Monday, April 20, 2009

La Plaza de Mercado Festival @ QVM

My couple of weeks in Malaysia were like a reverse version of "The Biggest Loser", so I've been looking to shed a couple of kilos. This was not helped however by someone deciding to have a Spanish & Latin American food festival in my town. Meaning that I had no choice but to go and do some serious eating. The churros (above) were the last thing I ate, and when you've eaten five of them your body will tell you that you've gone too far.

If you can't enjoy the music of a highly percussive Latin band on a warm sunny day, you need to check your pulse. I didn't have much time to check these guys out however; I had limited time to spend, lots of foods to try and long queues standing in my way.

Below: Pupusas. A friend from El Salvador had repeatedly waxed lyrical to me about this snack, which I finally got a chance to try. Frijoles refritos (refried beans) and white cheese (a blend of feta, ricotta and mozzarella by my reckoning) are stuffed into a ball of masa (corn dough), which is then flattened into a fat tortilla and cooked on a hot plate. It's served topped with tomato salsa and cabbage salad.

Below: although alfajor (pronounced alpha-whore) sounds like the leader of a group of prostitutes, it is actually the name of THE great biscuit of South America. Pictured are three variations, but at its most basic level it is a layer of dulce de leche sandwiched between two cookies, then covered with chocolate, coconut, powdered sugar or something else that is inevitably bad for you. In case you were wondering, dulce de leche (milk caramel) is pretty much the best sweet substance ever created, and if I were prime minister I would decree it mandatory to put in in everything.

Below: something called a putaco. No, I've never heard of it before either. Little more than a round slab of cornmeal really, but to be honest if you piled guacamole, salsa, sour cream and frijoles onto a piece of cardboard, I'd still think it was pretty good.
In addition I did manage to put away a Chilean cheese empanada, a quesadilla, tamale, and a rajas con crema taco.

La Plaza de Mercado is Melbourne's other Latino festival (the main one being the Johnston St Festival in January. I confess this was the first time I ever heard of it, but apparently its been going for 5 years, organised by the Spanish Latin American Welfare Centre. Of all the ethnic-based festivals Melbourne has, I have to say that the Latino ones seem to always have the best food and music. Respetar, hombres!

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