A City Covered in Ash – Day 5, Puebla, on the Edge of the Volcano
After the market yesterday we walked and walked searching for a bar / cantina to grab a few drinks and watch the basketball playoffs. Nothing. We asked around and heard rumors of a spot far away, but pretty much we just toured downtown Puebla. It is a cool little city, narrow streets packed in and buildings no higher than 4 stories. Parts of it feel a lot like Santa Fe, NM, while other parts feel like Florence, Italy. We still are the only caucasians in town, and we catch people looking at us a lot.
Come dinner time, unsure of where to go, we randomly ran into a local named Andres. First he wanted to take a photo with us, which lead to a lively conversation, and eventually we all headed to his favorite little taco place, serving Tacos Arabes.
Tacos Arabes is a staple in Puebla cuisine. Pork and Onions layered on a spit and slowly roasted in front of coals. Much like Al Pastor, it is sliced thinly to order, however with the Arabes it is served on a pita style tortilla. It was introduced in the 1930’s by middle eastern immigrants. It is now considered the most popular fast food in Puebla with over 300 vendors.
We were brought to a spot called Tacos of Baghdad, and for a little less than $10 US over a kilo (2.2lbs) of shaved Arabes meat plus tortillas arrived at our table. They serve them super simple, with only lime wedges and salsa. It fed the three of us plus we sent home half of it with our new friend.
Starting our day the next morning, at the hotel cafe, we ordered chilaquiles in a red sauce with shredded chicken, and a ham and cheese omelette. Simple flavors, but a nice start to the day.
We had seen photos of this beautiful temple on the hill outside of town and we really wanted to check it out. On further research it was the tallest pyramid left in the area.
The entrance to the temple was through a winding series of tunnels that were maybe 6 ft high and no more than 3 ft wide. We followed the main path, but they had multiple offshoots heading in all directions, some caved in, some leading up, down, every direction. It was creepy in the coolest way. At one point in time, this was probably a maze you could have gotten seriously lost in. As it was, it took us 15 minutes to briskly “escape.” Out of the tunnels, we climbed up a series of steep stairways and ramps to reach the temple. The temple was simple, but beautifully decorated in gold.
As we meandered down into town we stumbled upon another market by complete mistake. We were relieved to see stands packed with ripe, fresh produce. Fish stands that were clean and organized. The meat stalls were busy with butchers, and the cemita stands the same. The entire market was pristine, the produce for the most part top quality even to my standards, and we left with huge smiles.
Rather famished when we got back into town, we rushed into a horrible decision and chose a restaurant that nobody was in—a big no-no when traveling. A note here for all of you, when traveling ALWAYS eat where others are eating. The place looked authentic and unique at first glance, but we soon realized we had made a mistake. The food was not bad—it was really bad! The mole poblano was drowned in sauce that was not well balanced, and the chile en nogada was way too sweet and stuffed with beans that were raw. We have not gotten sick yet, but we are crossing our fingers.
A bottle of tequila was purchased on our way home to kill off the potential bacteria we had in our body. And here is a trick for all of you: if you like palomas and you want to save money, buy a cheap bottle of tequila, which is easy in Mexico, and a liter of fresca grapefruit. This is what the bars sell anyway, and you can do it for a third of the price.