As you drive down Western Ave through Korea Town suddenly, in a matter of a block, it goes from Korean to Mexican. Though this area isn't just general Mexican, it is specific to an area of Mexico called Oaxaca. This is the biggest state in Mexico that supposedly has the biggest grouping of the indigenous Mexican people. With such a large grouping of Mexicans from this area and the fact that they are the oldest group of Mexicans, they bring with them a specific style of food among other things. This whole area around Pico and Western is dedicated to all things Oaxacan.
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Tuesday, September 29, 2009
I do not know much about this culture, what I do know is they have what is called a Tlayuda or Mexican Pizza. I heard, though I am unsure of this, a place called El Chapulin serves up one of the best Tlayudas in LA.
El Chapulin I think, is the name, which means grasshopper. El Chupulin Colorado is a character from an old 70's spanish TV show. You may know this from the Simpsons, this is who the bumblebee man is based off of.
However when I got to where this place was supposed to be I could not find it. Only after a second drive by did I notice the grasshopper logo on the sign. The proper name on the sign was Oaxaca Town Cafe. This was connected to a Discoteca Artesanias. Which I guess roughly translates to a Club of arts and crafts. Though it was more of a small market than a craft store. Though on the receipt it was called Jugos y Licuados El Chapulin which is Juices and Liquids or milkshakes or something. So I don't know what the name is. I'll go with El Chapulin.
It was definitely genuine. It was hard just to order the thing because they had to go find someone that spoke english. It was about 12 inches maybe 13 and it cost me 9 dollars. I got a tamarind mexican drink too but it's unclear if they charged me for that. But regardless 9 dollars for the amount of asada they put on it wasn't too bad.
I watched them make it. They took out an already crispy, extremely thin flour tortilla. They then smeared on a some refried black beans over the surface. On top of that they added fresh cheese, that could have been mozzarella but was a little more sour than what I am used to. Then on top of that added a bed of lettuce. Then it appeared to go in the oven. After it came out they added avacado, sliced tomatoes and the meat I chose which was carne asada. There was supposed to be onions on it somewhere, but I think they forgot those. They then cut it in 4 slices and since they didn't have a pizza box stacked the slices in a small styrofoam container, for it to go. This was kind of funny. It also came with a side of salsa roja.
At first I was having trouble enjoying it. The asada was great. The cheese, different as it was, was delicious. The salsa was a melting pot of a million different flavors with just the right amount of kick. Lastly the thin layer of beans was the perfect touch to bring it all together. What keep me from really devouring it was the now warm bed of lettuce. Lettuce seemed like an odd choice from the beginning, and after it was slightly heated up it was obviously a wrong choice. It just wasn't the taste or texture I was used to and wanted on my Mexican Pizza. Though I could have asked for it without the lettuce, so next time I will avoid that. The other problem I had was the tortilla. Though crispy and lightly browned it tasted chewy and stale. Especially the first slice that I ate before the condensation softened the rest of the stack of slices in the container. After the first slice the tortillas softened up a bit and not only could I fold them but it took some of that chewiness out. Which is interestingly the opposite of what you want to happen with American Pizza. The longer it stays in the box the worst the crust gets. Perhaps it is just my opinion but you want to steam the Mexican slices just a little before you eat them.
So I now have had 3 authentic Mexican pizza experiences. One Mexican pizza in America, one American pizza in Mexico, and one American pizza with Mexican toppings. None of these may be a great representation of the style of pizza they are trying to create but it shows there are definitely different examples of what Mexican pizza actually is. It makes you ask yourself is there such a thing as Mexican pizza or is there just pizza with Mexican flavors.
I explain more in my posting about Mexican Pizza. Enjoy.
El Chapulin-aka Oaxaca Town Cafe-aka Expresion Oaxaquena
3080 West Pico Blvd. LA
Posted by JAB at 6:39 PM