A few years ago my friend Jesica and I were shopping at a market, and she pointed out some extra-large limes. "Mira, esa es nuestra lima." Look, that's our lime. She made me taste some -- I was a little wary of sticking half a lime in my mouth -- and I was amazed. The lima didn't taste like regular Mexican lime at all. It was like a pear crossed with a sweet orange, with an intense, floral perfume. From then on, I called lima "nuestra lima" just because I liked how that sounded. I tasted some at the markets when vendors offered ("Quiere lima guerita?"), but I never bought any because I didn't know what to do with it. Then, last week, after tasting an especially juicy lima at Mercado San Juan, I thought: what the hell have I been waiting for? I bought a kilo and decided to make agua fresca. When I got home that night, I squeezed the lima juice and added strawberries and a little sugar. The result was exactly what I'd imagined in my head: whisperingly sweet with a bite from the berries. And the smell! It could've come from a spray bottle. Or a flower bouquet. I served it to my friends Erik and Liz for dinner and Erik said: "This tastes like summer." Best compliment ever. My only duda, as they say, is that I don't know lima's official scientific name, therefore I don't know if you can find it outside Mexico. Ricardo Muñoz Zurita's Mexican Gastronomy Dictionary says they're citrus aurantifolia, but that doesn't sound correct, as these limes aren't tart or acidic. I think they may be citrus limetta. Anyone out there care to comment? Can you find these in the United States, Europe or elsewhere? In the meantime, if you live in Mexico, please make this agua fresca and sip it outside, preferably at sunset on a weekend night. You can find limas at Mercado San Juan or the Condesa Tuesday tianguis, and I'm sure elsewhere. Strawberry-Lima Agua Fresca* *Remember this is the Mexican sweet lime, not the tart limón Makes 12 cups, which four people can finish in one sitting, because it's THAT good Ingredients 1 cup fresh-squeezed lima juice (about eight limas) 12 strawberries, quartered 4 tablespoons sugar 12 cups water Directions I actually halve this recipe and make two batches, since my blender only holds 6 cups of water at a time. So place half of the above in the blender and blend until smooth. Strain into pitcher. Repeat with second batch and serve cold or room-temperature.
Around SP, a small company in São Paulo that offers tours of the city's cultural sites. I told my guide, Luis, that I wanted a culinary tour, so we zoomed off in his car one morning with plans to hit some of the city's markets, bakeries and dessert shops. The Food Tour Begins One of our first stops was a feira, or outdoor neighborhood market. It looked just like the tianguis: vendors had set up under plastic tarps, selling fruits and vegetables arranged into attractive piles. They called out to customers passing by. (This was no doubt the Portuguese equivalent of "We have papaya! 10 pesos a kilo!") The feira had things I'd never seen before: bulbous, thick squash shaped like a barbell; short spiky cucumbers; wild Brazilian cabbage known as couve, shredded and wrapped in plastic. Thick bulbs of garlic hung from ropes. Mounds of spices sat in large bowls -- whole cumin seeds, peppercorns, dried chilies. A big meat and seafood section lay beyond all the fruit, with the items displayed in neat rows inside plastic display cases. There were fresh sardines, calamari, and whole, fresh fish that I didn't recognize. I was kind of in awe about how orderly this section was. In Mexico all the meat sits out in the open and kind of piled on top of each other. Moving on: São Paulo's Mercado Municipão Toward the end of the day we stopped at São Paulo's Municipal Market, a huge indoor place filled with fish, produce, sausages, nuts, dried fruits, spices, thick blocks of guava ate, and even cacahuates japoneses. (In Portuguese they're called amendoim, and they come in barbecue flavor!) It was pretty much a gourmet-food lover's paradise. Bacalao, several varities, lay stacked maybe two feet high, next to linguica and soft cheeses, hard cheeses, olives. We tasted soft, spreadable catupiry cheese on crackers, and I looked at an oyster bar longingly, where people sat slurping and drinking beer. The market's second floor has a food court, where you can supposedly find the best mortadella sandwiches in the city. I still wasn't very hungry, so we walked around the fruit area. I tasted jabuticaba (pronounced jah-boo-chee-KA-bah), an oversize grape kind of like a capulín. And, best of all, I tasted cajú, the cashew fruit. Didn't know cashew came from a fruit, you say? I didn't either. The weird thing is that the cashew lies outside the fruit itself, like a little hat. You have to open the shell and fish out the cashew. The flesh itself, on the main part of the fruit, was the strangest thing I'd ever tasted -- rubbery, fibrous and juicy like a ripe peach. I think I laughed while I was eating it, because I didn't know what else to do. Here is a picture of the cajú, again: And the jabuticaba, which is fantastic in a caiparinha. And it apparently grows on trees, literally on the bark itself. Pão de queijo: The perfect end to a great day We finished our tour with a piece of pão de queijo, a stretchy, dense cheese bun made with tapioca flour. As a sidenote, I think I had pão de queijo every single day in Brazil. I think it might be the world's most perfect food. Rio de Janeiro photos coming next!On my second day in town I booked a tour with
I'd been dragging my feet on buying a tamale steamer pot, called a tamalera, for weeks. It's a big, bulky steel thing, bigger (I imagined) than a stock pot. I wasn't entirely sure where to buy it. Or whether I'd be able to carry it home. Part of me also feared the whole buying process, because I had no idea what I was doing. How do you say "four-chambered steamer" in Spanish? What did a tamale steamer even look like up-close? What if some random vendor knew I was a foreigner, and decided to rip me off? ...
If you've got a few minutes, check out my guest post over on Ever The Nomad, a travel blog maintained by writer Anja Mutic. I wrote about three of my favorite Mexico City markets and why they're so great. (Hint: pig uterus tacos, anyone?) Be sure to leave a comment if you like what you read, or if you have your own favorite market experience.