These 4 treats are worth tracking down at El Paso’s Mexican snack shacks

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.

Buñuelos' highest season starts a week before Thanksgiving and ends a week after New Year's Eve. (Karina Moreno/Borderzine.com)

The border region welcomes home holiday dishes from the Hispanic world

EL PASO — Christmas, on the border is different than anywhere else in America. Traditions from south of the border come together to form a unique and delightful style of holiday mirth. Traditional foods originating from Mexico and beyond have made their way here and ingrained themselves into the local culture. Buñuelos are a tasty treat that span across many cultures thanks to the Middle East’s influence on Spain. Traditionally they are served at Christmas for the Christians, Rammadan for the Muslims, and Hannakuh for the Sephardic Jews.

El aguacate, uno de los ingredientes más importantes de la comida mexicana y que nunca falta en la cocina de Alejandra Chávez. (Cortesía de Thyme Matters)

Thyme Matters – Pasión por la cocina

EL PASO – Durante esta temporada de primavera y renovación en todos los sentidos, entrevisto a Alejandra Chávez, la Chef y propietaria del restaurante Thyme Matters, quien sabe una o dos cosas sobre reinventarse y seguir tus sueños

En realidad nunca imaginé que alguien tan joven iba a contarme una historia con tantos sueños alcanzados y audacia. Resulta que Alejandra en su corta pero intensa vida, estuvo viviendo en Iowa, en un tiempo en que los únicos latinos que conocían en ese remoto pueblecito eran los trabajadores agrícolas que llegaban a cosechar el maíz. Ella llegó a los 22 años, como una joven financiera recién graduada de UT Austin, a comerciar en la bolsa de valores los futuros del maíz. Después le ofrecieron irse a trabajar a Enron y su intuición, junto con sus análisis financieros, le dijeron que había algo raro que no encajaba, así que dejó su exitosa carrera financiera y una vida cosmopolita en Houston para regresar a su tierra, El Paso. Ya aquí y después de preocupar a su papá, que no sabía que iba a hacer esta hija suya, nuestra chef decidió un fin de año que ahora sí se iba a dedicar a lo que más le gustaba en la vida y se inscribió el 2 de enero de 2003 en un curso de gastronomía en Florencia, haciendo uso de todos sus ahorros.

A family having dinner at Little Jimmis mobile food truck, parked at his usual spot in El Paso’s Lower Valley in front of the K-mart on Zaragosa. (Kristian Hernandez/Borderzine.com)

Roach coach, lunch truck or mobile food vendor?

Mobile food vendors in El Paso – Radio story

TRANSCRIPT

[Natural sounds: Cooking food on a the stovetop inside mobile food truck]

KRISTIAN HERNANDEZ (Reporter): Mr. and Mrs. Trejo stand patiently on the side of a busy street in far-east El Paso waiting for some beef tacos they just ordered from a mobile food vendor by the name of “Tacos el Charlie” that has made this dirt lot his spot for the night. YVETTE TREJO: You can’t really see what is in there so you are taking a chance. You don’t really know how clean they are but our experience off the trucks has always been good. I guess we are going off of imagination and pictures, how about that and hope. RAUL TREJO: And hunger.

No, my papa is not Korean!

El Paso – I would be lying if I said I was a suave city girl. The truth is downtown still scares me. With all the shady characters walking up and down the streets and the shopkeepers peering at you with their hawk like eyes, downtown is not my vision of a shopper’s paradise. What I loathe most is that some stores require customers to leave their shopping bags at the front counter. Because I can’t be sure that my bag will be returned simply because my name is taped to it, when I leave something at the counter naturally I am apprehensive.