When you first come to Puebla, you may find yourself confused as to when you can find your favorite street foods actually being sold, and why certain products at the store seem to be called the same thing even if they are completely different. If language is failing you, or the quesadilla lady is never there whenever you have a hankering, then here are a few tips:
- Quesadillas, tamales, and gorditas: Since these are all considered breakfast foods, you won’t find them after 11am or noon. Arrive later than that and you’ll discover that your favorite vendor is scraping off his/her grill and packing up the gas tank. Tamales are available as early as 4am outside the clubs in Cholula, or 7am in most areas, while quesadillas and gorditas pop up around 9am-ish.
Side Note: Your quesadilla will not necessarily come with cheese. The word itself refers to a folded tortilla with some sort of filling. See this discussion from the magazine Chilango.
2. Halls: “Why do people here always have sore throats? They eat Halls like there’s no tomorrow!,” you might be thinking. Or, as my mom said when I offered her one, “No, thanks, I’m fine. Is your throat hurting?” Actually, Halls are used as breath mints in Mexico, and you’ll find them in every flavor you can think of. I even once found limited-edition “Paloma” (tequila with grapefruit soda) flavor.
3. Jamón: Why, you wonder, does “jamón de pavo” exist? How can a lunchmeat be turkey and ham at the same time? The thing is, “jamón,” which you probably learned as “ham,” is just the generic word for “lunchmeat.” So you can buy “turkey ham,” “turkey breast ham,” “pork ham,” and so on.
4. Carne: Speaking of meat, “carne” is another word you should know how to use. It does refer to meat in general, and you can request “carne de puerco” (pork), “carne de res” (beef), etc. However, most people use it only for red meats. If you’re a vegetarian but all you tell someone is that you don’t eat “carne,” then you’ll be served a healthy portion of chicken!
5. Calabaza vs. Calabacita: “Squash” and “little squash” are not quite what they seem. “Calabaza” refers to large squashes in general, sometimes pumpkin, while “calabacita” is actually “zucchini.”
6. Galletas saladas y dulces: Yes, “galletas” refers to both cookies and crackers. If you’re looking for some Ritz, get “galletas saladas,” and if you want Chips Ahoy, then ask for just “galletas.”
I hope that helps to clear up some of your confusion about the food here!
I don’t know the answer, but Buzzfeed has prepared a handy quiz (“¿Puedes adivinar qué taco es con sólo verlo?”) about whether or not you can identify twelve types of tacos in Mexico.
I got two wrong answers, one because I identified the meat incorrectly and one because the name, “taco acorazado,” isn’t used here in Puebla. Street food names vary quite a bit from state to state and even town to town.
1. Try the street food. Sure, everyone goes straight for the mole (that spicy chocolate sauce on chicken), and it’s certainly worth checking out. But a lot of people avoid the street food, which is actually incredible and shouldn’t be missed. I asked my boyfriend and my best friend what their favorite was, and all three of us came up with different options: tacos al pastor (pork roasted on a spit and served in little tortillas with pineapple, cilantro, and salsa), quesadillas con chorizo (a quesadilla the size of your forearm, stuffed with Oaxacan stringy cheese and bright red chorizo), and tlacoyos (triangles of tortilla dough filled with beans and covered in salsa and cheese). There are so many more options out there, so make sure you try at least one! (For best taste and hygiene, pick a place that has a lot of other people ordering food).