The tricky to pronounce region of Oaxaca (wa-haca) sits in the southern parts of Mexico, 300 miles south of Mexico city and is home to colonial architecture, rich Zapotec tradition and culinary magic. Emma Grazette, co-host of Spice Trip, shares the scoop on the food scene, and why you simply need to try re-fried beans and dried smoky chipotle in their place of origin.
By
Emma Grazette

22 Mar 2013 - 11:19 AM  UPDATED 27 Feb 2014 - 2:02 PM

Where
Oaxaca is a region in southern Mexico.

Why go?
This beautiful old town couldn't be more picturesque; it's colourful and vibrant just like its residents. Architecturally, Oaxaca is rich, the art scene is very much alive and the food ranges from classic street food to refined and ancient cuisine.

Must eats

Taste a traditional 'mole negro’ – the fantastically complex celebratory sauce that takes two days to make and uses as many as 22 ingredients, including banana, peanuts, chocolate and chillies!

The food markets really bring the food to life. Food is all cooked on sight, and the smoke and smells fill the air. Choose your cut of meat, tacos, burritos and take a pew. Your food will be served on a huge tray accompanied by all manner of sides – green salsa, red salsa, guacamole, refried beans, char-grilled chillies. It’s an inexpensive, exciting way to eat.

Best food souvenirs
A traditional (but heavy) pestle and mortar. With more than 180 varieties of chilli, you can stock up on dried smoky chipotles, ancho negros and pasillas – all less widely available outside of Mexico. Another idea is a good bottle of Mezcal (you can see the whole process at one of the Mezcalerias).

Best time to visit

To experience the passion and party spirit of the Mexican people, go for the Guelaguetza (festival of giving) during the last two weeks in July, or Day of the Dead celebrations at the end of October.

Where to stay
Casa Oaxaca is particularly special for a treat – the food is particularly good and is served on a rooftop terrace, accompanied by live Mexican music. Ideally, stay anywhere central to enjoy strolling through the many food markets and lively, bustling evenings in the squares.

Check out Food Trip co-host Stevie Parle's Culinary Postcard on Galle, Sri Lanka

Photography by Emma Grazette