Locals proudly think of Puebla, Mexico as the cradle of Mexican cuisine and the birthplace of signature dishes like mole poblano and chiles en nogada. The capital city of the state of Puebla, Puebla City was the seat of wealth and power for colonial elites during the conquest and founding of the Americas. The richness of the city is reflected in its vibrant cuisine, baroque churches and talavera pottery. Not to worry though, this wealth of flavor and color won’t break the bank because some of Puebla’s most delicious inventions can be conveniently consumed right in the street.
One of Puebla’s most iconic specialties, the chalupa (not to be confused with Taco Bell’s version and other subpar U.S. imitations), can be found all around the city, especially at night. Americanized chalupas are crispy, but the real thing is a soggy, greasy, salsa explosion. Maybe stay away from this flavor bomb if your on a diet because its fried in generous amounts of lard, which, of course, makes it that much more delicious.
The best chalupas can be found in front of the Templo de Santa Monica, especially during Señor de las Maravillas festivities. You get five of these spicy gut busters for a meager 15 pesos.
Photo by Hagens world, CC-BY-NC-ND
Although esquites and elotes are popular street foods in many parts of Mexico, in Puebla they are most commonly grilled over charcoal, as opposed to boiled. This common dish reflects the importance of corn in Mexico, where it’s not only the basis of most foods, but also many ceremonies and traditions. If you order esquites, you get a cup of seasoned corn, served with mayonnaise, cheese, lime and chili. Elotes are the Mexican version of corn on the cob, but with mayonnaise, cheese and chili instead of butter.
The best esquites and elotes in Puebla can be found in or around the Zocalo, the center and Main Square of the historic downtown. Prices range from 15 to 25 pesos, depending on the stand.
Empanadas are decidedly not from Puebla, or even Mexico for that matter, but for untold reasons they have become a hit in Puebla. Especially along the Corredor Peatonal 5 de Mayo (a pedestrian walkway through the center of the city), there are many vendors hawking empanadas full of sweet cream, pineapple with ham, mole and more. In Puebla, empanadas are different from those in the rest of Mexico. Here, they’re made with a flakey pastry-like bread and baked into a triangle shape. Make sure to meander your way through the pedestrian walkway early in the day for a fresh empanada, and to take in all the sounds, sights and smells of the colonial city.
Photo by Devon Van Houten Maldonado
Cemitas are Puebla’s over-the-top version of a sandwich. At Cemitas la Poblanita, a short walk from the Zocalo, you can enjoy an enormous cemita for two. They pile their specialty sandwiches with mounds of fresh meat and cheese totaling a few pounds of food. The cemita with mole poblano is our recommendation, which you will need to eat with a fork and knife. This is a typical Poblano corner sandwich shop, frequented by many locals, but overlooked by tourists because of its humble facade. Here they bake their own bread and two people can eat for about 60 to 75 pesos.
Tacos árabes are essentially Mexico’s version of kebabs or gyros, which inspired the ever-popular al pastor taco, a dish that reigns supreme in Mexico City. In Puebla, however, tacos árabes (Arab tacos) stay closer to the original shawarma, brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants. Unlike al pastor, which is seasoned with Mexican salsa and served on a tortilla, tacos árabes aren’t marinated in salsa and they come served on large pita bread. The tasty hybrid dish is a perfect example of how globalism and immigration have shaped international street food trends.
For some of the best tacos árabes and al pastor in Puebla, check out Taquería Las Ranas. Long lines of locals prove its deliciousness, while the atmosphere is festive and welcoming.
Top photo by Ian Dolphin, CC-BY-NC-ND
Devon Van Houten Maldonado is a writer, painter and runner from Boulder, Colorado, currently living and working in Mexico City.