Oaxaca, in southern Mexico, is known for its food, culture, chocolate and mezcal – just my kind of place.
We stayed in a quirky little AirBnB place with a rustic kitchen and four friendly dogs, a walkable distance from the vibrant town centre. The streets of central Oaxaca are full of personality with brightly coloured colonial style buildings, street art, sign painting, and pot plants everywhere! As a major tourist destination in Mexico it’s all very nicely manicured and catered to the industry, although we did a couple of tours during our stay which took us a little off the beaten path. For a quiet day we visited the beautiful old monastery, now a museum, which detailed the history of the region and had an awesome exhibition of vintage illustrated music posters.
Being around the new year, the atmosphere was festive and busy, although we left things too late to book anything special for New Year’s Eve and ended up falling asleep before midnight after a stay-in dinner of pastries and beer. On our last night in Oaxaca, we stopped to eat paletas and watch a wedding celebration in the street, complete with traditional dancers and a marching band.
There’s a LOT for foodies to love in Oaxaca – here’s a few places we visited:
- Paletas – popsicles – are sold from little street carts everywhere and come in a very large number of flavours, some more unusual than others.
- Mole – complex spiced sauces – are a must in Oaxaca, and it’s quite different even to other regions that serve mole. It comes in many varieties, coloured by the kinds of chillies used and in the case of mole negro (black mole), cacao.
- As with most (all?) of Mexico, pretty much everything is served with soft corn tortilla – necessary for mopping up sauce or mole.
- Mezcal is similar to tequila, a drink which holds memories of low quality shots in clubs for me – but I find it a lot more palatable. It still uses the agave plant but is tied to different regions, and often has a delicious smokey flavour. We didn’t manage to get a booking in the Mezcaloteca, but the bottle shop next door was obliging in giving us a free tasting and explanation of the varieties.
- Hot chocolate might be a little different to what you’re used to – it’s sweet, spiced and traditionally mixed with hot water rather than milk (I still prefer it milky!).
- Chapulines – fried grasshoppers – sound and look a bit confronting, but actually make great beer snacks. They mostly taste like the spices they are fried with.