Oaxaca, the Land of a Thousand Flavors

The state’s geographic variety has given rise to a diverse gastronomic culture that combines ancient ingredients with rich tradition for tasty dishes that are truly unique.

Hot and humid coastline, large temperate mountain ranges, and lush, fertile valleys; when it comes to geography, the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca has it all. This explains why it ranks among the top three most biologically diverse states along with Chiapas and Veracruz, which it borders to the north and the east, respectively. Thousands of mammals, birds, fish, plants, and insects call this land home, and have given it its distinct place in the country’s ecological pantheon.

The state is also known for its indigenous cultures dating thousands of years, each with distinct ethnicities and dialects, as well as colonial architecture that came with the arrival of Spanish to the New World.

Such a confluence of regions, climate, and peoples have led to one of the most varied cuisines in Mexico—and around the world—where ancient ingredients like corn, beans, cacao, tomato, chile, even insects such as grasshoppers, mix with vegetables, fruits, meat and fish for savory, complex dishes to satisfy any palate.

While mole (there are seven types, each with such large number of ingredients, you can’t count them all) and tlayudas (giant corn tortillas topped with meat, black bean paste and quesillo that some compare to “Mexican pizzas”) are iconic foods found in the markets and plazas, the range of Oaxacan gastronomy extends much further than that. An example of such diversity is the fact that nowhere else in Mexico will you find more kinds of chiles than in Oaxaca, each with a distinct punch and flavor, from sweet and mild to utter fire breathing dragons. They have given rise to more salsas than you can name in a range of heat levels and spicing for those just starting on their “hot” journey.

Our menu reflects this culinary kaleidoscope and offers you a chance to taste the true flavors of our homeland without having to travel far.

Meat lovers can opt for a Barbacoa de Chivo, juicy goat barbacoa in avocado leaves, spices, herbs and chiles that will bring a flavor so rich to your mouth, you’ll be savoring it for hours.

Those looking for a coastal flavor can try Ceviche Piquin. This spicy dish includes lime-cooked octopus, shrimp, pico de gallo, chile piquin, avocado and lime juice. This meal will transport you to warm, sunbathed beaches.

You can also opt for Garnachas, small disks of fried masa with beef picadillo, Mexican cheese, salsa and pickled veggies. The dish originates from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, a tropical region that forms the shortest distance between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean.

And for a hearty meal, try Alambre, a dish with cecina, tasajo (air-dried beef jerky), ham, bell peppers, onions, quesillo, nopal asado, spicy salsa and tortillas.  The flavors just melt in a savory explosion.

Even vegetarians can enjoy a Coliflor, egg-coated cauliflower with homemade tomato sauce, quesillo, avocado and chile de agua curtido. It’s a recipe that won’t disappoint you.

‘PA TODO MAL, MEZCAL’   

These dishes are satisfying all by themselves, but pair them with mezcal or tequila for an out-of-this world experience in flavor.

Mezcal is also part of the rich cultural and gastronomic tradition in Oaxaca, where different regions and multitudes of towns boast their prowess in the preparation of the drink.

The beverage is so iconic, it’s given rise to a famous local phrase, “Pa todo mal, mezcal, pa todo bien, también” (For everything bad, mezcal; for everything good, the same). The maguey-based liquor and its cousin, tequila, occupy a revered place in our homeland, and so it does in our restaurant.

Our selection includes hundreds of brands, from well-known labels to unique offerings hailing from small batch producers. You can try them on their own or mixed in cocktails.

Some of our mixed drinks include the refreshing Paloma Spritz that combines tequila blanco, mezcal espadin, grapefruit, lime and sparkling rose.

Another option is Chido Wey! That includes nanche infused mezcal espadin, house tepache, honey, lemon and spicy bitters. It will definitely make the worries go away.

Or you can enjoy Froze that mixes tequila reposado, rose, passionfruit, raspberry, grapefruit and lemon. It’s just the ideal combination of sweet and sexy.

And who can’t forget dessert. To top a perfect meal, nothing better than gelato de fruta pechuga de agave, a bunuelo de viento topped with agave fruit.

All of these offerings will take you on a tour of Oaxaca’s culture, traditions and heritage that are still reflected in its beautiful colonial buildings, archeological sites, and natural wonders. The startling diversity is such, it would take a lifetime for you to sample all the foods the state has to offer.

At Madre Oaxacan Restaurant & Mezcaleria we try to give you a “probadita”, a sample of all these flavors and options, with ingredients brought directly from the source, so that when you take a bite of one of our dishes, you’ll taste the rich traditions behind it. It’s food meant to be savored, with each mouthful an explosion of flavor. It’s also drinks to relax and enjoy for when you want a taste of the South, without crossing the border.

Some say the Spanish took riches of the Americas after the colonization. But Oaxaca’s culinary wealth and gastronomic heritage are still very much intact and ready to order whenever you want a taste of the extraordinary.

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