The greatest guavas

We were meandering through the Mercado de Coyoacan, the large market in the Coyoacan neighborhood of Mexico City, strolling through rows of stalls filled with all manner of colorful tchotchkes, home goods and clothing, trying to make our way to the heart of the market where the food was. Along the way, we passed tubs piled high with candy and dried fruit, butchers at refrigerated cases, lunch counters selling tostadas and quesadillas prepared on the spot, and wandering singers and musicians serenading the lunchtime crowd.

In that blur of near-sensory overload, between the colors, sights, sounds and smells, I spotted something out of the corner of my eye as we passed a produce vendor: guavas!


If you could only smell these beauties!

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Kids eat the darndest things

I’ll be honest, I don’t know a whole lot about kids or what they’re into these days. I don’t really hang out with many and the few that belong to my friends are still babies and toddlers. But I’ll tell you one thing, I learned all sorts of things about Cambodian kiddies in the two weeks I volunteered teaching them English.

One of the things I found most fascinating was the snacks they ate during recess. I’m used to kids at home eating candy and cookies, or if they have health-conscious parents, fruits like apple wedges, grapes and bananas. But not the Cambodian students I had. They ate all manner of unusual snacks and super sugary, brightly colored energy drinks (which for the record, turned the portion of class after recess a wild rumpus room.)

No idea what you call this thing-

No idea what you call this thing.


Apparently, you pop out the little seed balls and then eat them. Yum?

A few times, the kids ate strange fruits purchased from bicycle vendors and the ramshackle shop across the street. I didn’t know what they were and the kids weren’t much help either in explaining what they were. The couple of times I tried what they were nibbling on, they were bitter or sour, and not anything I could imagine my 8-year-old self eating.

Spicy chili mango strips.

Spicy chili mango strips.

One snack I was able to identify was green mango, a tart version of its sweet, juicy, ripe counterpart. Cut into wedges and strips, my kids dipped it in a salt and chili pepper mix that made them pucker their little faces and fan their mouths from the spiciness. Again, how many little kids do you know that would pack ask for that in their lunch boxes?

Just another break time snack.

Just another break time snack.

One kid made me laugh one day when he pulled out a whole corn on the cob and chomped away at it during break. I feel ya, little guy, I like corn on the cob, too.

Another snack they couldn’t really explain— but I was able to figure out once I got my hands on it— was sweet sticky rice. Adults eat this too, though, and street vendors sell it from little push carts pretty much everywhere. Sometimes it comes wrapped in palm or banana leaves, or in the case of the little girl I saw eating it at school, in bamboo, which then gets peeled back and the rice inside pushed out, kind of like a Push Pop.

Sweet sticky rice

Sweet sticky rice… in Push Pop form

Travel’s great like that, in that it opens your eyes to all the things you don’t know, in this case not just what another group of people eat but what its youngest eaters enjoy as well.

Shaved ice will get me through it

Summer is almost here and I’m about as excited for its arrival as I am for my next dentist appointment. Still about two weeks off, I can already feel summer’s grip tightening around my sweaty neck, its stuffy hot breath on my face.

So this year, like the last, and every one before it, I’ll comfort myself in one of the best ways I know how: by eating copious amounts of ice cream and other cold treats.

I think I’ll live through the heat waves if I can have this little mountain of refreshing sweetness.

Last summer I discovered snoballs, a New Orleans spin on shaved ice, and now this year I found the Korean version, patbingsu, at koreatown’s Korydang. But while other forms of this frosty treat are usually just shaved ice and a flavor syrup, patbingsu way more than just flavored slush.

When I ordered the green tea version at Korydang, out came a cherry topped-mountain of green tea flavored ice cream, surrounded by mochi balls,  sweet red beans, and chunks of mango, kiwi and strawberry, all which were hiding the bottom layer of slushy, cool shaved ice, made a creamy green color by green tea syrup and one of my all time favorite ingredients, condensed milk. Refreshing, creamy and light, and mixing the different smooth, gummy, and chunky textures of the fruit and mochi toppings, this korean take on shaved ice was not only delicious, it was fun to eat. And when the summer months get really nasty around here, which they inevitably will sooner than I’d like, this is the kind of fun I’ll be looking for on those sticky hot days in the city.