When I first moved to El Paso from Arkansas, my definition of Mexican food was tacos, guacamole and quesadillas. After living here for 10 years now, I have expanded my palette and grown to enjoy even more Mexican foods and snacks than I knew existed. I’ve come to enjoy authentic Mexican plates at restaurants like tacos al pastor, tampiquena, and aguachiles. But, I have also grown fond of some more unusual culinary treats available at local snack shacks anchored in parking lots around town. Not the newer trend of gourmet food trucks, which come replete with chefs from California and Las Vegas, but the simple mom-and-pop snack spots closer to El Paso border style.
After my boyfriend introduced me to something called a Mangoneada (a blended mango concoction with chamoy, mango chunks, chili powder, and a giant Tamarind candy straw), I have now become a true fan of these snack shacks. I have actually begun to crave these snacks over a bag of my usual Flaming Hot Cheetos (which you can also get at these shacks with nacho cheese sauce). I have tried almost everything that they offer, and while they are all delicious, these are some of the most unique and delicious offerings that you can find (in my opinion, of course).
I must confess, I was scared to eat this one at first. This unique snack features pieces of pickled pig skin, mayonesa (mayonnaise), fresh avocado, parmesan cheese, and Valentina hot sauce all combined on top of a crunchy sheet of fried dough (or chicharrine). It may sound like an odd combination at first, but all of the flavors work together to create a great taste.
This is a new spin on a snowcone. It consists of chamoy sauce (a red sauce made from fruit pulp and spices), shaved ice, chili powder, and sprinkled sugar on top. I usually get a small, and it is more than enough sticky-sweet snow cone to cure my chamoy cravings. There’s so much chamoy in this treat that it spills over and sticks to the sides of the cup(which is why they serve it within a plastic wrapper).
3. Elotes (Corn in a Cup)
Elotes shops offer another savory snack that includes fresh corn, a melty mix of cheeses, butter, chile powder (or Valentina, on request), and mayonesa. This version also makes it similar to a soup, as the liquid from the corn mixes with all the ingredients. There is usually a lot of liquid left after all the corn has been eaten. The shops also serve roasted corn on the cob dusted with cheese and chile.
4. Fruta con chamoy (Fruit with chamoy)
The last treat on my list is presumably the most healthy of the bunch. This includes pieces of fresh fruit, including pineapple, honeydew, cantaloupe, jicama, and pieces of raw coconut topped with plenty of the beloved chamoy sauce and chile powder. I had never eaten jicama before trying this, but it adds a nice crunchy consistency in contrast to the soft fruit.
Whether you’re an El Pasoan born and raised, or a newcomer like me, these treats are worth trying. The next time you’re at the nearest parking lot and see one of these snack shacks, stop by and indulge in a little bit of border flavor.