Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Off the beaten menu

A tamarindo margarita
Not too long ago, I visited the Talpa, an old and venerable Mexican restaurant on L.A.'s westside, expecting a rather ho-hum boring lunch with the usual platter of beans-and-rice, sauce and orange cheese-covered combo-plate, and  - perhaps it was the influence of my impulsively ordered tamarindo margarita. At the last minute I ordered something unexpected.

Posole is a rich, chile-infused soup or stew made with hominy, dried corn that has been prepared with an ancient process called nixtamalization, or soaking in an alkali solution. This process has deep cultural roots, going back to pre-Columbian Meso-America. It plumps the kernels up, makes them more easily ground into meal, and allows their nutrients to be more accessible to our human guts. It's the nutritional basis of Meso-American life.

This bowl was fragrant with herbs, rich with big chunks of stewed pork, and redolent of red chile, tingeing the pork fat that lingered on its surface a deep orange that rimmed the sides of the white china bowl.

Posole is served with an assortment of garnishes  -  limes to squeeze into the soup, chopped white onion, chunks of radish and shredded cabbage. A little dish of dried oregano and hot chiles.

Instead of a platter of gut-stuffing rice and beans, melted cheese and sauce, that would have sent me drowsing off the afternoon, I spent $8 on a "cup" portion of posole, which, with two warm corn tortillas, was enough to completely satisfy my appetite.

The other benefit of an off-the-beaten-path choice is that I experienced something unexpectedly delicious and authentic, something that went beyond the ordinary, something that surprised me. It raised my opinion of a previously nondescript ordinary restaurant. The Talpa is not just a typical Mexican joint, after all.

It just goes to show you, don't always get your usual. What other hidden treasures are there out there for you?


smalltownme said...

I love your discoveries. This will be on my list of "places to go on the way to/and from the airport."

I have made turkey posole after thanksgiving but pork would be even more delicious.

Jenny said...

Mmm...we eat posole once evey 2-3 months! I love it. :) I'm so glad you liked it.

Jenny said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Becky Brown said...

YUM! Thanks for letting me eat vicariously through you!

Ellen Bloom said...

I've driven by this place for decades! Everyone seems to be going into the restaurant next door! I must try Talpa soon! Thanks for the review!

Glennis said...

I'd love to taste your family's posole, Jenny!!!

cactus petunia said...

Mmmm. Just read this, and it's funny, but I made posole for dinner tonight...with all the fixin's you mentioned, even. Sometimes I really, really miss living in California! I will definitely try Talpa the next time I'm in town!

Claudia from Idiot's Kitchen said...

Posole has been on my kitchen to do list for over a year. Now I REALLY want to make it!