Monday, May 9, 2011

Blue Woman Group, Mexico City: Street Food Ritual of Blue Corn Masa Tlacoyos, Quesadillas, and Gorditas

Scattered about the streets of Mexico City you will encounter pokerfaced women with hands tinted periwinkle blue from the labor of preparing blue corn masa foods. This prehispanic ritual of snacking on blue corn products once made in the markets of empires continues in the most unobtrusive street vendor stands.

The hands of these women fascinate in the way that women in India do with henna painted hands, adorned for celebration. In Mexico City the blue hands beckon a celebration of antojitos, or little whims.

The blue corn masa specialists have minimal menus, maybe a few masa shapes, or just one. The cooking styles of the vendors come from around the State of Mexico and from neighboring states. One worthwhile stop for some blue corn delights is a stand on Jose Maria Izazaga, across from the San Miguel church at the Pino Suarez metro station in DF's Centro Historico.

The 18-year-old family run stand brings prehispanic traditions from Puebla, Mexico; they offer blue corn quesadillas filled with various toppings, gorditas, and tlacoyos. The young women who run the stand have their uncle, Jose Malaco close by, keeping a watchful eye, he appears out of nowhere to answer our questions.

Normally these stands are served by austere women, but my shuttering camera had everyone a little giddy, even a cute girl sitting in one of the few seats available couldn't stop smiling and staring in amusement. I stopped here with Josh Lurie of Food GPS on our recent trip, who was also snapping away--just call us the tacorazzi.

The tempting array of fillings were all traditional: poblano chile strips with cream, squash blossoms, huitlacoche(corn smut), chicharron, tinga de res(spicy beef), and mushrooms with cheese.

A finishing touch of queso blanco and shredded lettuce is added after your antojito is plated.

The quesadillas and all other blue corn masa shapes are cooked on a comal; a healthier option on the streets of Mexico City than the DF style deep-fried versions. Each region has a slight shape variation in their quesadillas, in Puebla, the elongated half-oval style is preferred.

The gorditas(little fat ones), chicharron filled discus-like rounds of masa, are distinctly wider than Mexico City style gorditas. Chicharron prensado(pressed pork skin), is the typical filling for a gordita.

The tlacoyos are oval shapped and filled with beans and queso blanco.

Quesadilla of blue corn masa topped with queso blanco, chile guajillo sauce, and shredded lettuce.

We ordered the blue corn quesadilla with poblano chile strips and Mexican cream. One of the young women thrust her hand into the mound of raw blue corn masa and began to slap our snack into shape.

Blue corn quesadillas have a softer texture, and blistered outer skin from the comal that give a rustic appearance--a flavor of corn that is lower in starch, yet sweeter; plus it's a higher source of protein.

Over near the Mercado San Juan, a woman from Toluca has been sitting on the sidewalk for over 25 years making sublime tlacoyos of beans and cheese.

Her simple set-up consists of a comal, a bucket of blue corn masa, and a few colorful bags of ingredients. Like a lady walking from the mercado who just thought, "hell with it, I'm going to set down and cook right here." This is one of the best tlacoyos you'll encounter, but her whole operation sits below eye level; if you sneeze, you'll miss her--don't!

Without making eye contact she takes orders, keeping the rythym of tortilla making a constant, a beat that starts your stomach to growl.

Her tlacoyos are paradisiacal; deep blue misshapen ovals filled with beans, zesty from cactus, and tomatillo salsa, and salted by queso blanco.

Look out for these blue-handed masters while walking the streets of Mexico City, hear the pulse of the Aztec Empire, a sound that is music to your taste buds.

No Name Pueblan Tlacoyos, Gorditas, and Quesadillas
mornings 'til mid-afternoon
Jose Maria Izazaga, 131(across from the San Miguel church, by the Pino Suarez metro station, south side of the street)
Centro Historico
Mexico City, Mexico

Tolucan Tlacoyo Lady
mornings 'til mid-afternoon
Calle Lopez(in front of the Ferreteria Casa Cadena, just south of Delicias on the west side of the street)
San Juan
Mexico City, Mexico


pleasurepalate said...

I saw Blue Woman Group and I was expecting to see blue women hitting drums, but forming and shaping blue corn masa into tortillas is a much better. :)

Banana Wonder said...

i fell in love with tlacoyos when i was in mexico city! sooo good.. i could eat them everyday. mis thoe pokerface ladies ;-)

Food GPS said...

Tacorazzi? That's a hilarious way to describe our behavior. Hey, some people camp out to take photos of Paris Hilton. We huddle over carts to take photos of blue corn tortillas. No surprise, I didn't see anybody else taking taco photos during our Mexico City trip.

streetgourmetla said...

pleasurepalate-It's also more my kind of blue entertainment.

Anna-Where did you have your tlacoyos?

FoodGPS-That's right,we're here to take names and take pictures of tacos.

Luispro said...

I love this tlacoyos all the prehispanic food made with corn is awesome in mexico

Anonymous said...

I love this tlacoyos all the prehispanic food made with corn is awesome in mexico