This summer, I will be going to Oaxaca. I am excited about all of the new and different things I might eat. Last time I was there – 7 years ago – I sampled huitlacoche (corn fungus) and chapulines (roasted grasshoppers). They were okay… The chapulines were served with tortillas and guacamole. Alas, my guacamole ran out before I finished my grasshoppers and I am afraid I left some in my bowl. I don’t remember exactly how the huitlacoche was served, but I think it might have been canned – it was pretty much black liquid… One thing I DO remember is that my father and my husband did not try them.
Since then, I have learned of tlayudas. Tlayudas, (from Wikipedia) sometimes erroneously spelled Clayudas, are a part of Mexican cuisine, consisting of a big, crunchy tortilla covered with a spread of refried beans, asiento (unrefined pork lard), lettuce or cabbage, chapulines (grasshoppers), meat (usually shredded chicken, beef tenderloin or pork), Oaxaca cheese or other cheese, and salsa. They are a popular antojito (snack food) originating in Oaxaca, particularly around Oaxaca City, and are also available throughout larger Mexican cities, such as Mexico City, Puebla, or Guadalajara.
The restaurant I have been eyeing to try the tlayuda is about a 50 minute drive south of the airport in Jonesboro. It’s called Taqueria La Oaxaquena. There are all sorts of rave reviews on it. The second location I had read about was Cafeteria La Oaxaquena, which is much closer – in Smyrna. It didn’t have the outstanding press of TLO, however.
When I mentioned these places to my husband, he said that he felt like he could wait until we got to Oaxaca to try Oaxacan food. Well, that’s no fun!!!! I also stressed to him that the tlayuda, also called a Oaxacan pizza, was made on a huge gluten-free crust of corn masa. (my husband is intolerant of wheat gluten and rarely eats real pizzas any more, unless they are made by a woman named Amy…)
On my way home last night I took the Buford Highway route. Buford Highway is the “corridor of diversity” in our part of Atlanta, and foods of all nations can be found there. As I was moving along slowly in traffic, the sign for Don Cabrito caught my eye. Below the title it said “taqueria oaxaquena”. I stopped and looked at it and decided to try it out. Anyplace that served barbequed goat is my kind of place.
Tonight, while my husband was at choir practice, I decided to give it a try. I was kind of skeptical, because in my earlier drive-by, the restaurant windows were decorated with the words “taqueria estilo guerrero y michoacan”. Where was the Oaxaca?
My answer came when I walked in – posters everywhere of Oaxaca: the Guelaguetza, panoramic view of the zocalo, the whole thing was decorated Oaxaca-style. And, sure enough, right there on the menu, were tlayudas. The place is pretty good-sized, but I was the only customer, and there was only one waitress and one cook. I ordered my tlayuda with goat – which is not traditional, but I had to have goat…
When it came out, it did not look like the tlayudas in pictures I had seen, which were served open-faced. This one was folded over like a gigantic crepe – I mean GIGANTIC. It must have been about 18 inches in diameter and was cut in half and served with a variety of sauces. I tried a bite of the tortilla, and it was tough as leather. I really did give it a good try, but ended up asking for some fresh corn tortillas to scoop up the big glops of melted cheese and goat (mixed with a little bit of beans and cabbage). Then I ate that bit taco-style.
I packed up the rest to take home and when I got there, I peeled off the perishables (onion, avocado, and tomato) and stuffed the filling only in a storage container. I fed a bit of the tortilla to my puppydog, then threw the rest away.
When I sat down to write this post, I did a little bit of research on the structure of the tlayuda and see that it can also be served folded over, so it’s not like they were doing it “wrong”. I think that the masa dough was just overcooked or tough. One of the articles I read said that some tlayuda stands make the tortillas ahead of time and then reheat them. Maybe that was it.
I am willing to give it another chance. At least the goat was good!