Las Quince Letras
I almost forgot about my first meal in Oaxaca. It was short and sweet and I had no idea what I was doing or where anything was yet. The city is incredibly easy to navigate, though. I don’t think I’ve ever traveled anywhere before that is so compact and tidy, by which I mean grid-like right angles and well labeled street names not clean and sterile—it seemed like every street was under construction, riddled with ditches and trenches, dust in the air. Combined with the cobblestones, I don’t see how women could possibly wear heels without twisting their ankles or getting caked in dirt.
Las Quince Letras was listed on a handout at my first hotel and seemed relatively nearby. I was enticed by the description of an open-air back patio, though I soon discovered that amenity was hardly uncommon in Oaxaca where inner courtyards abound.
The salsa and butter twosome that always comes with a bread basket. Do you eat the two together, choose one or alternate? I opted for the more is more approach and dabbed the spicy sauce on top of a thin layer of butter, which was creamier and more tongue-coating than any American or European types I’ve had. It was practically like cream cheese in texture..
I first asked about tasjao, which was new to me. It’s a salted dried beef like a plumper jerky that is very popular in Oaxaca. The thing is, we have that here too but we call it cecina. Even more topsy-turvy is that the word cecina is also used in Oaxaca but to describe pork.
I went a different direction and agreed to the enchiladas Oaxaquenas, suggested when I asked for something not too huge (I hate wasting food and leftovers seem impractical on vacation). Chicken and black mole. I’m not sure if I was starving or what (I did eat a much inferior enchilada on the plane) but the flavors were amped up. I feared cottony white meat chicken, but this meat had substance, the sweetish sauce was rich without being heavy and the crumbles of salty cheese and raw rings of onion kept things from becoming too one note. There would be no way I could let these enchiladas fall victim to the (ridiculous to me) three-bite rule. I’m still trying to figure out who possibly has the willpower to eat three bites, supposedly the amount that registers in the mind as exciting, then stops. Dietary quirks have no place in Oaxaca.
Las Quince Letras * 300 Abasolo, Oaxaca, Mexico