Cooking up a storm in Oaxaca

The cuisine of Oaxaca is somewhat famous. This is due to both its incredible deliciousness and its weirdness. Dried cockroaches anyone?

Those who know me, know that I have a special kind of love and appreciation for Mexican food. So when decided where to take my Mexican cooking class, Oaxaca was the obvious choice…not that I’ll be whipping up plates of insects and bugs!

I was conveniently picked up for my cooking class from my hostel. My instructor for the day, Chef Gerado, took me to the local market. This market happens to be one of the biggest in the region. People come from all over to buy their produce including people that sell that produce again at other, smaller markets.

The market was a very cool experience. It was totally different to the others I’ve been to in Central America, and it was interesting going through with a local.

Gerado explained a lot about the different fruits and vegetables as well as how they are all used in Oaxacan cooking. The meat section was very confronting. Whole pig heads lay on the bench and yellow chicken hung from hooks. I hated it.

Watching the corn tortillas being made from scratch was cool. They start with just the dough, make it into a ball, put it on the press which makes it flat, then it goes on a hot round grill until ready. This only takes a minute to make several.

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Once we had collected all our ingredients for our feast, we went back to Gerado and his Mum’s house. Their home is absolutely gorgeous. It is exactly what comes to mind when I think of Mexico! Everything is colourful and vibrant. The cooking pots were of greens, blues, oranges and yellows.

The tiles of the kitchen a shiny royal blue. I loved it! Gerado’s mum is a lovely Mexican woman who was wearing a red skirt and colourful floral top, Frida Karlo style. She only spoke Spanish but we were able to chat pretty well, which was lovely. She grew up in a small town a few hours from Oaxaca. She used to collect cockroaches when she was a little kid, to use in people’s meals.

To start our cooking day, we prepared tamales (tortilla dough wrapped around a filling which can be anything you like). We made the tortillas, using the same process the women in the market did, but without cooking them. On the round, flat dough we placed some refried black beans and herbs, then folded over the dough and cut it in 3 or 4 pieces. With a corn husk or banana leaf, we put a tiny bit of beans to use as a glue, then some herbs. The tortilla goes in, it gets wrapped and once they’re all ready, they get steamed for an hour. The filling can be anything: veggies, tofu etc.

Next we made more tortillas but also cooked them. This was a fun process and they turned out great.

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Next was the mole. Mole just means sauce in the Aztec language. Oaxaca has 7 moles which are specific to just this region. We made yellow mole which isn’t the most spicy, some are crazy hot! It had a few ingredients and some chilli kick, but not too hot. We boiled some veg to go with the mole; beans, mini potatos and a type of squash. This squash was super yummy! Definitely one I will try to find back home.

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Guacamole was the last dish we prepared. Our recipe was basically avocados, cilantro, onions, juice from pickled chillies, green tomatos and lime juice. It was absolutely amazing! Easily the best GUAC I’ve had in my life. I will do my best to recreate it at home!

Once everything was prepared, we sat down to eat together. It was a very pleasant experience. The food was sensational and Gerado and his Mum were wonderful hosts and teachers.

If you’re keen to try your hand at Mexican cooking, I recommend Gerado’s school. Check out their website and book it in!

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