Puebla Dining

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Puebla Dining
Every state or region of Mexico has made a specific contribution to Mexican culinary history and modern-day cuisine; Puebla is certainly among the states best-known for its influence, with dishes like Mole Poblano and chiles en nogada.
By Julie Schwietert Collazo, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by Carver Mostardi/age fotostock
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    Mole Poblano
    Mole became famous outside Mexico thanks to the novel Like Water for Chocolate, which includes an elaborate recipe for the complicated dish. What many people don't know is that there are many different kinds of mole, with several Mexican states having their own specialty; Puebla's is Mole Poblano. One place to enjoy this obligatory culinary experience is at El Mural de los Poblanos, just off the zócalo. In addition to the brown-hued Mole Poblano, which has more than 20 ingredients, El Mural offers two other typical Puebla moles: pipián verde and pipián rojo.
    Photo by Carver Mostardi/age fotostock
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    Try Mexican Caviar
    If you're eager to expand your palate, Puebla is an ideal place to do so. In addition to its many regional specialties, such as mole, the city offers some unusual exotic eats, too. One popular dish is escamoles, or ant eggs, which might be served fried in butter or mixed with scrambled eggs or meat. The eggs, which are considered as much a delicacy as caviar, are plump and slightly sweet, about the size of a pine nut, and are only in season around Easter. The eggs are prized because they are challenging to harvest from the aggressive ants that lay them in underground nests at the base of maguey plants. If you're eager to try them, you can do so at several local restaurants, including Casa de los Muñecos.
    Photo by Nicholas Lundgaard
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    The Maguey Worm
    Pickled in the bottom of a bottle of cheap mezcal isn't the only way to try another delicacy—the gusano de maguey, or maguey worm—and it's definitely not the best way. Like Mexican caviar, the maguey worm is only in season in early spring, and once extracted from the plant, the high-calorie, nutritionally rich worm can be fried and eaten hand-to-mouth as a snack or wrapped up in a tortilla, mixed with other ingredients. Don't expect the humble worm to come cheap; as with ant eggs, this delicacy is pricey, given its seasonality and the hard work of obtaining it. Try it in the summer at Puebla's Casa de los Muñecos.
    Photo by Felicity Rainnie
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    Puebla's Top Tables
    As is the case in most of Mexico's cities, Puebla offers a full range of culinary experiences at a variety of price points, from street food that costs only a few pesos to high-class fare that might set you back a day's paycheck. If you're looking for a place to splurge, Bistro 702 and Casareyna are excellent options; both serve Mexican cuisine. The menu of the former includes traditional cuts of meat, such as beef filet or chicken breast, topped with salsas and creams made of local ingredients such as squash flower or huitlacoche—corn fungus, a delicacy. Casareyna's menu is particularly recommended if you're interested in trying some of Puebla's signature traditional dishes, including the patriotic chiles en nogada.
    Photo by David Loftus/age fotostock
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    Cooking Classes
    If you want to take the taste of Puebla home with you, there are some ingredients you can buy, of course, but you need to know what to do with them. Also take home some recipes and techniques gained during a cooking class, where you can learn to make traditional Poblano dishes. The restaurant El Mural de los Poblanos offers occasional culinary workshops, where you can learn to make mole, pipián (a rich sauce), and—if the season is right—chiles en nogada, escamoles (ant eggs), and gusanos de maguey (maguey worm). Each class includes instruction, cocktails, and tastings, and lasts approximately three hours. For more intensive classes, Mesónes Sacristía has a weeklong culinary workshop package with lodging.
    Photo by John Galante
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    Puebla's Street Eats
    Puebla may not be as big as Mexico's capital city, but it can hold its own when it comes to dining options, which include a number of street food stands, stalls, and mobile vendors. You can find them on the edges of the zócalo, in and around markets like Mercado Melchor Ocampo El Carmen, and on side streets. Look for popular Puebla eat-and-run specialties such as cemitas (sandwiches stuffed with beef or pork and topped with queso panela—a local cheese—avocado, chilies, papálo—an herb—and onions), pelonas (another type of sandwich), and tacos árabes ("Arab" tacos, which are similar to shawarma).
    Photo by Daniel Dionne
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    Take a Puebla Food Tour
    The outfitter Eat Mexico offers three food tours of Puebla, each facilitated by a local culinary expert. A Taste of Puebla takes guests on a tasty journey during which they try six iconic foods from Puebla, while the custom Mole Tour focuses exclusively on Puebla's most famous contribution to Mexico's culinary canon. Guests can opt to end the mole tour with a meal or a cooking class. The third tour, Chiles en Nogada, is offered July–September, the season when this popular, patriotic dish (stuffed chilies in a walnut sauce with pomegranate seeds, comprising all three colors of the Mexican flag) appears on menus across the country. This once-a-year tour includes a cooking demonstration led by a chef and culinary anthropologist.
    Photo by Daniel Dionne
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    Liquid Puebla
    Sure, Poblanos like their domestic beer and wine, as well as popular Mexican spirits such as tequila and mezcal, but they're also proud of the local tipple, la pasita. A sweet liqueur made of raisins and served in an elongated shot glass with a cube of salty cheese, try it at Puebla's oldest cantina, the eponymous La Pasita, which is nearly 100 years old. Staff here also make several other fruit-based liqueurs, including coconut, lime, pineapple, and blackberry with hibiscus flower, and are happy to serve up the liqueurs with a side of stories about past patrons who have tested their limits drinking them.
    Photo courtesy of the Tourism Board of Puebla
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    Rooftop Bars
    If a city could be famous for its rooftops, Puebla would set the standard for aesthetic charm. Though the city is best-known for its exceptionally well-preserved colonial buildings, which have earned it UNESCO World Heritage status, some of the most interesting and beautiful architectural features are best appreciated from above. They're even better, of course, with a cup of coffee or a cocktail in hand. There are several upper-floor and rooftop cafés in Puebla where you can enjoy the view, including one at Museo Amparo. The glass-encased terrace is lovely enough, thanks to its garden, but take a seat at a window-side table and admire the angles and textures that define Puebla's rooftops while sipping on a café con leche.
    Photo courtesy of the Tourism Board of Puebla
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    Sweet Puebla
    As is the case with entrées, each of Mexico's states and regions is also known for particular types of candies, pastries, and other sweet treats; Puebla does not disappoint the visitor in search of a sugar rush. An entire street, appropriately named Calle de los Dulces (Street of the Sweets), is where you'll find typical Poblano pastries and candies, including sweet potato dulces de camote, and muéganos—sticky, marble-sized balls of dough made sweet using piloncillo sugar and then stuck together. Many of Puebla's sweets are believed to have originated in the city's convent during the colonial era, including Tortitas de Santa Clara, a cookie topped with a sweet cream made of pumpkin seeds.
    Photo by Wendy Connett/age fotostock