La Teca can be taken to mean “woman from the Isthmus”. Our La Teca is Deyanira Aquino, the owner and chef of the restaurant, La Teca Restaurant. What’s the isthmus? In this case I’m talking about Tehuantepec, one of the regions in Oaxaca that is close to the ocean. This is very clearly represented in their cuisine. Fresh, dried, or salted fish and shrimp are common in this region’s cuisine. I am told that women from this region are very strong willed and commanding, as traditionally the people from this area come from matriarchial societies.
We learned to make several dishes from the isthmus, including a very delicious appetizer called garnachas, which are small rounds of masa that are first cooked on a comal, then split in half and pan fried on one side and topped with ground meat, salsa, cheese, and lightly pickled vegetables. She also showed us how to make tamal de elote con queso freso, which are tamales made from fresh corn and topped with cheese, and a soup from dried shrimp. Sorry – I don’t remember the name of the soup but it probably has the word camarón (shrimp) in it. For the main course, there was costillitas de puerco con mole, pork ribs in a sauce with stewed chayotes and plantains served with a side of purée de papa, estilo Istmeño, or mashed potatoes in the Isthmus style. As the final dish, we made molotes de plátano macho stuffed with queso fresco and cream.
Unfortunately I didn’t get to try the soup, the main course, or the tamales. Of the items I did get to try, the garnachas were super tasty! They were cripsy on the bottom, filled with flavorful meat, tangy salsa, salty cheese and crunchy vegetables. I would definitely make this again. The plantains were also delicious – it’s kind of difficult to get the semi-liquid filling to stay inside the mashed plantain, but it’s totally worth it.
I can respect someone wanting to stick with tradition and the way that food “should” be done. This was clearly evidenced by Chef appealing to La Teca to add butter to some of the tamal de elote instead of manteca (lard) to the whole batch. I watched this exchange and even though I didn’t understand most it, I could tell that she agreed that this was definitely possible. Chef turned around and took two steps away, and La Teca turned back to the tamale and poured the manteca into the whole batch. Hahaha! No one argues with La Teca.