It only took a mouth-watering image of memela, a thicker-than-usual tortilla kissed by a hot griddle then slathered with salsa de frijol and quesillo cheese, for me to include the state of Oaxaca in my Mexican sojourn.
In Netflix’s Street Food: Latin America documentary series, Doña Vale, who operates a humble shack inside the Mercado Central de Abastos, is shown preparing memelas on her weary white comal for a hungry and curious crowd of local and foreign visitors. This Oaxacan toasted cake is available all over town, from restaurants to street-side vendors; but hers is special, relegating much of the hype to the generous dab of her signature salsa morita. And that’s why I was quick to invite myself to the party.
Proclaimed by the UNESCO as an “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Mankind” back in 2010 (an honour shared with only one other cuisine—French), Mexican fare has a thousand-year-old food culture that goes beyond the banner items of tacos, burritos and guacamole. In fact, Oaxaca, located an hour-long plane ride away south of the capital city, doesn’t even champion any of those. The gastro-historical state has its own repertoire that offers much to be desired.