If you ask me, the best part of any reporting trip is the food, and there is always a surfeit of advice on where to get the best local fare.
In Guadalajara, I’ve learnt that there are three dishes that must be tried to get a taste of Jalisco.
Torta ahogada, or “drowned cake” is perfect for lunch– a bit like a roast beef sandwich, but dressed up and delightfully named in a way that perfectly captures the point of the dish.
The torta, a salty, hearty bread, is sliced and stuffed with roast meat in cuts flavourful and possibly a bit exotic to foreign tongues (in fact, tongue is a very good cut to get in your torta). The sandwich is then “drowned” in a thin tomato soup, dressed with brined and lightly spiced onions, hot sauce and cilantro.
The flavours blend in just the right way, but the magic of the dish, I’m told, is the torta, which can only be had in Guadalajara. The texture of the bread is made special by the minerals in its waters and the altitude where it is risen. “If you get it anywhere else, it will not taste the same,” Rogelio, our fixer, tells me. In fact, a shop that sells tortas ahogadas in Mexico City only operates because tortas are flown in from Jalisco every morning, he claims.
Heartiness is a theme in the traditional fare of Jalisco. Birria, a kind of goat stew, will make you want to have a cat nap, or “un coyotito”, as Guadalajarans say.
Then, there is the brilliantly dubbed “carne en su jugo”– “meat in its own juice”– that is every bit as tasty as it sound. Beef is cooked in a clay pot with onions, salt, stock and garlic, and served in a bowl that reminds me a bit of pho, the Vietnamese noodle soup, but without the noodles, perhaps because it is dressed with jalapeños and lime, too.
On one afternoon, following a particularly gruelling bit of reporting, our translator, Lorenza, insisted on taking us to her favourite joint for carne en su jugo.
Her father used to take her out for the dish made by the chefs there, she said, relishing in its familiar aromas.
Listening to her story and filling our bellies, it felt like we could taste a bit of home, too.
Boer Deng, Fall 2018 Mexico Reporting Fellow