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The joys of Oaxaca’s take-out food scene

When you go to a restaurant in Oaxaca, while you’re waiting for your meal, the waiter will often bring you a variety of complimentary salsas and tostadas to much on. And when you’re served your meal, that could be accompanied by another set of salsas, hot sauces, and bowls of spices, fresh herbs, and garnishes for you to customize your meal. I just want you to know that none of that variety and flavor is lost when you order take-out or delivery on an app like UberEats or DiDi. Getting food delivered in Oaxaca was often like getting a DIY culinary fun kit delivered. 

In Oaxaca, I had an apartment with a kitchen when I was at La Calera. The fridge came in handy for storing the bags and bags of salsa that places would send me when I made a takeout order. Just ordering delivery twice a week meant I was never lacking in green salsa, red salsa, guacamole, tortillas, limes or roasted onions. And it is at a level that’s unique in Mexico. You order take-out in Mexico City, you’ll get a lime or two thrown in. You order take-out in Oaxaca, you’ll get enough limes to make buckets of margaritas for a whole party. And let’s talk about those onions…

A cardboard tray filled with fire-grilled onions. The tinfoil covering is pulled back. Several of the onion skins are charred black.
These fire-caressed cebollitas were so soft and savoury.

An advantage of the food delivery apps is that many street taco stalls are on there, and they’re in places that would’ve been difficult for me to get to on foot. The online menu also gave me a chance to translate things and learn about foods. A simple garnish I’d never tried before but ordered constantly with my tacos were fire roasted onions. Look for cebollas a la parrilla or cebollas asadas or just cebollas or cebollitas. They’ll have a black charred outer skin that you peel away for the softest little onion falling apart inside.

Close up of a tlayuda. From between the folds of toasted tortilla, small brown things are spilling out on the paper wrapper. The brown things are fried crickets.
Tlayuda con chapulines. Those dark brown pieces spilling out on the paper wrapper? They're crickets.

Oaxaca Take-out Specialties to Try

There are a lot of places with cow brain tacos (cabeza de res) but that’s not really my thing. Here are five specialties I’d order in (or eat in restaurants) while in Oaxaca: 

  1. Tlayuda con Chapulines – A large tortilla folded over cheese and crickets, toasted to a crispy exterior. This won’t be a garnishing of crickets. That tlayuda will be completely stuffed with crickets.
  2. Pozole – A stew to beat all stews. Packed with hominy, specially treated maize kernels. If you order from a restaurant that specializes in pozole, they’ll most likely send you packets of spices, vegetables, limes and chilis so you can prepare your pozole to your taste. 
  3. Quesadillas de Flor de Calabaza – I ate so many pumpkin blossoms last time I was in Oaxaca, I don’t know if there will be any pumpkins this year. You’ll be shoving all of your flowers in cheese after a few of these.
  4. Huitlacoche Memelas – Memelas are thicker than your typical tortilla and they have fried beans smeared on them before the toppings go on, like corn smut fungus (huitlacoche). It’s just like any mushroom. You can learn more about huitlacoche here. Enjoy! 
  5. Mole Coloradito – A good mole is a multi-layered flavor adventure of smokey sweet vegetables, earthy spices, sharp chilies, and with the coloradito: coffee notes of dark chocolate. Have buckets of it delivered to your door!

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