Joanna and Jorge have gone and ruined panuchos for me. Also salbutes. From now on, I doubt I’ll enjoy either unless I take a cab or take a long hike up to Garcia Ginerés. Thanks a whole lot, Joanne and Jorge.
It took me awhile to finally order my first salbut, and I don’t know why I waited so long, but it was at Cafeteria Impala, a neighborhood place with an exceptional location and street vibe. I just love sitting under the big neon sign, which is actually one of the more memorable things along that end of the Paseo. The food was good. Of course, I had nothing to compare it to, so I was hardly an authority on salbutes, but at that point I decided that I liked panuchos and salbutes. Not that I’m an expert now… I keep calling them “salbrutes,” and I don’t know why.
But now I know what they’re supposed to taste like because our friends treated us to an early supper in their neighborhood, at La Lupita. Later that week, I ordered dos panuchos back at Impala, and they seemed heavy, a little oily, and the turkey was a little dry. And I paid twice what I paid at La Lupita in Garcia Ginerés, where there was no view of a monument and no horse-drawn carriages clip-clopped by.
We need to investigate our own neighborhood a little more. Mary’s (or Mari’s) at the Santa Ana market is always closed when I get there. I’m open for advice here.
Priced at about $1 U.S. (maybe even a little under a buck), Lupita’s dishes were fresh and light and subtle and complex, all at once. We huddled around a small table on the sidewalk of a quiet-ish, slightly more suburban neighborhood, but still busy with people coming for food. Lots of takeout business. In a way, it kind of reminded me of being at a Jim’s Steaks in Philly, Smitty’s Clam Bar in Somers Point, or the White House Sub Shop in Atlantic City, back when I was a kid. It’s a real “neighborhood joint.”
This was also the place I first had the pitaya drink. Good thing I was in a receptive state of mind, because on another day I might have been dubious about a glass of milky liquid with little black seeds floating about. One sip had me sold. The next day I was googling “betaya” because I heard it wrong. Then I remembered its alternate name, “dragon fruit,” and it all came together. Dragon fruit has only been allowed in the U.S. for the last few years. Now, I suspect it will be the trendy flavoring in yogurts, smoothies and shakes. It’s absolutely the most refreshing thing in hot weather. I wonder what a splash of tequila or rum would do to it? But I digress.
Back to this distinctively Yucatecan treat. Panuchos and salbutes may be fattening, but just one or two (to me, at least) is a sensible light supper. I don’t know the calorie count, but the pickled onion and turkey probably absorb the fat, binding it to prevent the calories from settling into your body. I’m sure that’s how it works. If I end up marching to Garcia Ginerés for my panuchos and salbutes, I’ll lose weight for sure.
Back at home, there are no such foods, but our local Mexican joint does offer “chicken tostadas” which seem a little similar. I think I know what I’m talking myself into having for dinner tonight.