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Mexican Food Traditions: Eating Tlayudas in Oaxaca

Oaxaca is a foodie tourist destination known for its reputation as “the land of the seven moles.” The valley in southern Mexico draws praise for its fine spiced chocolate, and curiosity for the freaky chapulines grasshoppers, but it is the tlayuda (pronounced tla-YOU-dah) that stands out as the iconic Oaxacan street food.

A popular choice at El Escapulario, a downtown Oaxaca City restaurant serving traditional Oaxacan food since 2002, the tlayuda is sometimes compared to a pizza, but is actually more like a giant nacho. The tortilla is made by hand, first kneading the masa dough into large balls, then pressing them into thin, round sheets before baking them on a clay comal over a wood fire.

“The most traditional tlayudas are simple,” owner Esther Alanso Garcia explains in Spanish, after we finished our meal. The dish, which originated in Oaxaca, was originally just the crispy baked tortilla with a smear of asiento - a flavorful unrefined pork fat - and a thick black bean paste. These tlayudas were something you could eat by hand.

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