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Breakfast in Baja California

March 27, 2010

After a week of bland hotel breakfasts in Baja California, Mexico, I managed to sneak away from my hosts to find a morning meal so perfect that I can still recall everything from the smoky taste of the tortilla, to the colour of the napkin dispenser.

It was exactly the kind of meal that everyone wants to eat on holiday; that unexpected, wholly authentic and, of course, thrillingly cheap meal you rave about once you get home, that you’ll never recreate, no matter how long you spend ransacking google for recipes.

It was at a road-side stall in Baja’s capital, La Paz. Three wobbly Corona beer tables with blue plastic chairs were next to a wagon at the side of the road, on the heat-cracked pavement. The wagon had a deep-fat fryer, prep area and fixings station with a canopy on top. A cook with a fastidiously-clean food-prep mask was toiling away over the steam and spit.

I ordered a fish taco and within minutes was handed a steaming-hot tortilla, topped with freshly-fried fish goujons. The fish had been caught perhaps an hour before from the sea, just a few metres away, on the other side of the road. Taking my cue from the older guys who were sitting around, munching on tacos and openly staring at the gringa who’d come to have brekkie with them, I slathered my fish in sour cream, a helping of guacamole and a judicious squish of fresh lime.

Rolling it with my hands into something I could realistically not throw all over the floor en-route to my mouth, I crammed in as much in as I could, and groaned with delight. The freshest fish I’d ever tasted, wrapped in a spicey wisp of lighter-than-air batter. The tortilla was warm and puffy, chewy with just the right amount of saltiness. And the cream and guacamole, a whoosh of fresh, tartness, then a cooling bland creaminess.

The turquoise Sea of Cortez was twinkling away in front of us. The early-morning sun beaming through the Bougainvillea and the tinny sound of the radio from the battery set tied to the wagon, playing Mexican pop… if I close my eyes I’m there; feeling the warmth of the sun on my toes in my flip-flops and the delight that the locals showed when I had a second helping.

Food critic Jay Rayner wrote, “…denying yourself an edible pleasure just because you couldn’t safely remove someone’s appendix in the room in which it was prepared, seems just plain foolish, not to mention self-defeating.” Too often, tourists play it safe, choosing the familiar over the unknown. I could guess from the happy clientele and surprising addition of a face-mask that this was a business that took its food seriously. I had nothing to lose, except, perhaps my breakfast!

Good food should sometimes be a gamble – one I’d take for another bite of that Baja breakfast any time…

This post has been entered into the Grantourismo HomeAway Holiday-Rentals travel blogging competition.

  1. Jon permalink

    wow that looks delicious…..mmmmmm fish tacos

  2. Hi Nikki, thanks so much for entering our contest. Wow, I can almost taste that fish and zingy lime! What a great spot to have breakfast, it sounds fantastic. Thanks for sharing the experience with us.
    And Good Luck!

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