Sunday, February 02, 2014

Asador Irving's Oaxaca: For Your Inner Caveman

This post is not Vegetarian Friendly. Perhaps you were looking for this?

Happy Cow

La Cueva del Humo, Mercado 20 de Noviembre, Oaxaca
There are two principal mercados in Oaxaca Centro. They are separated by a single, east-west street. The northerly of the two is the Mercado Benito Júarez, devoted mainly to non food items, but of course, there is more than a little food available.

The southerly of the two is the Mercado 20 de noviembre. The interior is packed with fondas, panaderías, dulces and aguas frescas as well as vegetables, fruits, meats, and more. Keep in mind that, as impressive as this is to a foodie, it is far surpassed in scope by the Mercado Central de Abastos, on the southwest edge of the central city.

A main entrance, amidships in the building, is the entrance to "La Cueva del Humo", more prosaically known as "El Pasillos de las carnes asadas".

I made a scouting trip at 7:30 in the morning. There wasn't much to see. One charcoal grill was being fired up, and I was invited to have a seat and breakfast, but I wasn't ready.

La Cueva del Humo, 7:30 a.m.
On the east side of the Mercado 20 noviembre, a door leads into what I call "La Cueva del Humo", a high ceilinged corridor, its ceiling pierced by ventilators; sides lined with charcoal grills, flanked by displays of tempting slabs of cured pork and beef, chorizos, and less tempting ropes of dried tripes. It looks like a corridor of carnicerías, but they're really places to indulge your most primal caveman carnivore instincts.

Various cured meats; cecina, tasajo, chorizos
Tripas on the left. Tasajo, cecina We did not try tripas.
There are several asadores from which to choose. I chose Asador "Irving's", mostly for the seemingly incongruous name, plus its tables were packed with enthusiastic customers. (There is a well known Irving's Deli, in Livingston, NJ, but this, of course, is no relation.)

The menu is posted on the wall.

The meats, as you see, are sold by weight. After we crammed our plump bodies onto a bench and into the table, we joined several Mexican families already there. A young man in a baseball cap took our order. We decided on a medio kilo of carnes surtidas. Tortillas were billed separately, as were avocado and grilled vegetables (cebollitas—a must!—, nopales, could have had grilled chiles de agua, but we passed. We got a couple of good but not especially picante salsas, and I don't recall what we drank. Probably refrescos.

Cebollitas asadas are a must
The food arrived quickly, and despite the cramped setting, we dug in. It was inelegant dining at its best, which touched deeply to or primal caveman instincts. Here, cecina is salt cured pork, cut into sheets, with our without an adobo rub. Tasajo is Oaxacan beef cut into sheets and mildly salt cured. Chorizo Oaxaqueño are especially delicious local variations of spicy sausages. In Oaxaca, they are made in ropes of little globes. They all were surprisingly tender, and surpassingly savory.

Carnes asadas surtidas, inelegantly served but eaten with gusto. 
We had no difficulty in eating all of our half kilo of charcoal grilled meats and vegetables. I didn't make a record of the bill, but it was somewhere around $115 pesos.

After, on our way into the main mercado area, we passed the garde manger (seriously, the cold foods and salads prep) area, which, if I understand it correctly, serves all the asadores in La Cueva.

How are things in Guacamole?

Food: ****

Service: ****

Price: $ 1/2 BARGAIN!

Ambience: Uncomfortable, but worth the discomforts. At the same time, it's fun, if you are not the stuffy sort.

Hygiene: seemed fine to us. Bring hand sanitizer for cleaning hands before and after eating. This is a hands on experience.

Keywords: "Aisle be cecina you always."

Location: Calle Miguel Cabrera, south of corner of Calle Aldama.

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Chapulines (seasoned grasshopper snacks) for sale, as everywhere, at the entrance.


Felipe Zapata said...

My wife has eaten grasshoppers. She's a better man than I am.

Good report.

DonCuevas said...

She's a fine woman, grasshoppers or not.

We have had the chapulines, and all I can say is that they taste like crunchy chile-salt-lime dusted snacks. No valen la pena.

Don Cuevas

PS: Thanks for the compliment!

DonCuevas said...

We had so many chochos (local word for chapulines, or grasshoppers) here that we couldn't possible count them. They were an assault on the census.

We gave up chapulines years ago as a passing novelty.


Andean said...

Trip--as in menudo. The only way I can eat it. Porky da mucho sabor a la sopa.

DonCuevas said...

Gee, Joana, I never saw that sign.

Thanks for the input on chapulines.