Flames and smoke on a grill with pieces of meat and chillies
Food & drink,  Mexico,  Monday walks

Exploring Oaxaca’s food markets

Well, we certainly did. And hopefully Jo will also enjoy this ‘Monday Walk’, despite a lack of cake on the menu.

Street food market

We started our feasting in a street food market in the northern part of the old city. Unlike the UK ones selling food from around the world, here it was of course all Mexican. Montse went to various stalls to buy us different dishes. First came tamales, a traditional one of beans wrapped in corn and a more modern interpretation of mushrooms wrapped in a banana leaf. She also bought quesadillas (I liked best one with cheese and pumpkin flower). To wash these down we had a drink made with hibiscus (here called jamaica) and pineapple, which was very refreshing.

Mercado Benito Juárez

Next on our itinerary was this enclosed market, one of the oldest in the city and named for Benito Juarez, who was born in Oaxaca. He was the first indigenous (and so far only) president of Mexico. Its narrow alleyways are protected by an iron roof and are lined with stalls selling meats, fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices for moles, as well as some selling prepared foods to enjoy on the spot or while you shop.

Here Montse shopped for various foods and ingredients including peanuts, champulines (grasshoppers), the traditional Oaxacan cheese, avocado and cactus.

Mercado 20 de Noviembre

Almost next door, this market has a rather different vibe. At a line of stalls here, known as the Pasillo de Humo (smoke corridor) vendors grill meat to order. The air is heady with the smells of barbeque.

Beyond the stalls there are tables, and we were able to secure a spot at one of these. Or maybe Montse had arranged for one to be saved for us? While we waited for the meats Montse had ordered to be cooked for us, beef and chorizo, I nibbled at the champulines. I quickly discovered that these were very tasty, fried with lemon, chilli, garlic and salt. So much better than the much larger crickets we had eaten in Cambodia!

Soon our meats were brought to the table along with the cactus which Montse had bought which had also been grilled, spring onions, salsa and tortillas.

We tore off bits of tortilla and filled them as we wished: avocado, some meat, cheese, salsa and champulines for seasoning.

Time for dessert

For dessert we returned to the Mercado Benito Juárez. One of its longest established stalls is a simple old-fashioned ice cream parlour, Oaxacan-style. The ices here are more like sorbets, known as nieves. At Montse’s suggestion we tried leche quemada con tuna, a traditional pairing of a creamy white sorbet which Montse translated as burnt milk (with a flavour that took me back to the condensed milk of my childhood) and a bright red sorbet made with tuna, which I was relieved to find is a cactus fruit not a fish!

Neon sign advertising ice cream above an old photo
In the ice cream parlour in the Mercado Benito Juárez

And just as a meal traditionally ends with dessert, so our food tour came to an end here. Needless to say, we didn’t feel the need for dinner that evening!

I visited Oaxaca in February 2024


Do share your thoughts, I'd love to hear from you! And please include your name in case WP marks you 'anonymous' - thank you