Don´t be self-conchas: eat the whole thing
By Mariana Barrera @ccocous
I don´t think I had even finished reading the invitation to write this piece when my mouth was already watering. That´s how bad my jamaicón has been lately. (Jamaicón, for those of you, amigos gringos, who had never heard of it, it is the symptom of missing one’s home –in Mexico, of course–, which usually manifests itself as an appalling, overpowering craving, a need really, for Mexican food.) And even though I live in NYC, where more and more good Mexican places have been popping up lately, there is no way I will find a tortilla, let alone a tlacoyo, like the ones I get in my hometown. Thus when I was tempted to think about food that I love and miss from Mexico City, any kind of food, thousands of images, textures, and smells meandered through my brain. Which one to pick? There are so many and I want them all right about now!
For the sake of protecting my poor, hungry stomach that, at the moment, is screaming for tacos, I will focus on one of my favourite things but that is not really suited for my current mood: conchas, a fluffy, delicious pastry that resembles a roll and it´s covered in a crunchy, sugary shell. Conchas typically come in two flavors: black, for chocolate, and white –the best kind– for vanilla.
A good concha can pretty much make an entire breakfast, and the good news is that they are easy to find in Mexico City. Many traditional panaderías have fairly decent ones; even the supermarket Superama has a good selection, with smaller size options for the body conscious. A great one, deserving of jamaicón concha, however, is worth a trip to its baker´s kitchen.
Like tacos, determining the best concha is contested. Everybody has their favorite. Not that long ago a friend posed the question on Facebook, “which is the best concha in the city?” And to her surprise there was, firstly, a LOT of interest in the topic, and secondly, many different favorites. My personal choice was repeatedly mentioned in that list, and that is the one from El Cardenal. This also happens to be one of my top 3 favorite restaurants in the city. There are a few of them now but the original one is downtown, in an old 19th century house. It serves amazing traditional food including delicacies like huauzontles, escamoles, and gusanos de maguey. And their conchas in the morning are heavenly: moist and soft on the inside, crusty on the outside, not too sweet, and always fresh out of the oven.
The memory of that first bite of a concha from El Cardenal (my teeth bitting through the buttery dough and grinding the pieces of sugar) followed by a sip of a café con leche, makes me want to book my next trip. And, while I´m at it, I´d spend the rest of the day eating tacos and tlacoyos.
*If you happen to be as big a fan of conchas as I am, and you live or are passing by NYC, Enrique Olvera’s Alta has a pretty remarkable one, fyi.