Mexico’s color and creativity are reflected in its wonderful food. Though San Miguel de Allende and the surrounding region aren’t well known for their distinctive culinary traditions, there are several dishes and some unusual ingredients that are frequent features of regional cuisine. If you want to get a taste of the highlands, here’s what to order.
Gorditas are thick corn flatbreads, grilled and stuffed with fillings like cheese, chile peppers, chicken, or beans. Gorditas are sold by street vendors and in market stalls throughout the region. For freshly made gorditas with a range of savory fillings, check out El Comal de Doña Meche in San Miguel de Allende, or try the larger Querétaro-style gordita at the Mercado de la Cruz in Querétaro.
A hearty meal suited to a hungry workman, these cheese-stuffed “miner’s enchiladas” are bathed in guajillo chile sauce and topped with a generous serving of sautéed potatoes, carrots, and cheese. Fill your stomach with this regional specialty at Truco 7 or the Mercado Hidalgo in Guanajuato. Very similar to enchiladas mineras, enchiladas queretanas are also bathed in a guajillo sauce; find them at Cenaduria Blas in Querétaro.
Nopal, or prickly pear cactus, is a popular vegetable throughout Mexico and abundant in the highlands around San Miguel. It is often served as a stuffing in gorditas or grilled whole and served with cheese. One tasty stew served throughout the region features chopped nopal with garbanzo beans and cilantro. Find nopal in San Miguel at the Mercado Ignacio Ramírez, where you can buy it both fresh and prepared, and at Hecho en Mexico, where you can order it as a grilled side dish.
Throughout Mexico, the tuna (prickly pear fruit) is consumed whole or blended into ice cream and aguas. In the Bajío, a type of sour tuna called xoconostle is used in regional dishes as well as in sweets, where it takes on a pleasingly tart flavor. Buy some from Santa Rosa de Lima’s Conservas Santa Rosa, or try a tangy xoconostle-mezcal cocktail at wonderful Las Mercedes in Guanajuato.
Popular here and in the Valley of Mexico, mixiotes are slow-cooked meats (typically rabbit, chicken, lamb, and pork) wrapped in maguey leaves and steamed in an underground pit. While in San Miguel, you can order mixiotes at the rooftop restaurant La Posadita, or try them in a casual setting at El Pato.
Pulque de Tuna
Pulque is a fermented, lightly alcoholic drink from the heart of the maguey, which has been produced in Mexico since the pre-Columbian era. During the Bajío’s abundant prickly pear season, pulque is mixed with red tuna to create the flavorful, bright magenta beverage pulque de tuna. In late summer, you can track some down in the plaza principal at Mineral de Pozos.
Called queso fresco in other parts of Mexico, the Bajío’s delicious queso ranchero is a fresh, white, salty cheese, often crumbled atop enchiladas or guacamole. It is sold in marketplaces and supermarkets; look for queso ranchero at San Miguel’s Mercado del Martes, or drop by Luna de Queso for a large selection of Mexican cheese and dairy.
Caramelized milk candy (cajeta) is a specialty of Celaya, a small industrial city just an hour east of San Miguel. Created with a mix of scalded goat and cow milk, cajeta sauce is served in crepes, on ice cream, or slathered onto wafers. You can also find cajeta candy rolled in nuts. Try some at Guanajuato’s La Catrina sweet shop, or order a scoop of cajeta-flavored ice cream in the town square in Dolores Hidalgo.
Excerpted from the Second Edition of San Miguel de Allende.