The tlayuda sometimes spelled clayuda, is a handmade traditional Mexican dish consisting of a large, thin, crunchy, partially fried or toasted tortilla covered with a spread of refried beans, asiento, lettuce or cabbage, avocado, meat, Oaxacan cheese and salsa.
But the above description from Wikipedia is like saying Willie Mays was just a baseball player, Josh Grobin just a singer or Michael Phelps just a swimmer. They are all technically true, but woefully miss the mark in explaining true greatness.
You see, when it’s done right, the traditional tlayuda is more than just a Mexican dish, it is one of the anchors of the gastronomical galaxy known as Oaxaca.
The tlayuda is an all star baseball player, an award winning singer and a multiple Olympic gold medal winner all in one. And if you ever find yourself in Oaxaca, you need to get a taxi right away and head over to Tlayudas San Jacinto.
When you arrive the outside is going to worry you if you don’t typically eat off the beaten track in Mexico. It’s just an opening in a residential area with blue steel doors and a banner that tells you the place has a good, clean atmosphere.
As soon as you walk in, you realize you are somewhere special, like an enchanted garden. Lots of greenery, bamboo like plants, umbrellas and a rich almost tropical feel. It is as if you could sit there all day, and you can because once you walk in, you are treated like family. There’s even a playground if you bring the kids.
The menu is simple and hangs from the ceiling. Tlayudas. Pick your topping. Beef, pork, ribs, skirt steak or eggs from the grill. Add your drink, soda or beer, and you’re all set.
Once we ordered, it took about 15 minutes for our food to arrive.
And here’s what you get. A gigantic fired roasted quesadilla like creation stuffed with cheese, black beans and finished with your desired topping. I had the eggs, which came perfectly fried hard. Now, I’ve had lots of tlayudas around Oaxaca, but this one was different, because the tortilla was cooked to perfection.
When I picked it up, there was no sag at all. This wonderful creation was crispy through and through, the result of just the right amount of time over the coals. The beans were not over the top and there was just the right amount of that great Oaxaca string like cheese, quesillo.
Once I added avocado, chepiche, a Oaxacan herb, and a some roasted chile de aqua, it was off the charts wonderful.
Now, I’ve got to tell you, this place can be hard to find. It’s in the Colonia San Jacinto but it is not along the row of the other locations that sell tlayudas. Look for the San Jacinto signs that call you to this little slice of heaven in Oaxaca and prepare yourself to fall in love with this all star of Oaxacan cuisine, maybe for the first time, or all over again.