Sweets, More Street Eats & Offal – QRoo

churros from street cart rolling masa @ quekas
al pastor cart @ street cart paletas @ manhattan

Last post from the Mexico trip! Of course a lot more was eaten, but some meals don’t need to be blogged about or remembered. Here are the remaining memorable Playa del Carmen eats. Street food, offal, and dessert are all covered.

panucho from street stand

One rainy morning in Playa, David and I ended up on the corner of 12th Street and 20th Avenue sitting on plastic stools eating panuchos (above) and salbutes (another Yucatecan specialty similar to panuchos but without the bean filling and not deep-fried). At this spot, nothing is cooked to order, as there is no cart, truck, or grill. Just a man and a woman with a plastic table, stools, and large plastic containers of fried masa, vegetables, and various salsas. However, panuchos and salbutes are both topped upon order, so nothing ends up a soggy mess. I liked the crunchy panuchos topped with shredded chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, pickled onions, crema, and chipotle salsa.

salbute from street stand

David, for some crazy reason, preferred the salbutes, while similarly topped, didn’t hold up as well in the plastic containers. Barely warm, they tasted greasy. In general though, I’m a panucho girl. Why not choose deep-fried when given the choice? One panucho and one salbute cost MXN $18 (USD $1.38).

rolling masa @ quekas

I’m also a quesadilla girl. At 10 Quekas 10, quesadillas are made fresh to order, down to the tortillas which are hand-cranked out of a metal tortilla maker.

tripe quesadilla @ quekas

There’s a number of fillings, but I opted for pancita de res (chili stewed beef tripe; MXN $15 / USD $1.15) which was squishy, saucy, and just a little gamy. It was good stuff, and the thick, crisp corn tortilla, even better stuff.

kibbeh @ playa del carmenMexica has street eats everywhere, even when there isn’t a street. On the beach in Playa, as well as Cancun, there are Mexican kibbeh or quibee vendors constantly walking along the water shouting, “Keebee! Keebee!” (Kibbeh, fried bulgur croquettes, are Levantine in origin, but was introduced to Mexico by way of Lebanese and Palestinian immigrants. Now, it’s a common street food in Mexico.) When these vendors walk by, get your sandy ass off your beach chair and grab one. On the beach in Playa, you have the option of beef or cheese. I chose beef (MXN $10 / USD $0.76), and upon ordering, the “kibbeh man” split the torpedo-shaped croquette open with a spoon and filled it with pickled red onions. It was a mighty fine snack, especially with the pickled onions which countered the heaviness of the spiced minced meat and hearty grains.

al pastor cart in playa del carmen At night, another popular street food originating from Middle-Eastern immigrants can be found in Playa del Carmen: tacos al pastor, the Latin cousin of shawarmas, gyros, and doner kebabs.

In the plaza south of Benito Juarez (before 5th Avenue begins), there’s a tacos al pastor cart, but not just any al pastor cart. This cart has cabeza de res or cow’s head meat on a spit. Don’t worry, it’s completely harmless. No visible eyeballs, snouts, or lips. Just lots of layered meat deeply hued from achiote.

al pastor cart @ street cart

The meat was very juicy, but a tad salty. And unfortunately, it didn’t come with any pineapple. A little pineapple would have balanced out the saltiness. One cow head taco was MXN $15 (USD $1.15).

gelato @ aldo's ice cream in playa

As for desserts, in Playa there was an ice cream and/or gelato shop every other block. Some were better than others, but none really blew me away.

paletas @ manhattan

The one place we went to often was Manhattan for paletas, Mexican fruit popsicles. They have a lot of flavors, including some non-traditional and just plain weird ones like alfalfa and egg nog. We stuck to fruit, and the only ones we weren’t too crazy about from the many we tried was dragon fruit (too sweet) and pineapple (too mild). Prices were MXN $20 (USD $1.53) and up for a small popsicle.

helados & raspados cart

One day, David insisted on getting raspado, Mexican shaved ice, from a cart which I tried to dissuade him on because of the Mexican water/ice factor. Kind of ridiculous considering I was eating tripe and cow head tacos.

raspado from cartIn any case, he insisted and got a pineapple raspado. When I was little, I ate a lot of piragua, Puerto Rican shaved ice, in New York. I thought it was the bomb. Now that I’m older, the syrups taste unbearably artificial to me. (Not frozen dessert related, but I feel the same way about Vienna sausages, but not Spam.) That’s how I felt about the raspado. The saving grace were the fresh chunks of pineapple thrown in with the ice. David, on the other hand, thought it was pretty tasty. As for any intestinal discomfort from the ice, nothing happened.

My favorite dessert in Playa del Carmen wasn’t frozen at all.

churros from street cart

It was churros (MXN $20 / USD $1.53) from a street cart not too far from the cow head taco cart. The skinny churros were all crunch (a bit too much) and sugar, with hardly any cinnamon, but warm churros can’t be denied.

Mexico was insanely delicious, much more so than the last two times I’ve been. I think the difference this time was that I wasn’t as cautious of what and where I ate. If you noticed, I ate a crazy amount of street food in Mexico, and guess what?! I’m still alive! In fact, eating in restaurants ended up being more dangerous for me. A few days ago, I found out someone stole my credit card number from a restaurant and used it all over Mexico. No joke. Of course, the problem could have been avoided if I used cash, but in my mind, it’s justification and an excuse to eat more street food. In Mexico and beyond.

Panucho & Salbute Stand
On 12th Street, near 20th Avenue
Playa del Carmen, Mexico

10 Quekas 10
10th Ave (b/n 8th & 10th St)
Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Cabeza de Res Pastor Taco Cart & Churro Cart
Plaza (south of Benito Juarez)
Playa del Carmen, Mexico

5th Avenue
Playa del Carmen, Mexico

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