The latest season of Gordon Ramsay Uncharted is out and, in the final episode, Michelin-starred chef Gordon Ramsay heads to the Oaxaca region in southern Mexico.
Ramsay showcases that Mexico offers more than meets the eye with its thriving and vibrant culture and cuisine. Although the famous, much-loved tequila originates from Mexico, Ramsay’s exploration of Oaxaca showcases the country’s indigenous roots in both its food and traditions.
Southern Mexico’s Oaxaca region
As the fifth-biggest region in Mexico, Oaxaca is often referred to as the gastronomic capital of the country and is “one of the most important destinations to visit” in the country, according to Visit Mexico.
With a bastion of indigenous cultures, Oaxaca’s cuisine is strongly reliant on age-old traditions both in the preparation of food and the ingredients used. Not only is Oaxaca known for its food but also for the colourful crafts and art and festivities such as guelaguetza.
Guelaguetza is one of the biggest festivals held in the region and is a celebration of the numerous traditions and cultures found in Oaxaca.
Age-old methods and distinct flavours
Oaxaca is synonymous with mole, a traditional Mexican multi-layered sauce that is prepared with chilli peppers, fruits, and various spices and nuts.
Mexican cuisine is often stereotyped as simple and rustic, but Oaxaca showcases that this is not the case with the creation of mole.
Various cuisines in Oaxaca are prepared using ancient tools such as the comal, a cooking mechanism that can be described as a flat griddle made from clay. The comal is used as a multipurpose cooking tool – used to prepare tortillas, roast cacao and more.
Many of the ingredients used within dishes prepared in Oaxaca are sourced from the land.
Oaxaca cuisine takes foraging and living off the land to a new level as it incorporates readily available sources in its dishes, such as roasted butter worms and honey from honey pot ants, an ant that produces “honey” on its abdomen.
During his trip in Oaxaca, Ramsay explores the various foraging methods used by locals and takes on the challenge of sourcing larvae and honey from a buzzing wasp hive.
Exploring the southern region of Mexico would not be complete without a trip to an agave farm and mezcal producer. Aside from mole, mezcal is something that the region of Oaxaca is known for.
Not to be confused with tequila but sourced from the same agave plant, mezcal is produced in small batches and is considered more artisanal than its counterpart. With a smoky flavour, mezcal is produced from oven-cooked agave.
Want to find out more about the region of Oaxaca? Then tune into National Geographic, DStv Channel 181, on Wednesday at 9pm.