Mexico! The contrast, the culture, the mountains, the lakes, the beaches, and the food. Oh, the food! Let me tell you about a story that goes all the way to Zipolite in Mexico.
In 2010, UNESCO declared Mexican Cuisine as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
For many, it came as no surprise since traveling in Mexico makes you realize how many different foods, flavors, smells, customs, and ancient cooking techniques you ignore.
Although a lot of Mexicans’ cuisine relies on meat, an equally important part of it is plant-based.
Think beans, corn, tomatoes, and avocado, all with Mexico, Central, and South American Origins.
Did you know that avocados originated in South-Central Mexico a couple of thousand years B.C.? The Hass variety is the most famous but there are about five hundred varieties.
Did you know that there are about twelve thousand varieties of corn? They were all originated in Mexico.
Each of these crops deserves an article on its own. Still, I come to save a special place here for them because after living in Mexico for seven years, I learned about varieties that I didn’t know existed and new ways to prepare and cook them.
The Corn (Maize)
I found it interesting that corn is so central to Mexican gastronomy; bread doesn’t have the share it enjoys in most of the occidental tables, which means less wheat, less gluten, and less celiac population.
Coming from Panama, giving a chance to corn in my meals wasn’t strange; it was more of a change for Joaco. Seven years after, one of the several things that we miss from Mexico is hand-made corn tortillas.
In Mexico, they use an ancient technique to treat the corn, which gives it a unique taste thus these exquisite tortillas are not easy to get anywhere else in the world.
Nixtamalization was born 3500 years ago in Mesoamerica, now Mexico and Central America. In this process, the corn is soaked and cooked in an alkaline solution, usually limewater, washed, and then hulled.
Nixtamalized corn has several benefits over unprocessed grain: it is more easily ground; its nutritional value is increased; its flavor and aroma are improved.
You can usually find yellow and blue corn tortillas and green and red if you explore further.
Tortillas are at the center of Mexican Cuisine. You can turn anything into a taco, that’s what makes things interesting: from street food to high-end Michelin acclaimed restaurants, tacos will be on the menu.
All Mexicans and visitors that have ever tasted Tacos love them!
In case you are not initially captivated by the corn tortillas’ flavor, you can start flirting with tacos eating wheat tortillas. You can find wheat tortillas everywhere, but it is just not the real thing.
Tacos will get into you, either little by little or love at first bite. When you get back from vacation, you will be already missing them.
A very good way to get acquainted with complexity of Mexican Food is getting to know the Mole.
Mole is a traditional sauce or marinade. People use mole on top of many dishes. Its history goes back to the XVII century with different versions going from mistakes to the willingness to create something incredibly different to honor special guests’ visits.
People usually eat Mole on top of chicken accompanied by rice and corn tortillas.
Mole has about 50 variations around Mexico, and two states in Mexico claim its origin, Puebla (Mole Poblano) and Oaxaca (Mole Oaxaqueño).
Initially, Mole had more than one hundred ingredients including chiles, chocolate, and almonds. Today this number varies depending on the Mole and the region.
We came to know Zipolite in a very particular way. Joaco and I had just moved to Mexico a couple of days ago. We decided to make a road trip to get to know Mexico better. We had no particular destination.
After spending a couple of nights in different towns and many hours driving, we arrived at the south’s coast, aiming to get to Puerto Escondido, a popular beach destination. It was nighttime and we didn’t know where we were going to spend the night.
The first hotel that came up on my Blackberry was El Alquimista (my favorite nudist resort). We called immediately with an intermittent signal. They had one room available. We accepted, and as soon as we hung up, we checked on the map to realize we were another forty-five minutes away.
El Alquimista, Zipolte, also has, in my opinion, one of the best restaurant in town.
We have been coming back repeatedly every year.
People from that region are incredibly warm. They live in a different rhythm. Oaxaca has beaches, prices, and gastronomy that can satisfy backpackers and luxury-seeking tourists.
I highly recommend you to get a USD 65-90 cabin for two in front of the beach. We just kept going back to the same hotel and the same room. We have gone several times and the prices always vary depending on how busy are during the time of the year.
After getting up in the morning, stepping into white sands as you open your cabin’s door, maybe toppless or nude (as Zipolite is a clothing-optional beach), and taking twenty steps to get a customized breakfast, there is no way back.
Playa del Amor is the name of the famous nudist beach in Zipolite.
Getting to Zipolite
Getting to Zipolite is easy, just book yourself a flight to either Huatulco or Puerto Escondido airport.
From Puerto Escondido to Zipolite I recommend getting a private taxi which will take about one hour. From Huatulco to Zipolite the distance is about the same, one hour by car. Zipolite is halfway between Huatulco and Puerto Escondido, so just look at which airport connection or fare is better for you since it won’t make a difference.
If you plan to move between the beautiful beaches in the area, I highly recommend renting a car. Starting from fifteen minutes away ,you have beautiful beaches such as Mazunte and San Agustinillo.
If you like to surf, Zipolite is a great place to surf but the surfing mecca is Zicatela, a beach that is situated fifteen minutes south from Puerto Escondido.
Being Plant-Based in Zipolite
On our first trips to Zipolite, we ate fresh and local seafood. After we embraced a plant-based lifestyle, we were surprised by the cooks’ ability to veganize any dish! Truly Amazing!
I was in the middle of my one-year Gastronomy Program in Mexico City. While I was making a vegetarian request to Fernanda, our waiter, we started speaking about Mexican cuisine. At the slow-paced Zipolite, she had the time and loved the topic.
Suddenly, she opened her eyes widely and said: I have an idea!
She took out her phone, sent a text and gave us a great smile offering us to come to her mothers’ beach-front kitchen.
Teo taught us all the secrets of the Oaxacan Mole. A seventeen ingredients one.
Teo, gave me the most amazing cooking class I have experienced in my life. I hope some of these photo portray it.
I leave you with the top 10 things we love about Zipolite and its surroundings:
- Two International airports on the vicinities: Huatulco and Puerto Escondido.
- Zicatela is one of the many beaches and is famous among the surfer’s community for its waves.
- The Mexican food world heritage.
- The art-craft (have a look at the Alebrijes).
- The boat rides to watch thousands of dolphins and discover tiny beaches.
- The affordability of the hotels.
- Is clothing-optional.
- The pristine beaches.
- Is off the tourist trail.
- Good weather most of the year.