No tlayuda is the same, they are unique pieces that are prepared differently in each region of Oaxaca, and thanks to their popularity and diversity, today they are made in many parts of the Mexican Republic with a variety of ingredients. Its base, like many typical Mexican dishes, is corn, can be made with tasajo, whole or in pieces, chorizo and quesillo, cabbage, hoja santa, chepiche, chapulines, avocado, jitomete, and various sauces or chile de agua slices.
The tlayuda is a nixtamalized corn tortilla typical of the Central Valleys of the state of Oaxaca. Its name comes from the Náhualtl "tlao-li", which means "shelled corn" and is complemented with the suffix "uda", which refers to abundance. Corn is a fundamental food in the Mexican diet since ancient times, with which an enormous variety of dishes can be made, due to the great diversity of corn breeds.
Of the 64 corn breeds present in the country, 35 are found in the state of Oaxaca, where a close relationship between indigenous groups and corn breeds has been described. Thus, the Zapotecs of the Central Valleys of Oaxaca are characterized by planting Bolita corn, a name given by the round shape of the cob and the grain.
Bolita corn has been pointed out as the specific breed of corn with which tlayudas can be elaborated, because it is used to obtain its characteristic semi-brittle texture, acquiring a better consistency, quality, flavor, smell, yield, and presentation, compared to those elaborated with any other corn.
Tlayudas are characterized by their large size, as each tortilla measures at least 30 centimeters in diameter. Its flavor is very different from that of any other tortilla, because, when toasted in a clay comal, it acquires a consistency that goes from flexible to semi-brittle, without actually being toasted. Moreover, because it is cooked almost until it is toasted, it acquires an almost imperceptible aroma of burnt tortilla and makes the tlayuda last longer without decomposing, compared to common tortillas.
In the town of San Antonio de la Cal, on July 18, the traditional Tlayuda Fair is held as part of the Guelaguetza festivities, where you can enjoy this traditional Oaxacan dish.
Another advantage of the tlayuda is that it can be accompanied by practically any ingredient. Its basic ingredients are beans, quesillo, chopped cabbage, tomato, avocado, and some delicious sauce. It is usually served with tasajo, but there are also very tasty vegetarian options. It is served toasted so that in each crunchy bite you can enjoy all this incredible mix of flavors and smells.
Because of all this gastronomic richness, the tlayuda was recently recognized as the favorite dish in all of Latin America through a social media competition organized by a famous digital platform. But this is not the only recognition they have won, since 2010 tlayudas are part of the Oaxacan dishes that were declared Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.
The production of tlayudas is characterized for being a task carried out exclusively by women, who use artisan techniques transferred from generation to generation since no machine has been able to match the quality and presentation that the tlayuda acquires when it is made by hand. Likewise, tlayudas are an important source of income for Oaxacan families, as they are sold in communities in Oaxaca, as well as in other parts of the country and even in the United States.
Tlayuda wins the championship for best street food in Latin America
In an online tournament organized by Netflix to decide the best street food in Latin America, thousands of users voted for tlayuda, the traditional Oaxacan dish. With 46.6% of the votes, the tlayuda, that giant tortilla served with a seat of beans, tasajo (beef jerky), chorizo, chapulines, and quesillo, won the Street Food Latin America championship, in which the best Latin sidewalk dish was decided.
Its rival was the not inconsiderable Peruvian ceviche, the famous mix of fresh fish, lemon juice, red onion, sweet potato, and corn kernels that has enchanted palates all over the world, and can even be found in fancy restaurants. The love of this food is such in the Andean country that it is considered a "flagship dish", even though it exists elsewhere in Latin America.
The dishes that fell by the wayside were the Choripán from Argentina, the Acarajé from Brazil, the Ajiaco from Colombia, and the Relleno de papa from Bolivia. Both Mexican and Peruvian gastronomy are known for the variety of their ingredients and their flavors, although Peru holds the title of the Latin American country with the most restaurants in the top 50 of the best in the world.
What nutrients and benefits does tlayuda provide?
The tlayuda is a complete and balanced dish, which due to its ingredients, is rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals (Vitamin A, B, C, E, calcium, potassium, iodine, iron, zinc). The nixtamalized corn of the tlayuda provides a good proportion of complex carbohydrates and favors the bioavailability of calcium and niacin, providing the same amount of protein and fiber that would provide the consumption of a similar portion of tortillas.
Beans are low in fat and cholesterol, high in fiber, slow-absorption carbohydrates, and protein, which, together with the roasted tasajo, provide the greatest amount of protein in this dish. The tomato is a good source of fiber, vitamin C, and potassium. Its red color indicates that it contains beta-carotene, a form of vitamin A that provides great health benefits, both in the digestive, cardiovascular and immune systems, as well as in many other vital functions.
Cabbage is an excellent source of fiber, vitamin A, B, and C, sulfur, calcium, nitrogen, and iodine. The fat contained in avocado, being of vegetable origin, contains unsaturated fatty acids that have a protective effect against cardiovascular diseases, such as oleic acid and those known as omega 3 and omega 6.
Tlayudas can be found mainly in Oaxaca's markets. However, due to their popularity, it is very easy to find them in any Oaxacan restaurant in the country.
Tlayudas, being made from nixtamalized corn, beans, and a mixture of vegetables, are a delicious and healthy meal. However, we need to pay attention that the amount of oil or seat that is added during its preparation is minimal. Also, we need to make sure that we serve more vegetables than meat. This way, we get a complete and balanced meal.
Classic tlayuda recipe
Roasted Tasajo (a cut of beef)
Buy previously made tlayudas in any market. Fry the chorizo with a little bit of butter to give it a touch of flavor. Fry the beans, if they are whole, mash them until they have a creamy consistency. Spread some butter and plenty of beans on your tlayuda.
Place the tasajo on top, then the shredded Oaxaca cheese, you can also use ranch cheese or panela; continue placing the ingredients previously sliced in strips, the onion, tomato, avocado, grasshoppers, and finally the fresh lettuce. To give it a touch of flavor, and add the sauce of your preference. All the ingredients are to taste, depending on the number of tlayudas you are going to prepare.
Tlayudas from Campeche recipe
2 pcs tlayudas
1 tablespoon lard
150 g beef jerky, in strips
150 g marinated beef jerky, in strips
1 pc green chorizo
½ pc onion, sliced
1 cup refried black beans, refried
2 cups white cabbage, sliced
2 pcs tomato, seeded, sliced
½ cup cilantro leaves
1 pc avocado
200 g Oaxaca cheese, shredded
For the red sauce:
6 pcs cascabel chile
¼ cup onion, roasted
4 pcs tomatoes, roasted
1 pc garlic clove, roasted
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons oil
For the tlayudas, heat oil and sauté onion, add marinated jerky and seal. Then add the beef jerky and chorizo. Integrate and cook over medium heat until cooked. Adjust seasoning. Spread lard on the tlayudas and brown in a comal, spread the beans, and place the meat preparation. Let it brown and shred the quesillo. Cook over medium heat, add the cheese and cheese until it melts. Remove from heat and garnish with cabbage, tomato, cilantro, and avocado. For the sauce, blend all the ingredients and season with salt and pepper. Serve the tlayuda and accompany it with the sauce.