While Mexico City's sprawling La Merced market can fulfill on almost all common goods for Mexican cooking, in contrast, Mercado San Juan delivers on just about everything else. For what it lacks in scale, Mercado San Juan makes up in diversity. It still has the ubiquitous bins of chiles and mole pastes, but they seem to be placed there only by default as each stall in the market truly amazes with its gems of delicacies, the unusual, and the rare.
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Thinking the Mexican sandwich is limited to the widely known torta is like the medieval belief that the earth is flat. Not only is it dead wrong, there are whole other worlds to explore. Here are five you should eat, and these are just the beginning. What are your favorite Mexican sandwiches?
For many foreigners, Xochimilco conjures images of an afternoon of beers and mariachi bands while soaking up the sun on one of the colorful boats known as trajineras that navigate the waterways here. But there's so much more to Xochimilco than booze and boats. There are the collectives that practice small-scale agriculture on the man-made islets called chinampas, the vendors that sell food that is as close to its pre-Hispanic roots as you can get and, of course, the market.
The first thing that caught our eye upon walking into the market was some beautiful huitlacoche still on the cob at Local (Stall) #88. We'd seen some loose huitlacoche at an improvised stall on the street on our way there, and had been impressed. There was a good variation in the size and color of the pieces, and there was no sign of dampness or sogginess. Mark explained that these were key characteristics to look for in good huitlacoche. Miguel Ángel, who was manning Local #88 that day, was selling his product for 100 pesos (about $8) per kilo.
Coyoacán is a quaint, peaceful neighborhood in the south of the city. Often billed as a sort of Mexican Greenwich Village, it has the feel of a small, vibrant town— probably because for most of its history, it was. Our main order of business was visiting the market. On our shopping list: masa quebrada (masa that's been stone ground by hand), salsa prepared in molcajete (a Mexican mortar and pestle made of volcanic rock), and quesadilla filled with huitlacoche (corn smut).
Unless you hang out in central Mexico or live in an area where good Mexican food is plentiful, you'll be forgiven if you've never heard of mixiote. Unlike carnitas, chicharrones, tacos al pastor or other dishes associated with street fare in this country, mixiote has not become an international poster child of Mexican cooking. Heck, you can grow up here and still not know what it is. (I spent a good chunk of my childhood in the western Mexican state of Jalisco, and must confess that I had never heard of mixiote until a few years ago.) And, even in a place like Mexico City, a food-crazy megalopolis of over twenty million inhabitants that is part mixiote's home turf, it can be difficult to find.