Cemitas and Banksy
Here’s the scene: five adults cranky, tired, and hungry at the tail end of a 6 hour road trip from Oaxaca to Mexico City. The plan was to stop in Puebla for a nice dinner, but with the rain and the end-of-holiday-weekend gridlock, this is no longer an option. A tractor is on fire in the far right lane, and dad decides to take off his sweater as we exit a slick turn ramp. We all scream as it looks like we are barreling straight into the guardrail. Of course, he jerks the car in time to avoid any calamity, and hard enough for us to all be thankful we hadn’t, in fact, eaten yet. Traffic is too bad to push on to DF without stopping for fuel and food. “Let’s get some tacos or something quick, no?”
“¡No, cemitas!” My tía declares that if we are in Puebla and can’t get a proper Poblano meal, than we at least have to try cemitas. What are cemitas? They are the quintessential Poblano torta, made on delicious egg rolls with sesame seeds on top. They are filled with your choice of meat and feature avocado, string cheese, chile, and the incredible and ubiquitous Poblano herb, pápaloquelite.
After our dramatic exit we find ourselves in a hood, not a ghetto, but definitely the hood; run down, working class, a bit gritty. We ask people in storefronts where to get cemitas and everyone says the same thing, “Down the block a couple blocks to the right.” We drive around in circles to no avail, finally parking in front of a neon-lit taqueria and dive bar with Felini-esque danzón blaring from the jukebox. We figure this is it, tacos it is, when twinkling lights shinning from a side street announce: CEMITAS.
The place is a tiny, but spotless hole-in-the-wall; the kid making the sandwiches shy and courteous. For whatever ridiculous reason, I need wifi and immediately regret asking for it. There isn't even a bathroom. To my surprise, super fast wifi. The password: DISMALAND.
“Dismaland? Like Banksy?” I ask the kid. He smiles a huge braces filled smile at me and says, “Yea, my hermano loves Banksy.” And there you have it, SavageCon gold. A perfect mash up of cultures in the most unlikeliest of places.
And the sandwiches? Stupid good. First of all, there's paper thin, pounded out fillets of breaded chicken or pork milanesa fried to order. Or ham cold cuts, or an adobo rubbed pork also ready to sear to order. Next up, avocado, string cheese, and your choice of three kinds of homemade chiles. Two kinds of jalapeños (one pickled with carrots and onions, and one stewed with scrambled egg) and a homemade chipotle that's running out, but we make him stretch it to cover all five cemitas. Finally, what the hell is this incredible herb I've never tasted? Imagine if cilantro, arugula, and watercress had a threesome and created a floral offspring. Pápaloquelite is in the cilantro family, and so popular in Puebla, apparently restaurants put them on the table for you to pick off and top your grub with at will. For five sandwiches and some Mexican cokes we pay less than $10. I nearly cry. Ten bucks, and not one thing in this place isn’t hand made and delicious. Hell, when I make this at home, I’ll use canned rajas for sure, and if he had served us that no one would have minded. But no, he would not serve that, because this is a craftsman, an artist, a Cemitas Banksy himself.
Find the recipe inspired by this tale HERE