The Road that Should be Traveled. This Issue's Road: Queretaro.
Curious about Queretaro? You should be. It may be the best-kept secret of Mexico. After five weeks here, I’m hooked.
Photos by Siobhán Gallagher
Two hours north of Mexico City, this central Mexican jewel has it all. Far from the tourist-trodden shores of the Caribbean, we’re inland, and this is real Mexico. The picturesque historic centre is streets of colourful, Wild West-style buildings, adorned with equally colourful bougainvillea. You’re never far from a perfectly pruned park to sit and watch well-groomed locals go about their day. There is a distinctive air of tradition, courtesy and peace in Queretaro. My vocabulary of manners in Spanish has necessarily expanded since I got here.
In addition to the delights for my eyes and my sensibilities, my belly has been delighted too. So get your napkins out. It’s time to eat Queretaro-style.
Broth and tacos of slow cooked mutton (Consomme y tacos de barbacoa de borrego)
Barbacoa translates as ‘barbeque’ in English, but that conjures up images of a smoking grill and not the process that this dish entails. Barbacoa is meat slowly cooked in a rudimentary underground oven, or alternatively in a deep pan on a stove. The result is steaming, juicy, melt-in-your mouth meat, with that unique, delicate mutton flavor. (Goat and beef varieties are popular here too). Not a dish easily acquired whenever you want, locals typically queue at roadside stalls for this on weekend mornings. Forget your pancakes - this is breakfast. Our visit to the energetic young team at El guero Jr, our barbacoa stall of choice, involved free tacos while waiting, then ½ kilo of the meaty feast for two, endless tortillas and a huge plate of broth with a few chickpeas thrown in for good, starchy measure, all for $270 pesos with drinks. The broth is actually more muttony than the meat and the ultimate comfort food for a drizzly Sunday morning. I can’t eat this every Sunday morning, but if I could, I would.
El guero Jr., Avenida Cerro Sombrerete, San Pablo II, Santiago de Queretaro
Pambazos and enchiladas: I also can’t eat pambazos and enchiladas every Friday, but I’ve been doing a pretty good job of it since we arrived, after discovering Antojitos Juarez run by Ma del Carmen Anaya Miranda and Maria Quintana Zamudio. Their kitchen is set up in a narrow doorway leading onto downtown’s busy Avenia Juarez; that way the enticing sights and smells of their food catch innocent passersby. Smart women. Of course, enchiladas are known all over Mexico, but they are loved in Queretaro which even has its own variety - Enchiladas Queretanas with carrots and potatoes. Blue maize is also popular here, and it’s what makes all Maria del Carmen’s dishes special. That extra bland blue maize flavour just sets off her spicy, creamy, salty chicken enchiladas in green sauce so well.
Perhaps less well known beyond this region, are pambazos. Perfect for a quick and dirty lunch, filled with chorizo and potato, these bread rolls are then sealed on a seasoned griddle giving them their distinctive orange colour and crispy baked flavour. Wash it all down with a sweet, spiced mug of caffe de olla and continue satisfied with your day. Their prices are to die for too, starting at $20 pesos per snack.
Antojitos Juarez, Avenida Juarez, Centro, Santiago de Queretaro
THE WHOLE ENCHILADA
AINT NO JOKE
Roasted sweet-potato and plantain: One of the things I really appreciate about Mexico is the ever-strong tradition of mobile vendors who roam the streets all day each with their own identifiable call. In Queretaro I heard a new call, a long shrill whistle, rather like failing brakes, and learned that it’s the ‘Camotero’, or the sweet potato vendor. My life is complete. Every day sweet potato (camote) and plantain vendors pass by with their chimneyed ovens on wheels tempting me outside for one of my favourite foods to eat, and least favourite foods to prepare (they’re so hard to chop). Now I can get generous portions of fluffy, healthy sweet potato any evening I choose (most), and a perfectly cooked plantain if I’m feeling frisky, on my AirBnB doorstep for the princely sum of $25-30 pesos ($1.25 USD). Viva Mexico! They’ve thought of everything.
Calle Felipe Angeles, España, Santiago de Queretaro
Tulum Eats Magazine is published 12 times a year, unless we decide to go on prolonged vacations. You can find the print magazine at select locations throughout the Riviera Maya, and in some East Coast establishments, where we will randomly place, during selective times. The website will be updated monthly, with selected materials that may or may not be the same as the print version. Look for us soon, in other states of Mexico.