Food in Baja California

Knowing that Mexico grows much of produce sold in the United States during the winter, I naively thought that we would be eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables as we travelled down the Baja peninsula.

That was wrong.

While Mexico does grow a lot of the produce sold in the United States, it is not grown on the Baja peninsula. Baja does, however, have a lot of great seafood and we have had delicious fresh fish and shrimp as we travelled. snapper

When we were planning for this trip, I failed to realize how much of Baja is covered by desert. Water is a real struggle here. We have seen only a couple of small streams – no creeks or rivers. In fact, I am pretty sure I have seen more saguaro cactuses than people. Like much of Mexico, water is trucked into houses and business, and it is used extremely sparingly. The only fresh produce that is sold in most of the mini-super markets we visit are the hardiest vegetables with long shelf lives like potatoes and onions.

This means that when we cook for ourselves, we have been making a lot of pasta dinners.

Camping Pasta Dinner
Mmmm…pasta!

We can reliably find dried pasta and jarred marinara sauce at most of the mini-super markets – and pasta is a dish that quite easy to cook on our Coleman stove. I am a little embarassed to admit that I was really excited to go to the Walmart in La Paz because it meant I could stock up on some of the basics that were difficult to find at the mini-super markets. Basics like fruit, canned soup, canned beans, and preserved sausage simply were not available in most of the towns we visited.

While we cook a most of our own dinners, we do like to eat out for lunch. We have travelled to a lot of coastal villages whose primary export is seafood. Therefore, most of the restaurants we visit specialize in seafood. Here are a few of our favorite dishes.

Shrimp with Garlic:
My favorite dish to order at restaurants is usually some variation of a shrimp dish. In particular, I have liked the sauteed shrimp with garlic. Almost invariably, the shrimp I have received has been very fresh, large, and sweet. While we were surfing in San Juanico, we actually saw the shrimping boats in the bay. Apparently, the catch from these boats is trucked to Ensenada, and then shipped all over the world. The typical price for a well prepared shrimp dish style at a nice restaurant is around $100-$150 pesos.

Fish Vera Cruz Style:
This is the dish that Eric enjoys eating the most at the restaurants we visit. The type of fish that is served depends on what was caught that day – but it is always some sort of white fish. The fish is prepared in a flavorful tomato broth with a medley of onions, peppers, and olives and usually comes with a side of rice. The typical price for a well prepared fish Vera Cruz style at a nice restaurant is also around $100-$150 pesos. Many restaurants also serve chicken Vera Cruz style, which is equally scrumptious. Here is recipe for the dish I am looking forward to trying when I get home. (Although I would probably go light on jalapeños.)

Birria Jalisco Style: 
This is the most surprisingly delicious dish I have had so far. Birria is a meat stew simmered for hours in a tomato broth with spices and peppers.

Barrie street tacos
Birria Tacos

Birria is served in almost every town by street vendors – called birrierias. The vendor will take a corn tortilla, dip it in the birria broth and then fry it on the griddle. He will then add the stewed birria meat to the tortilla to make tacos. At this point you can add your own toppings: onions, cilantro, pico de gallo, or cabbage. Each taco sells for about $10-$15 pesos. Some of the street vendors have shacks – while others have just set up a griddle on the sidewalk. We usually pick the one with the most local people out front since they probably know which ones are the best. This is another recipe I am looking forward to trying. While birria is traditionally made with goat meat, I think it should work just fine with beef – and it may be possible to make it in the crockpot.

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