My Authentic Oaxaqueña Cooking Experience

I’m going to do an entire blog on my experience in Oaxaca, Mexico, but this deserves its own page. I have decided that I want to take a cooking class in any country I visit and I want to visit a lot of places. In February, I took a sort of impromptu trip to Oaxaca, Mexico. A friend of mine lives down there and she had posted that she needed a house sitter. I can literally work from anywhere that has internet, so I jumped at the chance. I had a bit of explaining to do with the hubby, but he ended up supporting me in the decision and even came down to join for a few days. But while on my trip, I signed up for a cooking class with Me Encanta Oaxaca!

So on the day of my class, I met Betsaida in a cute little neighborhood park northeast of the Zocalo. She was adorable and dressed in authentic clothes from the region. They have the most ornate embroidered dresses and shirts you have ever seen. I would purchase several for the girls before leaving this beautiful place. She had informed me the evening prior that I would be the only one in the class this particular day, probably because it was the middle of the week and not a time when most people are vacationing. She even let me have input on the menu!

We started by going to the market to shop for ingredients for our meal. I had been to this market once prior with my friend before she left for her trip. However, shopping it with a local as very different. Betsaida was fantastic about telling me words I didn’t know and making sure I understood. She speaks both English and Spanish, but I really wanted to work on the Spanish, especially when it comes to food and ingredients. And the things they offer in this market are incredible. We had to get a different cut of beef than planned because they were out of beef loin but I loved the cook with what’s available and in season vibe!

After shopping, we headed to her car and drove to her kitchen, which is an adorable and spacious attachment to her home. It was about a 20 minute drive I think…we were talking and enjoying each other’s company so it felt like it took no time at all. When we arrived, her husband, son and a very tiny dog greeted us! It was so charming and personal feeling. Her husband helped out in the kitchen. He’s like her own sous chef. He cut, chopped, smashed, washed, ran to get ingredients…I really appreciated how they work together in the business.

We started with the Arroz con leche so that it could chill in the fridge while we prepared the other dishes. In the states, we call this rice pudding. This was probably the best I have ever had. And I was so amazed at how easy this dish is to make. I’m planning to make a vegan version using oatmeal this week for my daughter and her family. Betsaida was so patient in teaching me both how to make the dish and how to pronounce the different ingredients.

While we were working on the dessert, Betsaida also had the meat cooking. She advised me it can be made in a pressure cooker, but she cooked it stovetop in an authentic Isthmus pot. I found it fascinating as she boiled the meat and skimmed the fat off the water as it cooked. Later the meat was shredded in the food processor which created a perfect consistency for tacos, burritos, pretty much any dish you want. I was also amused that garlic cloves are referred to as “dentes”!

We then made the Molotes de Platano. This is an incredible appetizer made with plantains and in our case, stuffed with cheese stuffed squash blossoms. Squash blossoms are available everywhere in that part of the world. I was so jealous. I’ve had a squash blossom recipe for years that I can never find them for. You go into the market and can buy them in big bags. We stuffed ours with two different types of cheese. She boiled the plantains and then had me peel them. I started the mashing, but Javier, her husband, was kind enough to step in and provide the muscle to really get them pureed. The dish is made by wrapping cheese in the squash blossoms and then surrounding this with a compound made from the plantains that resembles mashed potatoes. You then fry these and you get an amazing savory appetizer!

Somewhere in all of this, we also made two different salsas. I’ll be honest, I think Javier or Betsaida made one of them while I was distracted because no way we got all this done! One was a salsa roja de chipotle which is made with tomatoes and chipotle chilis. I think she was surprised at my willingness to have it spicy! The other was salsa de chicatana. Chicatanas are fried ants. Yep, I ate me some fried ants. And they were delicious! These are also made using the smallest tomatillo looking things I have ever seen. And they are beautiful. They are a mixture of green, red and purple hues. Peeling them is kind of a hassle, but so worth the flavor!

Our main course was the garnachas Istmeñas. These look similar to what we call tostadas, but much smaller. I actually made tortillas! Well, tiny tortillas. Learning to portion those to get the right size will require some practice, but after this, I am ready to try getting a tortilla press again. Please disregard the blog where I bitch and moan about that tortilla press I got rid of. I learned that the one I had sucked. They have much better ones. Anyway, this dish consists of a tortilla with some meat piled in the center and salsa. It is then pan-fried to perfection. We topped it with some cheese and pickled veggies (Oh, ya, we made those at the beginning!) and a kind of cilantro I’ve never had. I think she said it’s a wild cilantro.

When all was ready, we sat down and had a beautiful meal together. It was an amazing day and I’m definitely going to do it again and maybe book one of her food tours as well. Okay, I’ve only done cooking classes in two countries so far, but this one was definitely my favorite and it’s going to be hard to top! Below are some pictures we took!

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