I traveled to the province of Oaxaca in Mexico to learn why the tradition of drying and grinding heirloom varieties of corn makes the healthiest and most delicious tortillas.
Words and photos
by CINDA CHAVICH
There was nothing lost in translation when I visited women in rural Mexico to learn about making whole grain corn tortillas.
Cooking is a universal language, and even if you only see the process in pictures, you can understand what goes into making a true tortilla from scratch. It's a lot of work, from growing, harvesting and drying their traditional landrace varieties of corn (at least 59 types of maize in Mexico), to soaking the whole grain in an alkaline lime solution to release its nutrients, and grinding the slaked (nixtamalized) corn on a stone metate to make the masa that's then flattened into rounds for the tortillas that are grilled on a clay comal over a wood fire.
At Restaurante Azucena Zapoteca, in the countryside south of Oaxaca, you'll find local dishes cooked with care, whether it's handmade corn tortillas with fresh cheese, nopales and dark Oaxacan mole, empanadas, roasted tomatillo salsa, or sweet bunuelos dusted with cinnamon and custard-filled natillas for breakfast.
Watching the friendly cooks create tortillas is a master class in Mexican culinary arts!
At Restaurante Azucena Zapoteca in Oaxaca, you'll find local dishes cooked with care, whether it's tortillas with fresh cheese, nopales and mole, empanadas, roasted tomatillo salsa, or sweet bunuelos dusted with cinnamon and custard-filled natillas for breakfast.
It's a lovely casual place to enjoy a delicious and typical Oaxacan meal accompanied by some their wonderful handmade tortillas. This is a family devoted to the preservation of typical Oaxacan cuisine and art, producing their own corn, beans and also creating exquisite hand carved and intricately painted Copal wood birds and animals, found in the restaurant gallery. I especially treasure my beautiful bird carved by Abad Xuana Luis and decorated by his daughter Flor Xuana Velasco, another memory of this incredible corner of Mexico!