I recently visited Cuetzalan, my favourite pueblo mágico (so far – I haven’t been to all of them yet) and stayed at ‘La Casa de la Piedra‘ for the second time. The hotel is a gorgeous setting with rustic stone built rooms and views of the Cathedral and country side (depending on where your room is located). It is a boutique style hotel and offers tranquility in an often bustling nearby zócalo. The hotel is rated #1 in Cuetzalan on Trip Advisor, a well deserved rating given the quality of service, the beautiful rooms and intimate setting, and most importantly, its close proximity to the zócalo.
I particularly recommend staying here if you are looking for a romantic weekend away from city life in Puebla (or DF). If you book a suite you’ll get to enjoy your own personal hot-tub (come on, who doesn’t enjoy a hot tub?). If you are travelling on a budget then look out for my next post on Hotel Casa Huitiki.
Santo Menjurje, located in the beautiful setting of the hotel Casona Maria in Analco (just across the 5 de Mayo Boulevard), is the first restaurant featured in a new series of posts on the blog: best restaurants of Puebla. This blog focusses a lot on street food but I also want to share with you my favourite restaurants of the city.
Santo Menjurje focusses on contemporary poblana cuisine. Its menu comes complete with the classics we all know and love such as Mole Poblano and Pipián, as well as street-food style starters like chalupas, molotes and esquites. What I Santo Menjurje really excels at are the unique dishes (with poblana influences, of course) inspired by the restaurant’s head chef, Hugo Martinez. He has been given free reign to add dishes that are of his own creation, many of which are inspired by his abuela’s cooking.
Pictured are four dishes, which I think deserve a special mention due to their sheer creativity and range of flavours. The first, ‘cochinillo al horno’, is slow cooked over 8 hours and probably the best piece of pork I have ever had. The crispy fatty top with the very tender meat underneath are a perfect combination creating a melt-in-your-mouth sensation. The green salsa, the same one that is served with Tacos Al Pastor, is an unexpected accompaniment but holds its own alongside the meat and perfect guacamole. This is by far my trump dish from Santo Menjurje.
Next we have a mole made from chile pasilla served with ‘muslitos’ (muscles from the chicken). I’ve had mole before but this is something else. The combination of the sauce with the unusual choice of the part of meat is a great example of a classic dish (mole) that exceeds every expectation you might have had.
The other two dishes pictured, are desserts. I have a sweet tooth for sure and these two were so inventive that I had to mention them. The first is equivalent to a crème brûlée made with Natilla and a touch of Mezcal. I guess you could call it a Mexican crème brûlée. Crack the top and you are invited in to a creamy heaven.
Last but not least, one single ball of ice cream, leche quemada (cajeta) flavour, that will turn your night from a good one into a great one. Don’t even hesistate about ordering this. You won’t have ever tasted ice cream so rich in flavour. And who can say no to leche quemada?
Santo Menjurje is on my list of best restaurants in Puebla because it is clearly committed and passionate about Puebla and its cuisine. This is not only obvious in its cooking, but also in the setting of the hotel. Every last detail has been thought about, and you will understand exactly what I mean when you visit.
Thanks to Blink Diseño for providing the photos for this post.
I first visited Santo Menjurje to try their breakfast menu. I was then invited by the restaurant to sample a number of dishes from their lunch and dinner menu, on a separate occasion. As always the opinions are my own.
This Arab-style taco is a real favourite for meat-lovers in Puebla. It originates from an influx of Lebanese immigrants in the 1920’s. The special thing about the taco, which is cut from marinated pork cooked on a spit, is the unique flavour and preparation of the meat, as well as the tortilla used to hold the filling.
Rather than a typical corn tortilla, a flour based tortilla called ‘pan árabe’ is used. This is a pita-type tortilla that is larger and thicker than your regular corn tortilla. Now you have your taco just squeeze a bit of lemon juice and add chipotle salsa, roll the taco back up and you are set to go! If you like the pan árabe but are not so keen on the meat, then no worries, Mexicans have a solution for everything… just order your taco al pastor ‘árabe’ style. That way you get the meat you want with the tortilla you want. On the topic of ‘tacos al pastor’, it is very common to find both these tacos in the same taqueria (spit next to spit). Keep in mind that the taco árabe is much bigger than the al pastor so for every 2 tacos al pastor you only really need one árabe. Oh and yes this is a Puebla speciality so be sure to try it on our Puebla street food tour!
I am very excited to be publishing this guest post by Ellie Cusack, an English culture-enthusiast who fell in love with everything Mexican while living in Puebla. You can read more on her experience of Mexico on her blog, Tea and Tacos, at elliecusack.wordpress.com.
Puebla’s Top Tipples
Puebla’s highly specialist cuisine is often lauded to be amongst the best in Mexico, and its best-known culinary dishes are well documented (and nowhere better than here on Soy Poblana!). But besides the more obvious tequila and mezcal, Puebla is also home to some lesser-known, but no less delicious, beverages. Here’s my pick of Puebla’s best sips:
It’s obligatory to use the words rustic, characterful and artisanal to describe La Pasita. It is indeed all those things, but more plainly speaking it’s a dusty time machine back to Puebla of old, 1916 to be precise, when the famous cantina was first opened. Their most notorious raisin liqueur, Pasita (after which the bar is named), is served in a shot glass with a chunk of cheese and a wrinkly raisin. Despite appearances, however, these do not date back to 1916. There are lots of lively bars in the Barrio de Los Sapos, so it’s ideal to swing by to kick off a night on the town. But be warned, legend has it the number of Pasitas knocked back correlates exactly with the number of blocks one is able to stagger from the door before passing out… The original La Pasita is located at 5 Oriente #602, but there’s a second branch at 3 Sur #504, both found in the Centro Histórico.
Pulque is a Mexican drink that dates back to Meso-American times in central Mexico, even featuring famously on a wall carving inside Cholula’s pyramid. Like its brothers tequila and mezcal, it is made from the maguey (agave) plant native to Mexico, but is lower in alcohol content and more akin to a beer than a spirit. Plain pulque has an unusual yeasty taste, but it also comes in a variety of more easily-drinkable flavours such as strawberry and horchata. Pulque has a shelf life of less than 24 hours so it’s essential to drink it fresh – and preferably straight from the maker. Head to Hanuki inside Mercado Zapata to enjoy a glass of pulque and traditional botanas (Mexican snacks). Rompope Although eggnog arrived in Mexico with the Spanish conquistadors, its derivative rompope was conceived by Pueblan nuns. It’s creamy and delicious, and usually devoured by las abuelas tucked up at home: you’re more likely to find it on the dessert menu served with peaches than in any hip and happening drinking hole. It’s made in a variety of pretty pastel-coloured flavours such as pine nut, coconut, pistachio, strawberry, and chocolate. If you’re in heaven in an ice cream parlour, this one’s for you. The shops along ‘Sweets Street’ 6 Oriente, Centro have lots of rompope for sale – I especially like La Colonia, where you can peruse the local talavera and watch it being made in the workshop as you sample the various rompope flavours and make the tricky decision of which one, two or three to take away with you.
The warm and temperate climate of Puebla makes it ideal for growing apples so there’s lots of local cider for sale, especially in Cholula. My personal favourite, however, is the Sidra Rosada (pink cider) by Gota Real, made and sold in Huejotzingo. It’s very sweet, but also crisp and refreshing, perfect for enjoying as you wander around the grounds of the Franciscan Convent in the sunshine. Sidra Rosada is sold in a number of shops around the Zócalo in Huejotzingo, along with lots of pickled fruits, vegetables and chilies.
Tepache is a mildly alcoholic beverage made from the flesh and rind of pineapple, which is mixed with brown sugar, cinnamon and sometimes clove and left to ferment for a few days before being served ice cold. It’s essentially pineapple juice with a delectable tang. It was hugely popular among the indigenous Nahua peoples and continues to be a favoured home-brew in Puebla. Like pulque, you won’t normally find this served in bars, but it’s readily available in the local markets. Best drunk as it is served – in a plastic sandwich bag with a straw – for the truly authentic Mexican experience. My favourite tepache is sold inside La Acocota market; like most vendors, the stall doesn’t have a name, but it’s not far from the main entrance just to the left.
What are you waiting for? Go and wet your whistle!
I thought it was about time I wrote about ‘Tacos Dorados’ as they have been particularly popular on our street food tour of late. Tacos Dorados, also known as flautas, are common across Mexico. They are another manipulation of ‘masa‘, one of the most important elements of many Mexican street foods. That doesn’t mean they taste the same as molotes just because they are made from the same base. Quite the contrary! These rolled up tacos typically filled with either chicken or potato (but the options are endless) are deep fried and served with shredded lettuce, sour cream, queso fresco and salsa. The classic filling is chicken but I much prefer potato. [This is a great option for vegetarians who want to try street food!] I’m not a big fan of the chicken option as I find, in general, it is dry and pretty tasteless. However with the potato filling, when seasoned and prepared well, you get this delicious combination of the crunchy outside with the tasty and smooth filling. As I am always telling people on our tours, I always choose (and recommend) salsa ‘bandera’ so I get to try both green and red salsas. Choosing ‘bandera’ (flag) means you get half of each type of salsa.
This is King’s Day
Día de Reyes is practically upon us. ‘King’s Day’, which takes place on the 6th of January, is a big deal in Mexico and is celebrated with gifts and ‘Rosca de Reyes’. Traditionally this is the day that children get gifts from ‘los reyes magos’ (as well as from Santa, an imported tradition, on the 25th of December). Rosca de Reyes, a sweet bread in the shape of a wreath decorated with dried fruits is served on the 5th (or 6th). This is the Mexican equivalent of ‘gallete de rois’ in France and Belgium. Each ‘rosca’ (wreath) has at least one baby Jesus in it. If you happen to get the piece with the figurine then you have to host a party for everyone else on February 2nd (Día de la Candelaria), serving tamales. The ‘Rosca de Reyes’ is symbolic of a crown with jewels on it and the hidden figurine of when Jesus went into hiding from King Herod. If you are the one to find the Jesus figurine then you are symbolically his godparent and that is why you host the party when he is taken to be blessed on the 2nd of February. The ‘Rosca’ is only served this time of the year and is similar to a pan dulce but a bit more fancy. The one pictured above has a nata filling; an extra tasty addition! Mexico is a very catholic country, which can be somewhat daunting for non-catholics but these important religious holidays are celebrated in fun and inventive ways that can be enjoyed by everyone.
¡Feliz Día de Reyes!
¡Feliz Año Nuevo!
In 2015 you can look forward to more tours and more blog posts on delicious street food as well as top destinations in and around Puebla, see you there!
This is Beans
Mexicans and their beans: they love ’em! They have them with everything, whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner. And it’s not the just the one type – there are various, with different tastes, shapes, and consistencies. I’ve never been a beans kind of a gal. I like beans, but not with everything and I never crave them, that’s for sure. If they’re there I’ll eat them, but I never miss them. I feel this makes me less Mexican. Maybe I’m not a ‘real’ Mexican but after living here long enough you start to feel that you’ve at least become culturally Mexican. If you’re going to be a great lover of Mexican food, I think having a thing for beans is important. Well I have finally discovered that love.
If you haven’t realised (you must have realised!), since moving to Puebla, I have fallen in love with the food. I never knew real Mexican food till I got here, and ever since I’ve been in foodie heaven. I have a lot of favourite dishes and now wish to add ‘frijoles charros’ to that list. I probably like them so much because I never thought I would. But when tasting them for the first time, my life was changed forever. Just kidding!
Good ‘frijoles charros’ are hard to come by. They’re not good everywhere so that’s the risky thing about them. One must only order them upon recommendation! So here is my recommendation to you. If you want to try delicious ‘frijoles charros’ you need to head to Taquitos Puebla (located at 31 poniente y 3 sur). They also serve tacos, and alambre (with a particularly delicious vegetarian option!).
So what are ‘frijoles charros’? Literal translation: ‘horsemen beans’. The dish is of a soup consistency comprising of pinto beans, onion, garlic and bacon, stewed with a number of other ingredients (varying depending on the chef) such as chorizo, peppers, chile serrano, tomatoes, cilantro, etc. The soup tastes delicious and has a spicy kick to it.
I particularly recommend this dish during the cold nights of Puebla ‘winter’ as it’s very warming. Be sure to add a squeeze of lemon to make it taste that much better.
Gringas: not just a nickname for foreign females (typically from the USA), but also a delicious street food dish. Gringas are a type of quesadilla, the twist being that flour tortillas are used rather than corn ones.
[I’d say this is one of the main misconceptions about Mexican food abroad (I’m referring to brands like ‘Old El Paso’): that flour tortillas are predominantly used, when that is most certainly not the case.]
Anyway back to the gringa, which works like this: a base of a flour tortilla, then a filling of cheese and meat, then another tortilla on top. All grilled so the cheese melts. The meat is typically ‘al pastor‘ but there are many meats (and even vegetables) that can be used as fillings. In fact this is a great option for vegetarians if your friends want to go for tacos. Then to make it as delicious as possible, add salsas like the ones pictures above and pico de gallo (always served with quesadillas). Oh and don’t forget to squeeze some lemon on it too (lime for you non Mexican folk)!
So why ‘gringa’? The name stems from the idea that flour tortillas are preferred north of the border. It’s as simple as that!
This is Mexican Poetry
One of the words most associated with Day of the Dead is ‘Calavera’, which means skull but like many things in Mexico it has a double meaning. At this time of year, a calavera is also a humorous/satiric poem, which is an obituary or a would be obituary, making fun of the person it is written for, that explains their demise. It is quite the art form so I am very thankful that a real calavera expert wrote this one for Soy Poblana!
¡Feliz Día de Muertos!