Happy Cinco De Mayo!
I have to admit that Mexican candy isn’t something I’m terribly familiar with, so I’ve always been very curious about them. I was given the opportunity to try some back last July when I went to Mercado Chocolate Loco with Cybele at Universal City Walk in Los Angeles. Inside the store was filled to the brim with candy and souvenirs, a majority of them from Mexico. There were large barrels filled with loose pieces that I paws through, looking for as many different kinds to try. I found many standard varieties: tamarind hard candy, chili powder, sour watermelon candy, and dulce de la lech lollipops just to name a few.
What ended up being the treasure of my time in the Mercado was what was sitting in a beautiful glass display case in the back of the store. In there was the real authentic stuff. Blocks of solid dulce de la leche, balls of tamarind pulp, candied root vegetables and citrus fruits. I wish I could remember everything in the display, but it’s sadly been so long. I do remember being quite transfixed with all the options and just stood there drooling at all the delicious possibilities.
I ended up limiting myself to four pieces:
Ducle De La Leche: It came in a rectangular log, with a nice light creamy brown color. The flavor is very rich ad sweet: notes of caramel, cream and sugar and a yogurty tang. The texture is so smooth, dense and rich with no hint of grain at all. I’m reminded of a really good penuche fudge.
Tamarind Ball: Just a ball of tamarind paste with granulated sugar. At a quick glance, it looks like a large doughnut ball. The texture is moist, dense and chewy with a grain from the sugar. It’s like eating cookie dough that isn’t finished yet. The flavor is awesome: it tastes of tart raisins and develops this steady sourness that I can only relate to Sour Patch Kids. It’s a sharp sourness, but it’s not to strong so it’s easily handled, and has notes of lemons and tart cherries. It’s lovely, I really like it.
Sweet Potato: Texture is soft with bits of crunch on the edges where the sugar has crystallized. It tastes of Thanksgiving: sweet potato with that roasted starchy flavor with a lot of sweetness to it.
Candied Pumpkin: Yellower in color than the sweet potato. I looked forward to this one the most as I am a pumpkin fiend! The texture of this is much softer and more wet, and has the same crunchy sugar edges which are a little harder. The flavor doesn’t remind me of pumpkin at all, but more of dried papaya with strong fruity notes and slight juiciness.
I was impressed. It just goes to show that unusual and simple are a tasty combination. I only wish I had a place around me here in New Jersey where I could continue to sample more Mexican confectionery. If you are just as interested as I am, I recommend reading this post on Mexican candy from Malena at the Candy From Strangers blog. Drool!
Rating: Will Buy Again
Now that, in my opinion, the most depressing and cold months of the year are upon us, my thoughts immediately turn to hot chocolate. It’s something soothing and comforting that eases my anxiety about the cold and darkness that I feel the world becomes in the middle of the winter. As my thoughts turn to places that are warmer, the idea crossed my mind that I should branch out and try new kinds of hot chocolate. The idea then hit me: why not try what many consider to be the “original” hot chocolate? The types that are a decedent of the Meso American drink and can be found in most any Mexican grocer. I went out on my hunt and found two types of Mexican drinking chocolates and a Molinillo to stir it properly.
I couldn’t wait to give these a go.
One note on the difference on Hot Cocoa and Hot Chocolate. Hot Cocoa used the de-fatted cocoa powder mixed with milk or water to make a drink. This is the kind you find on most supermarket shelves. Hot Chocolate is when you actually take a bar of chocolate and melt it into milk or water. It’s obviously richer, fattier and more delicious.
Ibarra: Comes in a round disc with instructions that are easy to follow. You chop off a certain number of wedges depending on how much hot chocolate you wish to make. Simple.
It was fun to make the hot chocolate, as the texture of the disc is very grainy, so it’s pretty easy to make precise cuts and it also melts quickly. Mexican hot chocolate, from what the Ibarra package says, uses hot water as a base, so I went with that in order to get the most authentic experience possible. Once the chocolate was melted and blended into my hot water, I took the Molinillo and placed the round end in my cup and rubbed the handled between my palms. This blends the chocolate further, as well as aerates the drink to make it nice and frothy.
The flavor is mild, so don’t expect this drink to be terribly rich. It has a good sweet chocolately flavor that’s kissed by cinnamon. It’s very comforting and I found myself wanting a second cup once I had finished my first.
My next test for this chocolate was to eat it as is. It obviously is much stronger in flavor eating it out of hand, and what I really found interesting about this was the textue. It’s very sandy, with the sugar granules still intact, so the chocolate broke easily and was immensely fun to chew. My only complaint was because it was so much fun to eat, it’s way too easy to polish off a disc before you realize what’s happened.
Moctezuma: This is essentially the same idea as the Ibarra chocolate, just a different brand. The flavor was pretty much the same, both as a drink and eaten alone. The only small differences I noticed was that this was a little sweeter and the cinnamon wasn’t as strong as the Ibarra.
I liked these, but not enough to buy them again. I prefer my hot chocolate to be thicker and more, well, chocolatety. These were great, they just didn’t fit my personal preferences.
Rating: Might Eat Again
I found these in a random farmers/polish market on the way to my car dealership. I walked the aisles taking in all the different foods; jams, cookies, spices, soups and whatever other interesting things that aren’t in your normal supermarket. I then spied these Coronado Paleta de Cajeta lollipops, or “Goat’s Milk Lollipops”. I’ve heard of these traditional Mexican candies before and had yet to try them. Here goes nothing!
Lovely oblong flat disc shape. It’s an interesting texture, I expected it to be somewhat soft, but it’s rock hard. It made me question if that’s the real texture, or if the lollipops were old and on the stale side.
The flavor is milky and sweet, and that’s about it. I was hoping for more deep, creamy, dulce de la leche flavors but it doesn’t have them. I also get no “goatiness” from them at all, which I’m not sure is a good or bad thing. Goat’s milk has this strange odious tang to it and I didn’t detect any of this here.
I fun thing to try but I don’t see myself craving these again in the future. At least, not unless I was offered the fresh stuff….
Rating: Will Eat Again