaves. This is free to customers.

Pickled vegetables in large red bowl, lower left
The first gorditas were so good that I went back for seconds, then thirds. At $8 pesos each, the total was $48 pesos for 6 gorditas. I got a Fresca at a neighboring stand for $7 pesos. This was a very good lunch, for very little money, a quintessentially Mexican meal. Earth and fire.

I firmly believe that some of the best food in México is in places like this. Of course, you might get a bad meal instead. But this one was unusually good.

I am not going to do my usual ratings for this place, for if you can't get a sense of it from what I've written and photographed, then I might as well give up.

 Don Cuevas

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