South of the Border Part 2: Food in Baja
by Katie Dozier | Published: Sep 13, '12
I’m back in Vegas for a bit, and despite the many great food options in this city, I find myself missing the food in Baja. Most of the food I’ve enjoyed there has been traditional Mexican, and the fresh tortillas, salsas, and peppers are beyond compare!
Where do you think these pics were taken?
(Things aren’t super pricey in Mexico, the prices are given in Pesos, and most food items tend to be slightly cheaper than Vegas.)
While the signs may have given it away a bit lol, those were taken in the Rosarito Wal-Mart, which is far better than any American outpost I’ve ever seen. While the picture of the meat sitting out may concern some with regards to food safety, the meat was on ice, and cold to the touch upon purchase.
One thing I’ve learned by traveling is to try and let go of my American basis for how things should be done a bit. Take eggs for example. Many Americans balk at the sight of unrefrigerated eggs, but the fact is that this is how eggs are handled (at least in my experience) in the majority of countries. Is it safer to refrigerate them? Sure, but with roughly 1 in 20,000 eggs containing salmonella, I’m fine with taking that kind of a gamble. Then, I’ll just pop them in the fridge when I get home.
While I am careful not to eat at roadside shacks that do not have a sink for washing hands and burritos that could have been made and sitting there for hours on end, dismissing everything because it “isn’t how America would do it” would result in a touristy trip instead of really immersing myself in the culture. (Some may argue that shopping at a Wal-Mart indicates I’m not taking their culture in; but that is where the extreme majority of people there shop!)
They also have covered parking, and many English speaking car attendants that always come and take your cart back after loading things into the car. Try getting that kind of service even at a pricey grocery store in Vegas!
There are many cheap taco stands scattered around Rosarito. While there is one American fast food hamburger place in town (which apparently also delivers), most Mexicans appear to get their grub on the go from these stands. The food is made fresh right in front of you.
Some of the places have unlimited radishes, cucumbers, onions and grilled jalapeños to go with them. These tacos were $1 each.
I also had the second best Tortilla Soup of my life (second to my Mom’s of course) a bit south of Rosarito at K38. The woman fried fresh tortilla strips then added them to the tomato broth. Clearly the workers take pride in their food, and watching them cook is almost worth the trip here alone. Their Nachos were the best I’ve ever had (because my Mom never made nachos), were only $4.50 and would almost make the Cheesecake Factory’s portions look small!
Collin and I made the trip south to Ensenada, eager to experience a larger coastal city in Mexico. Walking around the cobblestone street by the harbor was beautiful, and almost more reminiscent of Italy to me than being in Mexico.
They had a large fish market:
And so we decided to eat close by. One of the things I like to do in a foreign country is order something I’m very familiar with in America to see how it compares in a different country.
Case and point, can you guess what this is?
Shoddy photography aside (I blame the empty beer can to the right) I’d say this looks like a bloody Mary. Actually it is a shrimp cocktail, and, at the risk of overusing superlatives in this post, it is the best I’ve ever had. The tomato broth tasted fresh and slightly sweet; the avocado a silky counterpoint to the crunch of tiny dices onions and cucumbers.
Can you guess the American chain in this pic taken in Ensenada?
My Mom, the best international flight attendant in the world in my unbiased opinion, told me she likes to duck into McDonald’s to see how they differ from the ones in our country. Admittedly, I went in to use the bathroom without buying anything (contrary to what the sign told me I could do) but was shocked at how nice it was. Also interesting was that their condiment bar consisted entirely of different pickled jalapeños. Given the quality of US-based chains in foreign countries, I bet they are doing more to further our international relations than our own government!
One of the things I love the most about traveling is how it teaches me things about America, and visiting places that are in both countries can create an interesting juxtaposition in how we live. I’ve also been cooking in Rosarito a lot, which is great for comparing the quality of raw ingredients. In my opinion, the meat is of possibly better quality, and one benefit is that some cheaper cuts that have seen a raise in price because they’ve become trendy in the States (such as short ribs and Ossobuco) are dramatically cheaper in Mexico. I haven’t been as crazy about the cheese or produce though—except the ingredients for salsa and guacamole!