This morning we joined a Street Food Tour in Guanajuato, Mexico!
We met up with our tour guide Ashley (as well as one other worldschooling family from New Jersey) at 10am at the fuente (fountain) at the Jardin Embajadoras.
Our first stop was the Panaderia La Luna bakery. Guanajuato city is filled with local bakeries at every street corner, and what surprised us is that the goods in each bakery all look the same. This led us to believe perhaps there was 1 supplier that distributes to all the bakeries at once. We quickly realized that this was wrong, as each bakery actually has their own stone oven in the back where you can watch them baking their delicious goods fresh every day! At La Luna bakery, we sampled the local speciality – Conchas (shell). Their top is shaped like a shell, giving it it’s name, but tastes like absolute sweetness with a light coating of chocolate. They were still warm from the oven too! They reminded me a little bit of the Chinese pineapple buns we love so much at home, they have similar texture and sweetness, but instead of the flaky crisscross ‘pineapple’ top, these Conchas are coated with a light dusting of chocolate.
Next, we walked over to a baseball field just down the street.
As a city, Guanajuato developed as a city because of the discovery of the silver mines. The baseball fields were actually built in 1905 to give the miners an activity to do when they were not working, and it quickly became a popular sport. It was interesting to see such a large baseball field, nestled amongst the colonial buildings and eclectic architecture that gives Guanajuato it’s charm.
As we walked by to take a peak, there were people practicing that morning on the field
Next up, we walked back to Jardin Embajadoras to sample fresh pressed juices. While my kids opted for the safe option of Jugo Naranja (orange juice), I chose something more interesting called Green Juice, a blend of orange, pineapple, cactus and celery. Although I wasn’t able to taste the cactus, the celery was evident and the blend was fresh and delicious. I would definitely order it again!
Around the corner we were able to sample Tlacoyos – a street food native to the Mexican aboriginals. They are fried longer than the regular gorditas and quesadillas – filled with meat and queso (cheese) and then folded over and fried some more. As a result, they have a crispier harder shell and gives a crunch when you bite down on them. The kids enjoyed them, as did we.
As we continued our walk, we passed by numerous fresh produce stands and I learned about the Nopali (cactus leaves) which can be bought already cleaned and chopped up, or pre-cooked with onions and spices. I have not yet tried it but will definitely have to give it a shot before we leave this beautiful country. (Later I decided to give Nopali a try, and it has become one of my favourite Mexican dishes. It tastes like a cross between okra and green onion, but you have to be careful not to overcook it, as like okra, it can become slimey. I know it doesn’t sound great but fry them up with some onion, garlic and tomatoes, and believe me it’s delicious!)
Our tour continued with a pit stop at the famous Café Tal. This was not part of the street food tour, but since we were there, I simply had to sample the Beso Negro (sorry, I’m not translating that one! You’ll need to google that one for yourself!).
You can order this delectable hot chocolate in 30 oz or 60 oz cups, and it is basically a shot of divine melted chocolate! Not your typical hot chocolate for sure! The kids ended up fighting over who would get the next sip, and in the end they literally ripped open the paper cup to lick every last bit of chocolate left. Café Tal was a definite winner and must do particularly for those of you who are chocolate lovers! I have also heard great things about their coffee, but did not sample it this time around.
Our walk continued underneath Santo Café, which has tables set out on a little bridge that overlooks the walkway below. We haven’t eaten there yet, but we have heard and read great reviews. The walkway was historical as it was the path Miguel Hidalgo marched down with insurgents as one of the first movements in the Mexican War of Independence. We also stopped off to learn about Jorge Negrete, a famous mariachi musician who has a statue right outside his home where he lived. Along the way, Ashely our tour guide showed us the blue markers around the street walls with the words “Inundacion”. These were used to mark the flood levels during the great floods in Guanajuato. It was hard to imagine the water levels reaching such high points, and how the city had to cope with its aftermath.
Our next food sampling was a tamale wrapped with swiss chard. This was one of my favourites of the tour. Spicy, yet muted by the steamed leaves of swiss chard. I have never had this type of tamale before, so it was a special surprise.
We continued our walk through the Centro Bharati, where the city’s main water well was located back in the day. It as a quaint little plaza and we could imagine all the street vendors and people that used to fill this plaza many years ago. We stopped off for a quick peak in La Catrina, a shop selling sweets and beautiful handwoven baskets, but on the 2nd floor there are clay figurines of all sizes of skull artwork to celebrate Mexico’s Day of the Dead.
We then walked up toward the monument El Pipila at the very top of the city. On our way we encountered these warning signs of purse snatchers! In a city where we have felt very safe it, it felt almost out of place and strange. However, during the evenings perhaps it’s best to heed these warnings and only go up in groups or in daylight hours! The best part of our hike up (it was a tough hike for the kids as we were still acclimating to Guanajuato’s high elevation) was the mural along the stairwell. Here the artwork depicted the story of Guanajuato, from the aboriginals, to the silver mines, to the independence movement and El Pipila their local superhero. We were sad to read though that on the mural it showed the groups of greedy pigs that came to capitalize on the silver riches, first the Spaniards, then the Canadians….”! 🙁
When we finally reached the top, the view was all worth it! Sweeping views of the entire city below, it filled me with excitement, accomplishment and relief!
Our next food adventure was the Huilacoche quesadilla, a type of black corn fungus (like mushroom). Instead of a closed quesadilla like we are used to back home, this was left open-faced so it was like a pizza. It was delish!
We started our trek back down the hill through the labyrinth of colourful alleyways (going down was much quicker and easier!), and admired the old water well fountains along the way. The art and charm of this city never ceases to amaze me, every turn presents a new photo opportunity and inspiration.
Back in Centro we satiated our sweet tooth with the artisanal ice creams from La Garrafa Nieves. What flavour did I try? Queso! Yes that’s right – cheese. It was amazing! Definitely not what you think cheese ice cream would taste like. I encourage everyone to try it.
Our tour passed by the famed Calle de Beso, where it is believed that if you kiss on the step above the red step, your love will be blessed with 15 years of good luck! So of course Tony and I gave it a try, and our kids were completely grossed out and embarrassed they couldn’t even look haha!
Next we walked through the Mercado Hidalgo to sample Tortas (a sandwich filled with roast pork, and you add by self-serve pickled vegetables, guacamole, salsa, cilantro, onions and lime), and a stuffed poblano pepper.
Our last stop on our way to the Alonghiga (the grain storage facility that was the place of the first victory of the war of Independence) we picked up a bag of Garbanzos. This ended up as being my favourite street food of the day! They scoop the steaming hot beans into a bag, and add salt and them juice a fresh lime directly into the bag. It tasted similar to Edamame beans we enjoy back home, but with salt and zesty lime. I will definitely be back for more of these before we go.
The tour lasted about 4.5 hours and although the kids got pretty tired near the end, they did very well and we were happy they tried most of the street food with us. All in all it was a great tour filled with yummy food, a city tour, and a history lesson of the charming city of Guanjuato!
For a family of 4, it cost us 1100 pesos ($68.75 CAD) for this 4.5 hour walking tour and all the food & beverage samplings. Bear in mind this was a special discounted price for our Project Wordschool Summit conference attendance. It would normally be slightly higher at regular price.