Thursday, August 12, 2010

Travel Bite: Street Snacks, Mexico City

When I visited Mexico City a few years ago, I stayed in the historic city center within walking distance of the main square or zócalo, called Plaza de la Constitución. This photo of the Catedral Metropolitan de la Asunción de María (Metropolitan Cathedral) was taken from a good distance away, so you can't really fathom how huge it is. It's the largest (and oldest) in all of the Americas. Trust me, it can hold a lot of prayers.

Across the street from the cathedral is the National Palace or Palacio Nacional (the building in the background) with government offices of the president, the Federal Treasury and the National Archives. It's been a palace for the ruling class of Mexico since the Aztec empire. I think the jugo de naranja (orange juice) vendor may have been a more recent arrival.

On the zócalo and the surrounding streets are vendors of all stripes. And yes, hot sauce does belong on the potato chip, in case you were wondering. Why buy nacho-flavored when you can make your own?

Chicharrón, or pork rhinds to us, are a popular snack. Made from pig skin that's rendered, dried, and then fried, I can proudly say that for once, I was not tempted to pig out. I wrote that day down in my journal for posterity.

As you can see, these chips are a big nod to American capitalistic ingenuity—fried, salty, thirst-inducing snacks with bright orange food coloring. How do you say Cheetos en Español?

Fresh ears of corn are grilled, de-cobbed, and griddled before your very eyes. Along with squash and beans, corn was one of the three earliest plants domesticated in the Western hemisphere. I think the coca-cola plant was the fourth.

Different varieties of peanuts and pumpkin seeds or pepitas are a ubiquitous offering. Peanuts are said to have originated in Peru, and the Spanish conquistadors brought them to Mexico. Pepitas have been here since the time of the Aztecs or earlier. They're not only a popular snack, they are the main ingredient in mole pipián—a nutty, herby, green sauce.

These makeshift juice stands are clearly for the locals and not gringas like me. I ordered all my drinks sin huelo (without ice). How do you say Kaopectate en Español?

This is the only agua I would be drinking. And just in time with all those salty snacks. (I didn't really eat any, but it made for a good ending.)


  1. Lovely photography and post. Was this a food festival or a usual set-up of stands and markets? Makes me long to travel and see things again.

    My first time visiting your lovely blog. Very much enjoyed your "About My Blog" intro. ;)

  2. Hi Cristina, thanks for visiting. These were just disparate vendors I happened to shoot. It was long before my blog, so there was nothing planned.

    You and I were at Camp Blogaway together but never met. I hope to one day!

  3. Hello Adair!!

    Great story!! I loved your photos of the street vendors - that is one of the best things about traveling (can you tell that I too am food obsessed!!)
    Looking forward to seeing you at the next La Bloggers get together!!!

  4. Hi Nancy, thanks for visiting. It was great to see you again!

  5. You are so witty! I enjoy your writing and your travels! How is the heat in Mexico?

  6. Thanks, Joumana. It gets very hot and smoggy there. : (

  7. I've never been to Mexico City, so this was really interesting. The pepitas remind me of a recipe I have been planning to make. Thanks.

  8. It's been a few years since I visited the zocalo in "D.F." (Distrito Federal), the name locals and other Mexicans use to reference Mexico City. The street side vendors were regulars, as were the Aztec dancers, and the enormous flag.

  9. I wish I was as smart as you when I went to Mexico the first time. I didn't drink any water...I had alcoholic drinks with ice in them. What? Ice is made from water? No wonder I had Montezuma's revenge for 2 weeks.

  10. Never been to Mexico. I'd love to go and visit one day. Beautiful pictures!

  11. So glad you linked up, Adair. The photo of the chicharron ready gives a sense for their scale. Those things are enormous!

  12. Being of Mexican parents, I enjoyed seeing your photographs and comments very much. I've been there myself many times and I miss it so much. I still speak to my cousins periodically. Thank you again.
    Rosita from New Orleans, La.

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