The street kitchens of Puebla

It is a calling, but also a perpetual desire, for Mexicans to eat in the streets. It is a practice that is part of its cultural genetics.

It hardly seems possible to imagine the streets of Mexico without the abundance of food that characterizes them. And less simple it seems to imagine them without Mexicans hungry for their aromas, flavors and emotions, which can be found in every corner or open entrance from early in the morning until the darkest hour of the night.

Para ir comiendo y para llevar by Museo del PulqueCocina Cinco Fuegos

To eat in and to take away

In cities such as Puebla and Mexico City, street kitchens provide food to the passer-by as well as to homes. Thus, for centuries the sale of dozens of handmade tortillas, gorditas (pancakes), tlacoyos (tortillas), tamales and atole (drink) has lasted.

Los buñuelos by Fototeca Lorenzo Becerril A.C. Lorenzo Becerril A.C. and Cocina Cinco FuegosCocina Cinco Fuegos

Buñuelos (fritters)

Crunchy and abundant buñuelos (fritters) invaded viceroyal streets and independent Mexico's streets. They were inspired by the delicious sugary fritters of the women's convents, but incorporated ingredients such as brown sugar, guava, aniseed, cinnamon and hawthorn.

Colores que se pueden beber by Andrés LobatoCocina Cinco Fuegos

Colors you could drink

Fresh water can be traced back to the early years of New Spain's viceroyalty. They drank under the gateways of the public squares, in the company of guisos (stews) and antojitos (street food) from other stalls.

Chalupas poblanas by Andrés LobatoCocina Cinco Fuegos

Chalupas poblanas (Puebla crunchy tortillas)

Little or nothing has changed the chalupas (crunchy tortillas) since their early appearance in the 19th century Puebla recipe books. Their name comes from the French chaloupe, a ship whose shape seems to have inspired this popular oil-fried Puebla antojito (street food) prepared with a corn tortilla, salsa verde or salsa roja, shredded meat and chopped onion.

Arcoíris comestible by Andrés LobatoCocina Cinco Fuegos

Edible rainbow

Puebla's sweets originated in the neo-Hispanic women's convents, where small societies and ethnicities found a common place in the kitchens. So what would later become Mexico's national sweet first drank from Andalusian and Arab sources before incorporating Central-American ingredients and launching themselves to conquer the streets and palates of the whole country.

Both home-made and open-air kitchens have different seasonings and functions, but sometimes they share dishes and languages, also related to the craftsmanship and emotional feeling they evoke. Street food is capable of filling stomachs and nourishing spirits. In the daily life of cities like Puebla or Mexico City these foods, whose informality must be called into question, provide energy for the effort of working, are available to almost any pocket and create in their places a singular and boisterous table for all.

Comer como en casa by Andrés LobatoCocina Cinco Fuegos

Eat as if you're at home

Spanish soldiers and commentators observed women preparing and serving stews in the Central-American markets. In the centuries of New Spain this tradition continued in the hands of reliable and lively stews, which fed pedestrians and populated practically every corner of cities like Puebla and Mexico City.

Esquites y elotes by Lilia Martínez y TorresCocina Cinco Fuegos

Esquites (corn salad) and elotes (street corn)

Boiled and threshed elotes (street corn) has been present since the ancient Tenochtitlan. It has only changed the seasonings, which today includes mayonnaise or cream, chili, lemon and cheese.

Tamales, comidas completas by Andrés LobatoCocina Cinco Fuegos

Tamales, full meals

The history of tamales is lost in the mists of times. The word means wrapping and this can be done using a large number of holders such as the leaves of the corn and those of other plants such as Indian shot and plantain, which arrived from Asia through Africa. Tamales may or may not contain corn masa dough and are now filled with fish, chili, meat, cheese or whatever is on hand.

El alimento nacional by Andrés LobatoCocina Cinco Fuegos

The national dish

Tacos appeared on the streets during the 20th century during armed movements in Mexico, when food was required to become more practical and portable. Over time, tacos became the favorite and most iconic popular food for Mexicans.

Todos a comer by Fototeca Lorenzo Becerril A.C. Lorenzo Becerril A.C. and Cocina Cinco FuegosCocina Cinco Fuegos

Everybody, let's go to eat

For centuries, Mexican street food has nourished the bodies and spirits of all social classes, which find it irresistible and full of identity.

The streets in Mexico have been teeming with food since before the conquest. Commentators, friars, travelers, and Spanish soldiers narrated their encounter with women who offered tamales, atoles (drinks), boiled elotes (street corn), and corn masa dough objects filled with beans, forerunners of the current esquites (corn salads), tlacoyos (tortillas), and pancakes. This tradition was prolonged and even increased during the viceroyal centuries and lasts until now.

Utensilios milenarios by Andrés LobatoCocina Cinco Fuegos

Age-old utensils

In street kitchens, the use of old utensils such as the comal (griddle), portable stove, presses and molcajetes (mortars).

Cemitas preparadas by Lilia Martínez y TorresCocina Cinco Fuegos

Prepared cemitas bread

Over time, antojitos (street food) such as the popular Puebla cemitas bread, of humble origin but full of flavor and satisfaction, incorporated more and more ingredients, to suit everyone's taste.

Tradición centenaria by Lilia Martínez y TorresCocina Cinco Fuegos

A centuries-old tradition

The presence of tlacoyos (corn time fryed filled with ingredients as bean, haba or cheese) and gorditas (another kind of corn time filled with stewed) has been documented since the 16th century in the work of Fray Bernardino de Sahagún. It can be said that only the way to garnish them has changed, with ingredients coming from Europe and Africa.

Cacao ancestral by Lilia Martínez y TorresCocina Cinco Fuegos

Ancestral cocoa

According to sources, the original name for chocolate was cacao. The word was changed after the conquest, probably so that it would sound better and be more attractive.

Tortillas by Lilia Martínez y TorresCocina Cinco Fuegos


During the 16th century Fray Bernardino de Sahagún reported a huge variety of tortillas with different thicknesses, colors, size and uses. Many of them continue today in the everyday and ritual with just a few changes.

Panes que son prodigio by Andrés LobatoCocina Cinco Fuegos

Breads that are a miracle

At first, European wheat bread was an invasive food. Time and mixing would over time give it a place equal to that of the tortilla at the national tables. In Mexico, there is no one who resists the temptation to eat good bread even outside the house.

For Mexicans, the street always represents the possibility of experiencing a gastronomic adventure. The antojitos (street food) offer flavor with an abundance of ingredients, a good relation between price and quantity, appetizing presentations and arrangements, flavoring with delicious and distinctive salsas, familiarity and seasoning.

Credits: Story

Alberto Peralta de Legarreta

Photographers / Creators:
Andrés Lobato
Lilia Martínez y Torres

Fototeca Lorenzo Becerril / Cocina Cinco Fuegos

Museo del Pulque

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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