Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Street Food: Oaxacan Quesadillas and Churros

Do you know what's one of the best things about having foodie friends? Simply, as one person there's no way you could possibly know about all the great eats in the city, but if you have many friends who share your culinary passions, you're always bound to hear about some new dining experience that's just too fantastic to pass up. Well, my friend Robert, heard about and eventually checked out a street cart where a woman makes Oaxacan quesadillas using blue corn tortillas and usually towards the later afternoon, a churro truck will also park within a hop away from this cart. Oaxacan quesadillas and churros? How can one pass that up? I certainly didn't and Robert led the way.

So last Sunday, off we went. When we arrived, our group of 5 crowded around the cart and after talking to the lady, we found out that we had an option of 6 different fillings: chicarrones, squash blossoms, chicken, frijoles, chorizo and potato and huitlacoche. We decided to order one of each, except for the frijoles and just share them. She was even nice enough to cut the quesadillas in 4 to 5 sections for easier eating.

The whole process was simple. First, she would get a ball of blue corn masa that was in a plastic bag next to her.

Then she'd pat it between her hands and than start patting it flat on the stove's surface. I can't even imagine how hot that surface was, but it didn't seem to phase her.

Afterwards, she'd add a handful of mozarella cheese and the filling of your choice and let it lay flat for a while before folding it in half. Sometimes it was ready to go and other times, she'd let it still cook for a little while before putting on a paper plate and handing it to you.

Once you got your quesadilla, she had some additional ingredients that you could either top your quesadilla with or put inside of it. There was a mixture of nopales, red onions and cilantro in one container. You could also add a sprinkle of cotija cheese or a spoonful of a really hot salsa or a milder green salsa.

As mentioned, our group sampled 5 of the various fillings. First, we had the chicken quesadilla, but before I talk about that, I do have to say that I really liked the blue corn tortillas. It had a nice medium-thick texture and there was a nuttiness to the masa that I also really enjoyed. What was nice about the chicken was that it wasn't dry and it had a nice flavor to the marinade.

Our second quesadilla had a huitlacoche filling, sometimes referred to as corn smut or Mexican truffles depending on who you talk to, but basically it's a fungus. Huitlacoche is actually quite delicate, but can add a smoky, earthy and pungency to dishes like tamales, stews and in this case, quesadillas. I actually thought the huitlacoche in this case had a mild smokiness to it and I liked how the corn gave it a hit of sweetness.

Third on the rotation was the chorizo and potato quesadilla. This was actually my least favorite of the 5. The filling was mushy. I would have preferred actual chorizo sausages that were cut and grilled and than put in the quesadilla. That would been a big improvement.

Our fourth quesadilla was a vegetarian option that consisted of squash blossoms, corn and onions. If this was the only option available, I wouldn't have missed the meat at all.

Finally, my favorite was the chicarron quesadilla. Come on, it's fried pork. What's not to love?


By this time, all our sharing amounted to about one quesadilla and a quarter for each of us. This type of family-style sharing worked perfectly because we all got to sample a little bit of each filling and when it was time for us to order a full size one, we already knew what we liked. By the way, we did each filling individually because we wanted to taste them on their own, but you can choose more than one ingredient for your quesadilla. I went for the squash blossom and chicarrones combination, which was absolutely delicious.

What a great find! The quesadillas ran $3.00 each and she had also different drinks ranging from $1 to $2. The way you pay is pretty much on the honor system. Once you're done eating and ready to leave, that's when you pay her. What's nice is that whenever she collects money, she always puts on gloves and that's definitely smart on her part. Now this is street food worth driving for.

Sometimes parked down the street from the quesadilla lady, you'll find Salina's Churro Truck. Apparently, it used to be a pushcart so to move up to a truck speaks well for their churros.

Inside the truck, they have a funnel which pushed out the dough and immediately went into a deep fryer. Once they're fried up, the churros were coated with sugar and put into a brown bag ready to be consumed at will.

8 for $3.00 is a heck of a bargain. I found them to be a little doughy for my taste. I would have preferred that they were fried a little bit longer, but I appreciated their golden crispiness.

Overall, it was a wonderful eating day. Delicious quesadillas, golden and crispy churros and all for under $10? Not only is this affordable dining, it's also a fun culinary experience and one of the things that really makes LA a great eating town.

To see pics, go to:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/la_addict/sets/72157617005224501/

Note: When I checked out both the street cart and the churro truck, it was a Sunday. When I got there at 12:30 PM, the quesadilla street cart was already there. I actually left around 2:30 pm, but when I came back at around 5:00, she was already gone. I'm not sure as to how long she stayed or which other days she's at her spot. Apparently, the churro truck arrives between 3 and 4 pm. Both are situated on Echo Park Boulevard just around the corner from Sunset Boulevard.

18 comments:

H. C. said...

Great post -- but you already know that I was salivating from your tweets about this ;)

Tasty Morsel said...

Wow, those quesadillas look great. Great pictures to boot!

Anonymous said...

Where was (is) this street cart located?

Wandering Chopsticks said...

I was salivating from looking at your Flickr pics. :9

WeezerMonkey said...

OMG! It all looks divine!

Aji De Mani said...

were the churros stuffed? the blue corn tortillas look delicious.

pleasurepalate said...

H.C.: Thanks! But aren't the photos much better than just the tweets. :)

Tasty Morsel: I'm glad you enjoyed the pics. The quesadilla lady was extremely patient with all my photo snapping.

Anonymous: The cart can basically be found near the corner of Echo Park Blvd and Sunset Blvd

WC: Every time I look at my own pics, I'm craving another quesadilla.

WM: Definitely delicious. I hope you're able to check them out for yourself.

Aji: Unfortunately, the churros weren't stuffed. :(

SinoSoul said...

glad you guys found both joints. The churros are ALMOST as good as the stuff everyone has had on the beaches of Baja... almost.

Diana said...

Sounds and looks amazing! What beautiful photography! I didn't realize there were churro trucks out there too... this sounds like a most try foodie experience! Thank goodness for food bloggers. :)

eatdrinknbmerry said...

Abby, i see this person EVERYDAY b/c i get off on glendale/echo park avenue. i'm always wondering what she's making as i can only make out the blue corn tortilla. i thought it was some sort of pupusa. i'll have to try.

savour-fare.com said...

This looks delicious and worth a trip to Echo Park!

pleasurepalate said...

Diana: Thank goodness for foodie friends of food bloggers, too. :)

eatdrinknbmerry: Isn't it funny how it takes someone who's not from the neighborhood to point something out? That's definitely happened to me more than once. I hope you enjoy those quesadillas as much I did.

savour-fare.com: I'd definitely make a return trip.

the happy couple said...

look amazing. wish there was something like this near where i lived!

Alexis said...

You guys don't know what you're talking about - those are huaraches, not quesadillas.

pleasurepalate said...

the happy couple: Well, if you ever make to LA, at least you know where you can find this cart.

Alexis: Check out the blog link below about someone actually going to Mexico and having this quesadilla as a treat. :)

http://lamodabeat.blogspot.com/2007/09/this-is-quesadilla.html

Kate said...

What a great post, thanks for sharing with us. These little finds are what I like best about food blogs. I'm jealous.

Anonymous said...

I found this lady's cart back in January, and loved it. Huitlachoche is fantastic. But please don't let everyone know about it!!!!

pleasurepalate said...

Kate: I'm glad you enjoyed the post and I'm always happy to share my foodie journeys. :)

Anonymous: I'm sure not everyone reads my blog, which means that a lot of people still won't know about this cart. :)