Like many tourists and travelers, when I heard the word Xochimilco the first thing that came to my mind was a relaxing ride aboard a trajinera on the waterways of this southern delegación (borough) of Mexico City. I’ve been to Xochimilco many times before, especially with my parents to buy flowers, plants and compost for their little garden, but I had never visited the colorful mercado in downtown Xochimilco. Ruth Alegria, my new favorite person in the city, loves Xochimilco. When I told her about my project to visit and write about Mexican marketplaces she immediately told me she would take me to the Xochimilco mercado. We made plans for Saturday morning. “The secret to have a successful visit to any Mexican market is to get there early”, Ruth told me, so at 8:30 am on a Saturday morning I was already waiting for her on Revolucion and Barranca del muerto for this exciting food adventure.
We had planned one stop before, though. Ruth had promised me to take me to a place where they sold the best tamales in Mexico City. OK, these are my own words. “Taste is very subjective”, Ruth warned me when I asked her is she thought those were the best tamales in the city. We drove about 20 minutes on an uphill road to get to this magical place with the city “best” tamales. The place is located at the corner of De Las Aguilas Ave and Fresnos St. Don’t expect to see a fancy place with dressed up waiters taking you to your table. The best tamales of the city are sold from tamaleras on the sidewalk surrounded by a couple of tables and a lot of plastic chairs. However, these tamales are so popular and sell so fast that you have to be there very early and take a number to be able to get a batch of deliciousness.
After eating one tamal, pork with green sauce and peppers with cheese, and a cup of atole each we were on our way to Xochimilco. This more than a trip to a market became a culinary and historical tour. Ruth took us to the best places to get tamales in corn husks (above), tamales in banana leaves, chileatole, sweet corn patties, aguas frescas, tlacoyos and fresh fruit and flowers. She also showed us where to get fresh meat (some so fresh that it’s still alive), corn masa and kitchenware for tamales and clothing from Oaxaca. This mercado consists of two buildings and long rows of street vendors where you can get easily lost in the aromas, colors, flavors and hustle and bustle of a typical Mexican market. But don’t worry, as busy and sometimes terrifying as this market might sometimes look, you can easily find your way back to the Jardín Juárez or Parroquía (parish) de San Bernaridno, the next stop in our tour.
Before we left Xochimilco, we stopped at a pre-Hispanic restaurant where we had a delicious lunch that consisted of blue corn tortilla chips with homemade salsas, mezcal, horchata (rice) and walnut water and amaranth with chrysanthemum flower patties served with hybiscus mole. It was a feast, but I’ll write about this great place in a future post. For now just enjoy some of the pictures.
Slide show of this delicious tour:
Where it is: