Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Mazatlan, Pt. 3: The Fungus Among Us

For years I've been reading about huitlacoche, the Mexican delicacy made from a black fungus that grows on corn. So I was thrilled to see it on the menu at a restaurant called Copa de Leche on the Malecon, the beachfront drive in the old section of the city. The huitlacoche was used as a stuffing in handmade empanadas, and came with sides of salad and refried beans. The filling had a tart, earthy flavor that was unlike anything I'd ever had before, and the crust of the empanadas was crisp and crunchy, a perfect pairing.

We also ordered a bowl of tortilla soup, a favorite from previous trips and one that I've made at home a few times. Simple to make if you start with a rich chicken or vegetable broth, simmer it with tomatoes, onions and garlic, then add strips of fried corn tortillas, chunks of avocado and lime juice just before serving. The crispness of the tortilla adds a lovely crunch to this flavorful soup, and it was almost as good as the definitive version I first tasted at the Red Cabbage Cafe in Puerto Vallarta.

The menu also listed nopales in garlic sauce, cactus leaves that had been skinned, chopped and cooked in oil with whole cloves of garlic and sliced mushrooms. Terrific by itself, this would also be fantastic as a side dish with meat or in tacos with grilled meat and corn tortillas.

The chicken in mole sauce capped off the meal perfectly, the deep red chile sauce with a hint of heat and tender chicken just begged to be eaten stuffed into bits of warm tortillas torn from the pile on the table.

Sitting on the covered beachfront patio, sipping margaritas or a Pacifico with a squeeze of lime in it and watching the world go by made this a perfect spot to while away an afternoon, then head back for a nap before dinner. Vacations are such hard work!

Read the other posts about my trip to Mazatlan: The Historic Scene, The Mercado Central, Evening on the Plazuela Machado, Groovy Graffiti, Bewitching Breakfast and Adios. 

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