Published in the Pacific Pearl October 2019 issue
The best part of living in Mazatlan is eating amazing street food and buying fresh produce year-round. And if local food is something you’re crazy about (like me!), then you’ll soon ask the question: How can I make it myself? And where do I get the tools to prepare these dishes? Don’t go looking in fancy department stores or supermarkets. You’ll find better quality cooking tools for less at the local hardware store (‘ferreteria’)! Let the shopping begin…..
Tortilla griddle, tortilla press and baskets
A meal without tortilla isn’t a meal, so must-have tools in any Mexican household are the tortilla press (‘prensa de tortilla’), the tortilla griddle (‘comal’) and tortilla baskets. If you want to make tortillas from scratch, buy fresh corn dough (‘masa’) and flatten a small ball of ‘masa’ between two plastic sheets on the tortilla press. Then the ‘comal’ comes into action: preheat the comal on a gas stove and carefully place the uncooked tortilla onto the hot ‘comal’ without any oil or butter. Grill for 1-2 minutes and flip over. Once the tortilla is ready, you place it on a fabric napkin in the tortilla basket. Make sure to cover the tortillas well, because they’re best served hot. Watch out to not burn your fingers! You can also use the ‘comal’ to char peppers, tomatoes, garlic and onion for a spicy salsa, leading us to another essential tool: the molcajete…
The best salsas are made from scratch in a Mexican mortar (‘molcajete’). Once you’ve tried a home-made Salsa Roja or Guacamole, you’ll never go back to canned salsas. Lava stone or clay; it doesn’t matter as long as you season your ‘molcajete’ before its first use. How do you season a molcajete? You put a handful of dry rice into the lava stone ‘molcajete’ and grind until the rice becomes grey. Discard the rice and add another handful of dry rice. Repeat the grinding process until the rice doesn’t turn grey anymore (heads-up: it will take some elbow grease). The last step is to grind a clove of fresh garlic in the ‘molcajete’ to cover the whole inside of the bowl. Leave to rest for a night and then rinse with lukewarm water. From this moment onwards never ever (!) use soap in your ‘molcajete’.
Wood slice cutting board
The essential equipment for any taquero is a sturdy cutting board, used to chop up the grilled beef. Mostly it’s so worn-out it is almost hollow (imagine how many tacos were prepped there?). You can buy pre-cut and pre-sanded wood slices at the local hardware store. Use a soft cloth rub mineral or vegetable oil into the wood. Allow your wood slice to dry and repeat process 3-4 times as needed.
Where can I buy it?
Getting excited to go and stock up on these tools? You’ll be able to find these and many more at the ‘ferreterias’ downtown. Make sure to also look for carved wooden spoons, charcoal grills, gourd water bottles (‘jicaras de bule’), barbecue racks to make grilled fish (‘pescado zarandeado’), and even camping cots (‘catres’) and machetes.
Here are some popular shops:
Maaike Hoekstra has lived in Mexico for over 15 years. She is passionate about Mexican culture and food. Here are the stories and recipes she finds along the way.