Cancun – Mercado 23 and poblanos and red pepper tacos recipe
Don’t be mad at me. I am writing this post sitting on a lounge chair on the beach at Chac Al Hal Bay with my toes in the cool white sand and gaze occasionallyat the unparalleled view of turquoise waters, a few palapas and a fishing boat or two in the distance. The Christmas crowd has come and gone and the resort village is back to the few die hard regulars that fell love with this charming and authentic (sort of) part of the world and spend their winters living here. Should I order a piña colada?
Yesterday we piled in the rental car and drove to Cancun. I have been meaning to check out their local market known as Mercado 23. The 23 comes from the way Canucn is divided into districts, and the mercado is in district 23. This is the market locals go to, and there is another market, Mercado 28, set up more for tourists.
Directions were provided by Lorenzo who together with his lovely wife chef Claudia run the Can Cook in Cancun must go to cooking school. One of the places I wanted to check at the market was a store recommended by Claudia during the class I took from her a few weeks ago. She cooked a beautiful soup in an earthenware pot that I wanted to get. She suggested I check Artisanal Hidalgo shop at the market square where they carry an abundance of authentic Mexican cookware.
The market is located behind the fire station (Bombero) on the corner of Avenida Tulum and Avenida Chichen Itza. Sure enough we missed the fire station and drove past it for a few blocks before we realized that we have gone too far. We pulled over to ask a police officer standing on the corner and he put us back on track even allowing us to make a U turn right where we where. We encounter such hospitality here all the time.
This time we located the Bombero station, drove around to the back, found the perfect parking spot and proceeded by foot to explore the Mercado. This is not a European style market with picture perfect visuals. It was smallish and set along few narrow alleys some covered with tarp or makeshift roofs. One section was dedicated to meat and chicken but we passed through this section quickly. The dead yellow chickens hanging from hooks off the ceiling and piles of salted pork rind or whatever that was had no appeal to me whatsoever. My thing is fresh produce, herbs, spices, grains and legumes. And there was plenty of that, enough to get me quite trigger happy with my camera.
Most of the produce was concentrated in a couple of indoor shops along a narrow corridor. From the rafters hung balloon like parcels of dried corn husks and clusters of ripening bananas. In other section herbs were tied and hung from the ceiling. I was snapping along with my camera entertaining the guys selling the beautiful produce. Bundles of herbs were keeping fresh in buckets and rows of papayas, pineapples, peppers and other vegetables were beautifully displayed in boxes. I have to say that the produce at Mercado 23 appeared superior to what we get at the local supermarket.
Although my fridge in the condo was already full (when isn’t it?) and we didn’t really intend to shop at the market the quality of the produce was irresistible. We settled on a bagful of big and shiny poblano peppers, red peppers, bundles of the freshest looking epazote (an herb they cook beans with) and a few spices scooped up from sacks piled to the top with all kinds of spices. That was fun.
From there we went searching for the Artisanal Hidalgo store and found it around the corner housed in a red building. It was a large shop with long shelves stacked with earthenware cookware of every size, shape and form. There was also touristy stuff but easy to skip. The pots that Claudia cooked in where all there in various shapes and sizes as wel as the coffee cips she used to serve the fabulous coffee before class on her patio. We didn’t buy the whole store for obvious reasons of transport and no room at home for too much new stuff but I did get a few things I can use at home to remind me of this place and add a touch of authenticity to my stab at Mexican cuisine.
In spite of several eateries at the market with wonderful authentic looking foods and local people enjoying it we decided to “rough it” for lunch and headed to my favourite “roughing it” destination: the Ritz Carlton in a Cancun. I am a woman of contradictions. Just when you thought I would eat at the market like the locals I surprise you and go to a hotel. Remember that I consider myself a luxury hotel conoisseur and that is also part of my research and rituals. I love sitting on the patio at the beach restaurant at the Ritz for lunch and a margarita (“poquito alcohol por favor”) and then walk it off along the gorgeous seven mile stretch of white sand and turquoise water. I think if I don’t show up at the Ritz the management would complain.
We had a lovely lunch and great a Ritz service and walked the beach for a while, bare feet in the sand at the edge of the water. I couldn’t resist a dip in the beautiful warm Caribbean Sea, how can I?
We eventually made it back home after stopping at Zingara for a couple of new beach coverups. One can never have enough of those.
We came home ready for dinner and I wanted to use the fresh produce we bought. I decided to make a filling for tortillas or use the pepper mixture to serve alongside Mexican yellow rice. Remember, I cook vegetarian.
I sautéed the red pepper strips together with onion and garlic in a little oil and roasted and peeled the poblano peppers, cutting them into strips. I then added the poblano strips to the sautéing pepper and added a few pieces of Manchego to melt it over everything. It was delicious filling for the fresh corn tortilla we picked up at the village on the way home.
It’s a simple meal but this is how we like to eat.
Poblano and red pepper tacos
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 red peppers cut into strips, seeds and pith removed
1 small white onion, cut into strips
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 poblano peppers
1 cup Manchego cut in cubes
A handful cilantro
Salt and pepper
Heat up the oil in a large skillet, add the onion and cook until softened.
Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant but be careful not yo burn it.
Add the red pepper strips and cook until the soften.
Add safe and pepper.
If you have a gas burner roast the poblano so over a gas flame until the sking us chared and blackened on all sides.
Let cool and then remove the charred sking under running water.
Pull off the stem end together with the seeds and discard. If you wNt a less spicy flavour joy can cut off the pith and remove remaking seeds. The heat of the poblano us mostly in the pith and seeds.
Cut the poblano I to strips, not too thin.
Add the poblano strips to the red pepper and stir a couple of minutes to combine.
Add the cheese and stir on low heat until it begins to melt.
Add the cilantro and mix it in, not too much.
Warm up the corn tortillas.
Serve the pepper filling with the tortillas along with Mexican crema or sour cream.