Before going to Mexico, I asked my friends who’d already been what they recommended doing there and almost everyone told me to try tacos from vendors in the markets. Since I love to sampling local street treats while traveling, I was all over this. I find street food vendors inspiring because with only the most rudimentary kitchen set-up they dish up numerous, delicious, regional dishes. It gives me hope for my tiny ill-equipped kitchen.
Some people get nervous about street food and worry that Montezuma’s Revenge is lurking in each quesadilla and under every chip every but if you a few simple guidelines you’ll be safe.
Look for the most popular vendors; the locals don’t want to get sick either and they know what to look for so follow their lead and as a bonus they’ll lead you to the best tasting food too. Never eat any fresh, unpeeled fruits or vegetables. Be wary of ice in juices or smoothies; if the ice was made from tap water, and it probably was, you’ll regret it tomorrow.
We were walking through the Zocalo, when I found my taco trunk. This team was so popular there was a crowd three deep around them. After working our way to the front, we ordered two of their most popular item and by ordered I mean pointed at said item on the griddle, smiled, nodding vigorously, and said “Dos por favor.”
They turned out to be chicken quesadillas, not tacos, and they were delicious: greasy, cheesy, and spicy. The type of food, where once you bite into it, you know you should have asked for more napkins.
Generally, I don’t like chicken quesadillas because they always come with sliced, grilled, chicken breast tucked into generic rubbery cheese. Its not even the cheese that gets me so much, because even bland cheese is still pretty good but the dried out, tasteless, strips of chicken don’t add anything to the over all quesadilla so why include them?
The chicken tinga quesadillas from Mexico, however, used shredded chicken, that had been cooked with tomatoes, chiles, and spices. It added tons of flavor to the quesadilla. Mexican chicken tinga quesadillas have American chicken quesadillas beat hands down.
Its also a great way to use up leftover chicken. With the remnants of a rotisserie chicken from last night’s dinner, I ended up with three cups of shredded chicken meat and set out to make some chicken tinga quesadillas that I could be proud of.
I found lots of recipes and took bits and pieces from them all. The only thing I couldn’t find was the Oaxaca cheese that they’d used in Mexico. The closest cheese I found at my grocery store was labeled as ‘quesadilla melting cheese’ and it was as bland as any other generic cheese. I’ll keep my eye out for Oaxaca cheese in the future but until I find it I’d substitute Armenian string cheese or any other good quality string cheese in the chicken tinga quesadillas.
Chicken Tinga Quesadillas with Oaxaca Cheese (makes roughly 9 quesadillas)
(Active time: 30 minutes Total time: 45 minutes)
- 3 cups packed shredded chicken meat (about 2 chicken breasts)
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- 1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 large tomato, roughly chopped
- 1 canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped
- 1 tbsp adobo sauce
- 1tsp oregano
- 3 c shredded Oaxaca or string cheese
- 9 corn tortillas
- Salsa verde (optional)