Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Mexican Outdoor Food Stands in Boyle Heights

Every Thursday through Sunday in Boyle Heights, from 7pm to 10pm, you can feast on a variety of sopes, gorditas, huaraches, pozoles at food stands that line Breed Street, across from the Big Buy Foods grocery store. You may even encounter some things you won't normally find at regular sit down Mexican restaurants.

For example, there's the pambazo, which is a special bread (white bread with a crust) dipped in a red guajillo pepper sauce and filled with something like potatoes and Mexican sausage or refried beans and than is garnished with shredded lettuce, salsa, cream and queso fresco. By the time, we got to a stand that sold that, we were already too full, but there's always next time.

Than there was this unique and absolutely delicious salsa that I've never tasted before. Basically, it's salsa de semillas (seeds) and was made up of peanuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, chile de arbol and peanut oil. It was nutty, flavorful, spicy, but not in an overboard sort of way. Truly amazing!

As for the various foods I tried, along with my 2 other fellow foodies (one of whom introduced us to this foodie lover's find), we started with a sope with tinga (spiced pork and beef stew), It was topped with refritos (refried beans), cabbage, crema mexicana and cotija cheese. By the way, a sope is like a thick cornmeal shell that "cups" the fillings.

It was with the sope that I first tried the salsa de semillas. The sope was absolutely delicious on its own, but I think the salsa de semillas took it to another level. I also found the meat to be tender and flavorful.

For our second round, we had a quesadilla with a potato and chorizo filling topped with lettuce, cotija cheese and a guajillo chile sauce. This quesadilla, by the way, is not the regular fan-shaped, folded flour tortilla that you're used to. True Mexican quesadillas are typically circles of uncooked corn masa folded in half and filled with cheese and other ingredients, sealed at the edges, then cooked (or in our case deep fried) until ready for eating.

Just an FYI, while online, I found out about a dish called "sincronizada" (Spanish for synchronized). Apparently, the sincronizada is a tortilla dish frequently confused with quesadillas by tourists because it is what is typically called a quesadilla in most Mexican restaurants outside of Mexico. Sincronizadas are made with a flour tortilla covered with cheese (and other ingredients) and then covered with another flour tortilla and than grilled or fried. A rose by any other name...well, you get the picture.

In my case, I've had previous experience with a Mexican quesadilla so I wasn't thrown by the appearance of the one we ate. Unfortunately, I wasn't too enthralled with it. The filling wasn't substantial enough and comprised more of potatoes than chorizo. Also, after the boldness of the salsa de semillas we had previously on our sope, this dish seemed almost bland in comparison. I would order this again, but with a different filling and a stronger salsa topping.

Third up was a gordita with squash blossoms. The squash blossoms were fried with tomato, onion, garlic,chile poblano and epazote.We topped it with both a salsa de aguacate (avocado) and a chile costeno sauce. For those of you who are unfamiliar with gorditas, think of them as thick corn tortillas that can either be folded over like regular tacos or served as a top and bottom to a sandwich, which is what we had.

Sides included a complimentary nopales salad and onions with habanero sauce. Speaking of nopales, usually, I can't tolerate them because I don't like how slimy they can get. Apparently, when prepared properly, you can say good-bye to slimy. This was the first time I ever enjoyed a nopales salad. I also loved the vinegary heat of the onions!

As for the gordita itself, it was tasty. The combination of the thick corn goodness of the tortilla and the flavorful squash blossom filling was a definite hit.

We ended our feasting with Red Pozole Soup. This soup starts off as white pozole which is a chicken-based broth. White pozole becomes red pozole when a sauce made from dried chiles is added to the soup. Our sauce had California chiles (either guajillo or ancho) that are soaked in hot water until softened.

The chiles are then pureed with onion and garlic and cooked in oil. This is added to the white pozole after adding the meat. The meats added to our particular soup included carnitas, pigs feet and pork skin. Additional flavors are added when you top your soup with chopped onion, radishes, chile de arbole, lime, etc.

Of everything I had, I totally fell in love with this soup. Every spoonful was pure heaven. I could taste the pork, the chile sauce, the lime. I'd go back just for that Red Pozole.

Overall, this was definitely an awesome street food experience and one I'm looking forward to experiencing time and time again.

To see pics, go to:

Food Stand Location:
Big Buy Foods
2233 E Cesar E Chavez Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90033

The food stands are directly across from Big Buy Foods on Breed Street, which crosses the street address mentioned above.


glutster said...

wow, what a informative post. I live around there so I'm used to all that stuff. Next time you're around look for an "Esquite" (ess-kee-teh) vendor, corn cob shaven into a cup doused with chile & limon or mayonaisse, cheese and butter (I know...but trust me, it's worth it)

pleasurepalate said...

Hey TG! Thanks for commenting on my post. As for "Esquite", if I do see that vendor, I'm definitely going to pounce. I had this for the first time at El Mercadito and LOVED it! I'm more than ready for second. :)

Daily Gluttony said...

Hey Abby! So great that you posted this--we were just here last nite w/ Oishii Eats, EDBM, & a bunch of other foodies--we loved it!!! I really wanna go back & try some of the things I didn't get a chance to try including some of the things you mentioned like the salsa de semillas & pozole!

pleasurepalate said...

Hey Pam! I'm so glad you were able to check the stands on Breed Street. It's been awhile since I've visited, so I'm really looking forward to re-acquainting myself with all the good food again. :)

Unknown said...

Hi Abby, Thanks again for a great post. I loved this place. Last time I went it was no longer. Do you know what happened? Some of the vendors had talked about the possibility of the police shutting them down. I guess that finally happened. Any idea if a replacement Mexican food street was popped up anywhere? Thanks, Laurie

pleasurepalate said...

Laurie: Breed Street is open for business. In fact, I was there this past Saturday. So go back and check it out. :)