I’m friendly with the guy who sells me chiles and mole paste at Mercado Medellín. Over the years we’ve talked about me visting him in San Pedro Atocpan, the village where he lives, about 90 minutes southeast of the city center.
San Pedro is part of the delegación de Milpa Alta, which, along with Tlalapan, makes up the southernmost area of the Distrito Federal. (Think about that. You can ride a bus for 90 minutes in this city and you’re still within the city limits.)
A few weeks ago I finally had a weekend free, and so Crayton and I and our friend Chris rode the pesero out to San Pedro early one Sunday morning. The bus took us through Xochimilco, and then on a windy, two-lane road lined with cactus and corn. San Pedro is known for its mole, so I figured we’d check out a few markets and then have mole for lunch. I didn’t count on being completely hypnotized by the food.
The Milpa Alta Market
Once arriving in San Pedro, we took another pesero to Milpa Alta, a slightly larger city nestled in the hills. The produce there was even more gorgeous than in Xochimilco.
At a tianguis in front of the market, vendors sold local bluish-red corn, rabbits, herbs I’d never seen, quelites, and piles of wild mushrooms.
This was just on the sidewalk. Erik, my friend, ushered us inside the market and vendors were selling wild mushroom tamales. I’ve never seen or heard of a wild mushroom tamale in three years of living in Mexico City. It was divine — picture meaty bits of mushroom, soaked in a green chile sauce.
A home-cooked meal in San Pedro Atocpan
I was happy just having gone to the tianguis in Milpa Alta. But Erik and his family had prepared a big spread for us at his house, with several local foods: mixiotes, esquites, fava bean salad, three types of mole. Everything tasted just as good as it looked.
When in San Pedro Atocpan… try the chicharrón
There was a bowl of chicharrón on the table at Erik’s house, and I’m telling you, it was the best chicharrón I’ve had, ever. It was this deep-brown caramel color, and thick and crunchy, not like the wimpy beige stuff I usually see in the markets where I live.
I asked Erik why it was so good and he said: “It’s homemade.”
I thought all chicharrón in Mexico was homemade? If anyone out there knows the difference between the two chicharrónes — the beige, more mainstream variety and the rustic dark-brown stuff — I’d love to hear about it.
I’m planning another visit out there hopefully in the next few months. If you’re interested in visiting yourself, San Pedro Atocpan is hosting a mole festival through the end of October.
Who is Mija?
Mija is Lesley Téllez, a food writer and culinary guide in New York City. I spent four years in Mexico's Distrito Federal, which launched my deep love for Mexican food and culture. In 2010 I co-founded the tourism company Eat Mexico.
Be kind, ask permission!All photos on this site were taken by me, unless otherwise noted. If you'd like to use a photo, please email me.
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