El Mercado de la Acocota is situated in an old working class neighborhood just off the center of old colonial Puebla. I was taken there by Rebecca Smith Hurd as part of her walking tour of Poblano street food to have a cemita milanesa at Semitas “Beto” which lies in its heart. The cemita was outstanding, but I was totally taken in by the market’s charm.
As markets go in Mexico, it isn’t particularly large, but it has loads of character. It was festooned with color and aromas that tempt around every bend. We arrived to streamers of chorizo festooned from stalls selling meat…
…and were greeted by the head of a recently departed pig smiling at us from beyond as it hung from a hook trying to entice a hungry shopper.
A big issue in Mexico right now is the competition from cheap internacional produce, whether black beans from Michigan or ersatz chiles poblanos from China. Hurd stopped to point out that the Chinese peppers tend to be larger, less misshapen and have an aroma more like green bell peppers, while the native peppers have a more distinctive aroma that smells like, well, chile poblano – earthier, deeper and spicier. Both were available at this market.
Dried chiles are a dear staple of Mexican cooking, a way to preserve and use a seasonal product to make it even better and more valuable than in its original state.
The chicken stalls were everywhere with their saturated yellow wares. Like the pig that greeted us earlier, we were also welcomed by upside down hanging chickens.
We witnessed the process of taking the chicken from whole to a pile of parts. The chickens looked and smelled extremely fresh. While I can get good, true free-range chicken where I live, I was still jealous of the quality, cost and ease of purchase here. I also loved the honesty of the process on display for all to see. Real chicken meat comes from a real animal.
Nopales are leaves of a particular cactus that has many uses in Mexican cuisine, from cooked strips or rajas to an intensely colored and flavorful juice. They are as beautiful as they are tasty. They also require some work to be ready for market.
Poblanas love their traditions and one of the most revered culinary traditions is that of Chiles en Nogada during July, August and September. This dish which fuses walnuts, poblanos and pomegranates with a number of other ingredientsis everywhere in Puebla during the season, including grouping many of the raw ingredients together for convenient purchasing.
I could have easily spent much more time exploring this wonderful market, but alas, we were low on time since I had to catch a bus back to Mexico City and we weren’t finished with our tour. For the complete photo set, please visit here. For photos and description of the semitas at “Beto” please read this post.