When I travel to a new place, I try my utmost to try the best food in town, even if it is just one of Google’s generic suggestions based on a simple algorithm extrapolating my location and positive words associated with food. And if that doesn’t work, I’ll ask a local.
When Barack Obama visited the Mexican city of Toluca for the North American Leaders Summit in 2014, he lamented that he didn’t have time to try the legendary local chorizo, causing Mexico to weep tears of sorrow and then joy.
As Obama thanked his Mexican counterpart Enrique Pena Nieto for his extraordinary hospitality he said, “Hopefully next time I stop by, I’m gonna be able to have some of that.” Relations between both countries have since deteriorated, but Mexico’s government may have come up with a cunning plan to win over the current US president, Donald Trump.
We know the Donald loves a Taco bowl, albeit from his own kitchen, but for someone who “loves Hispanics,” he has a hard time showing it, to say the least. However, could a taste of more traditional Mexican cuisine change his mind about his Southern neighbors?
Mexico’s Secretary of Economy, Ildefonso Guajardo believes so. Joking ahead of the NAFTA renegotiations, that are due to begin next month, he said “We mustn’t lose hope. President Obama never tried chorizo from Toluca, but we can offer it to President Trump.”
With Mexico’s future prosperity seemingly hanging in the balance, it would only be appropriate to share why this chorizo has so much power and inspires such great national pride.
Hailing from a sprawling industrial city just west of Mexico City, Toluca has been famed for its chorizo for centuries. It was first introduced to Mexico by the Spanish during the colonial era, but the locals quickly developed their own distinctive version.
While Spanish chorizo is a dry, smoked, ready-to-eat sausage, made with paprika-seasoned pork, most Mexican varieties are made with raw minced pork, dried chiles, vinegar and a broader mix of herbs and spice. Toluca itself is known for its green chorizo.
The chorizo’s green hue comes from the chopped tomatillo and cilantro used to season the meat. The best place to try chorizo in Toluca is La Vaquita Negra del Portal, a much loved family-run deli that was founded over 70 years ago.
Now one of three branches, the oldest of La Vaquita Negra’s three branches is located in the heart of Toluca’s historic centre. It was founded by the current owner and manager’s great-grandfather Miguel Parella Casals – a politician from the city of Girona, Catalonia who came to Mexico as a refugee to escape persecution during the Spanish Civil war.
Customers are often met with long lines on the weekends with people queuing to buy tortas. Inside, long strings of red and green chorizo hang above the counter alongside hardened balls of smoked provolone. Cómo se dice… deli heaven?
The manager, Luis Vazquez explains “We make our chorizo using artisanal methods. We try to use as much meat and as little fat as possible, we source all the ingredients locally and make sure it’s all natural.”
The local institution has been in Vazquez’s family for generations and they offer natural products you genuinely can’t find anywhere else. Vazquez adds, “everyone knows us and we even get a lot of people coming from other places like Mexico City or Cuernavaca to eat here.” Seriously, the hype is all too real for this humble deli owner.
Would it be worth flying Trump out to Toluca ahead of the next round of bilateral talks? “It’s a good idea!” Vazquez laughs. After all, what better place to blow Trump’s mind than in a Mexican establishment founded by a refugee?