Of course, no trip is just about seeing the sights, it's also about eating! Especially in a city with such a rich tradition as Puebla!
Puebla had a big Lebanese immigration in the past, which left its mark in at least one very popular and traditional dish, the "tacos árabes", or Arab tacos. Now, the funny thing is that, first of all, lamb was not as easy to get, and apparently it wasn't particularly loved by the locals. Also, most of the Lebanese that moved to Mexico were Christian, not Muslim. So, can you guess what the substitute meat was? Pork! So, the traditional "Arab" taco is made with... pork! Isn't that ironic? They're served in pita bread, not in tortillas. And they're usually accompanied by labneh (Lebanese yogourt), some onion, and jalapeño pepper.
It will never come even close to the fantastic shawarma we had in Lebanon, but I have to say this is a fun intercultural dish.
The variety of sweets is mind-boggling, so I won't even bother listing them. Nuts are a favourite, as well as some small jelly-like rolls infused with a bit of alcohol (called little drunkards, or "borrachitos"), marzipan, crystallized fruit... We went to a shop on the Calle de los Dulces (Sweets Street) and grabbed a bunch of stuff which, obviously, lasted us the whole trip! So much sugar...
Puebla has its own popular liquor, called Pasita (it means little raisin). It's not too strong, it's very sweet, there are numerous rhyming sayings that incorporate the word "pasita", and our experience was that it tastes way better if served at least a bit cold. We had one at a very nice restaurant and one at a traditional cantina. We couldn't get to the original 1916 cantina where it was originally served, but we did visit a branch that looked quaint enough and definitely did the trick. Oh, and it's served with a raisin (of course, right?) and with a piece of goat cheese!
Sure, you can find churros anywhere. But isn't it always fun to get them at an old churrería in a historic district and watch this and other pastries being made right there?
As you might remember from my first Puebla post, Mexico was invaded by the French. Also, shortly after Mexico ended what is known as the French Intervention and killed Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico, the country was ruled by Porfirio Díaz, an almost three-decade long period known as the Porfiriato. Porfirio Díaz considered France as a model to aspire to. All this meant that there are a number of Mexican traditions that have their origin in French customs, being fully appropriated and somewhat transformed in the process.
That's the case of the cemita, a brioche-like bread with sesame seeds. Nowadays it's a popular bread to make tortas (Mexican sandwiches). We headed to a place called Las Poblanitas for this and, to be honest, I didn't expect much. After all, it was nothing but a torta. But I wanted to try the famous cemita anyhow.
Well, we loved it! The bread was nice and soft, not dry. And we got ours served with insane amounts of Oaxaca cheese that was shredded by hand right in front of you! That plus avocado, some chipotle peppers and a special ingredient I had never tried but with which I fell in love right away because of its taste and fragrance – pápalo (also known as papaloquelite). It's a herb that could look like cilantro, but with much bigger leaves, but the taste is... well, I can't describe it. But absolutely loved it! One of the best tortas I've ever had. And proof that there are reptile-like aliens among us, because only someone who could unhinge their jaws could take a bite at that! LOL
Now, THIS is what I had come to Puebla for! Puebla is known as the creator of at least one kind of mole – mole poblano, a colonial Mexican sauce with a gazillion ingredients including, of course, chocolate, which gives it its dark and slightly sweet taste. We went to a fantastic restaurant called El Mural de los Poblanos, and I couldn't resist ordering a tasting of different moles.
I was served five small bowls of shredded turkey with five different kinds of mole-like sauces, as well as a small bowl of re-fried beans, and some tortillas. From right to left (and skipping the rightmost one, which is the beans) I had pipián verde (made with pumpkin seeds), pipián rojo (similar, but spicier and red), mole poblano (heavenly, simply heavenly, I could have had so much more of that!), mole manchamanteles ("tablecloth-staining mole", sweeter, with fruit) and adobo (a paprika-based sauce). I enjoyed every single bit of this. This was absolute perfection.
That was followed by a good espresso with the cutest of coffee meringues...
And by a much bigger, pink meringue (see the French influence? 'cause these are all considered Mexican desserts!) filled with a delicate pulque (a fermented drink made from the sap of the Agave plant) foam filling. Amazing!
Chocolate, as it should always be served
Finally, when we visited Santa María Tonantzintla (see my previous post), in an alley nearby there was a small market, and there we found a lady selling chocolate she had whisked in a huge clay casserole and which she kept cold with a big chunk of ice inside. Water based, with the requisite foam product of the whisking with a traditional wood "molinillo" (a whisk). Served in charming colourful gourd bowls. This was not only refreshing and delicious, but it really rounded our experience at that fantastic church of Tonantzintla.
I didn't take any photos, because I felt a bit shy, but our hosts at our B&B introduced us to a number of things, including a very simple, soft and beautifully rolled bread called pan de agua (water bread); to zapote blanco (a white variety of zapote negro, or black zapote, a Mexican fruit); a tlacoyo (sort of like a thin Mexican pancake with savoury fillings) with shredded chicken in some special sauce... Everything was delicious, we were so lucky to have landed at this B&B!
I could so go back to Puebla to keep eating... We're almost done with Puebla, just one final post with stuff I couldn't fit in any of the previous ones!