travel & recipes

My date with Isabel, part two


Second part of this fantastic experience with the very talented and extremely friendly Isabel.
Panuchos y empanadas
Pamucho is a corn tortilla, slightly dried out that is filled with frijole purée much like you will fill a pita bread, it's then dipped in hot oil and finished on the comal (a flat iron grill). It's topped with your choice of meat and veggies and topped with pickled onion.
Next are empanadas, freshly pressed corn and wheat tortilla is filled with meat or cheese and deep fried. It's served super simple with pickled red onion and cream.
I was struggling to keep the doughy from breaking in the process of transferring it from the tortilla press to the oil, of course Isabel makes it looks like it ain't no thang, and I foolishly thought it to be easy...
The end result was delicious, despite my repeated broken empanadas, and was even told I have gotten it down quicker than usual for a first timer.

My date with Isabel, Tulum

I am so lucky to have met this lovely lady ! Isabel owns a small food cart on a Main Street in Tulum, she makes everything by hand, fresh, every day and serves it to the hungry men and women, children and the occasional lucky tourist of the pueblo of Tulum.
She agreed to spend a night with me, teaching, explaining, eating (a lot, well at least I did..) and sharing her love of food.
She has been doping tis for many years, at least 7 or 8, set up around 7 pm, cook the night away, usually until 3 or 4 am, then clean up and pack. she rarely goes to bed before 7am, only to wake up by noon and start preppering for the next night at work. she does this 6 days a week.

We started with sopes, which happens to be my favorite thing on her menu, she grabs a piece of her hand made dough (word from her mom, it takes about 40 minutes to hand mix) and shapes a flat disc, place it on the plancha with a bit of pork fat and waits. You will see when it's time to flip it, she says, and so it is, the edges soon start to change color. Few more minutes on the other side and she takes it out, now comes the fun part, she quickly pinches it around while simultaneously turning it around to creat a well like shape, that can hold all that's coming next. Mind you, this little piece of dough is really really hot, straight off the comal, covered with hot oil, it's no joke, since she makes it look so easy I attempt to do the next one... I always thought I had high tolerance to heat when it comes to cooking but this experience showed me a different level. Isabel do wasn't even blink when she grabs them, I was making all kind of uncontrollable noises..

Next step is the goodies that fills this beauty up, start with puréed frijoles (black beans) and then raw diced cabbage, meat of choice, avocado, tomato and pickled onions. With a little drizzle of crema and a whole lot of love.

More on my adventure with Isabel soon...

Black corn tortillas, aka, negras

As the meals goes by, I realize how rare it is to not be eating meat here. I am constantly looked at with a smirk when I explain I don't eat meat, and often my odd request is followed by a giggle and someone repeating 'ella no come carne' ... Then I add, 'y no queso por favor'. Crazy gringos.
But not this lady, she and her husband spend every day from 8-5 at the street corner 2 blocks from my temporary abode making negras stuffed with chicken or pork and topped with her homemade, insanely spicy, salsas. On special days she will have some of what have became one of my favorite stuffing, flor de calabaza (squash blossoms) but today was not a super special day.... Too bad.
Upon seeing me she smiles, but unlike other food vendor that became familiar with my weird eating habits, her smile is sincere. She pulled out some fresh mushrooms and topped them with Negrito (the names can probably be slightly more original...). Negritos are small mushrooms that grows on top of corn and are harvested and added as a delicious topping.

In the 20 minutes I spent with them this morning I watched her hand press the tortillas from a bucket of black dough and then cook them on top of a big metal plate placed on a make shift grill. People will walk up and make special request, some want them to be stuffed with beans, some with cheese, some will pick up one of the ready made ones that are kept warm at the edge of the plate. Regardless of the order, she keeps on a semi teeth-less smile and a fantastic attitude. Gracias señora Gonzales. See you when I'm back !