Maya's Taco Market
1600 N Alvarado St
Los Angeles, CA 90026
99 cent pupusas cada Lunes & Viernes.
Hanging out with, talking to and eating with lots of different LA bloggers recently has really piqued my interest in trying some food things around town that I haven't really ventured into. Two female bloggers recently chastised me for not trying the amazing pupusas made right on my corner at the little cart. A recent email from StreetGourmet LA reminded me of all the different meats/dishes/etc in Latin American food I have yet to try. I have an adventurous palate, so it is certainly not for lack of willingness. So today, on my own and with some time on my hands for lunch, I yelp'd pupusas in my hood and found raves about Maya's Taco Market at 1600 Alvarado.
One blogger said it is just like being in a cafe in Mexico, and s/he was right. This reminded me very much of a cafe I ate at near the airport in Mexico City in 1995. Small, no English spoken by the owner/wife/staff, plastic tablecloths wiped spic and span, and a few grocery items in the cold box. They were pretty busy, a line four people long and most of the dozen or so tables occupied by people eating or waiting for food. The cafe had a nice, bright friendly feel and a mix of ethnicities there to enjoy the food. I ordered two pupusas and two tacos to go, with the "hot" habanera salsa and some regular heat salsa as well. My order took about 10 minutes, and I was on my way back up the hill to take pics and sample my booty.
Mi plata. Yeah, I know this is a seriously huge lunch. I didn't eat it all. I really wanted to taste a bunch of different things. My friend K's recent words have inspired me, especially around inexpensive food. "Taste everything, finish nothing." It may be a little wasteful, but I love tasting food. So sue me. All four dishes weighed in at $5.06 including tax.
First item up for description is the taco de tripa. I have never had tripe. Tripe is made from the first three chambers of the cow's stomach. To me, it tastes remarkably like liver, which I love. The texture is fairly rubbery though. I liked the flavors of this with all the white onion, cilantro and some of the habanero salsa.
The second taco I ordered was cochinita pibil. Cochinita pibil is a slow roasted pork, traditional to the Yucatan (one of my favorite parts of Mexico). To make this, the pork is typically marinated in acidic citrus juices and then colored/flavored with annatto seeds. I tasted the nutmeg flavor of the annatto seeds, initially thinking I was tasting cinnamon, but knowing I was a little off in my analysis. This was melt-in-your-mouth, uber flavorful puerco heaven in a taco. The pickled cabbage on top was the perfect foil for the nutty richness of the pork.
Here are my pupusas. I asked for the two different kinds of pupusas offered today, cheese & pork, and cheese & chicharrones. There were some issues with translation, and for some reason I felt shy about using my Spanish. The exchange was brief, and I am always careful about assuming people do not speak English in LA. I don't want to insult anyone by immediately speaking Spanish to them just because of what they look like. I will know better next time because I got the same pupusa twice.
Both were delicious. Cheesey, but not overly so, and with just a little meat. I like the fact that it wasn't overstuffed with filling. It tasted really authentic to me, much like I remember the pupusas I ate nightly from the cart while walking home from the expat bar in the city center of Quetzaltenango.
The salsa habanero. I was warned this was very hot. However, my resistance to heat is currently high as a result of last night's spicy extravaganza at Jitlada. I have never had heat like that before, that I can remember, and this paled in comparison to Jitlada's jungle curry. This salsa is great. Light and lovely, with plenty of heat, don't let me fool you with my baddassness.
And the mild salsa. Also lovely. So nice to find a new discovery 2 minutes from my home. Next time I plan to try the empanadas, a chile relleno and a tamale. Just you wait.