Oaxacan cuisine is at once some of the most traditional and the most unusual in all of Mexico. The Spanish influence dates to the beginning of the Conquest (Hernán Cortés was the valley’s marquis), whence their cecina, sailors’ meat dating from Roman times. Before the Conquest, Oaxaca was the crossroads for all Mesoamerican commerce and from that it acquired its nickname, the Land of the Seven Moles. Centuries before some desperate nuns invented mole poblano, Oaxaca had perfected el coloradito, el rojo, el manchamanteles, el verde, el amarillo, el chichilo, and el negro.
Near the northwest corner of Mercado Hidalgo you’ll find a Oaxacan delicatessen now called both “La Oaxaqueña” and “Cemitas La China Poblana”. It’s been around for years, forever popular as the source of regional ingredients such as cacao beans, prepared chocolate, black beans, clayudas , cheese, and three of the region’s seven moles. They also prepare and serve traditional meals (cecina, tasajo, asiento, mole negro con pollo, mole amarillo de res, tamales oaxaqueños) and snacks (queso petate asado, chapulines, entomatados, memelas, empanadas) at three informal dining tables. Even their horchata uses an elaborately traditional recipe that calls for cactus fruit, nuts, and cantaloupe.
One thing that La Oaxaqueña has been famous for is their selection of traditional regional breads, yemas, resobados, amarillos, molletes, and conchitas. These have been made for the shop by an artisan baker who comes from Puebla. When the original owners of La Oaxaqueña retired recently, the baker bought the place and added his own touch. They now also sell poblano breads (cemitas, fiestas, hojaldre ) and have added to their menu many dishes typical of Puebla.
The overall atmosphere of the place continues to be Oaxacan, of course. Even the ofrenda that they put up every year includes Oaxacan patron saints, mezcal, and the local form of pan de muerto.
The Mercado Hidalgo photo album can be viewed at http://picasaweb.google.com/real.tijuana/MercadoHidalgo#slideshow/