13 Apr 2016


I get really angry when I see articles like Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Travel. I want to travel, I don't need your reasons! Your list is useless to me! You want me to travel? Give me your money! Drive the getaway car while I rob a bank!

My motivations for travelling are a combination of adventure, experience, clarity, and of course, eating. Food and the culture around eating helps you get the feeling for a place as much as visiting museums and inspecting ancient relics. It tells a story in flavours and spices; in the cooking methods and ingredients indigenous to the area. We don't need to speak the language to appreciate it. It's universal!

That's why I was never very interested in going to Mexico. It was a place I closely associated with all-inclusive resorts and from experience resorts are not good for much more than rubbery steak and dry chicken. How exotic!

This proved to be true at the lacklustre resort I stayed at the last 3 days of my trip. Their idea of 'Oriental Night' was maki rolls with strawberry inside and roasted coconut on top, in place of tempura bits. Yes, it was as gross as it sounds. Luckily, the magical Tulum is only an hour and a half out of Cancun.



Well worth the trip, there are 2 different Tulums to experience:

There's the glamorous Tulum; a mecca for the elite it is a 12 kilometre strip of beach lined with beautiful boutique resorts and fancy, open-air restaurants in an expertly curated jungle. The meals are healthy and fresh, prepared with impressively high-end, local ingredients. It's almost unfair to be around so much delicious food clad in a bathing suit in a place that is overrun with celebrities and leggy models. Time to embrace that muu muu!

Then there's Tulum the town. You can have a veritably authentic Mexican feast for under $10 (!!), probably cooked by an adorable abuelita. It's a nice break for your bank account if you're staying in the glam Tulum.

I stayed at Ahau's ecolodge on the resort stretch with my Asian twin. We're not twins in appearance but in the size of our stomachs. We have a rule of thumb for how much to order when we go out to dinner: Get one LESS dish than we want. To satisfy our insatiable stomach monsters, we had a habit of eating at one of the fancy restaurants in the resort Tulum then cabbing into the town for post-dinner tacos and paletas. So much delicious food, not enough stomach!

Without fail, I always return home with post-vacation blues as a souvenir. I usually pretend to be on vacation as long as I have photos to post on my social media to put off subjecting my friends to my IRL gloom. To satiate my Latin-food cravings, I indulge in Toronto-based substitutes to tide me over until the next time I can stamp my passport.



So if you plan on visiting Tulum any time soon (after this post, you definitely will) or you crave Latin food,
Here is my Eating Diary of Tulum and my Toronto Fixes:



POSADA MARGHERITA


A rustic wooden exterior fronts what appears to be the designer version of the Secret Garden with beautifully overgrown jungle paths and expertly curated potted plants along a path that leads in to the beachside Posada Margherita. This open-air restaurant has a very abbreviated menu that are made especially for that day like the handmade pastas and the seafood dishes, freshly caught, simply prepared so you can appreciate the high quality ingredients.



TIP: Perfect for a chill breakfast or for watching the sun set. Get here early if you want a seat at prime time.

TORONTO FIX: It's hard to find an equivalent in Toronto since Posada Margherita is a beachside town with access to seafood caught just minutes before cooking. The Italian restaurant, Buca, has an amazing branzino and crudo to satisfy the seafood craving as well as pasta dishes that will almost make you forget that you're not on the beach.




EL TÁBANO
El Tábano is another restaurant that has the open-air concept. This means you're sweating very unattractively but can sip on a fancy cucumber mint green juice to cool down while you peruse their huge blackboards covered in the daily features. We got a cactus salad (more like green beans than leafy texture) but it was covered in gooey queso, a terrine of thin layers of pear, brie, and granola, and roasted ratatouille stuffed poblano peppers (also covered with queso).


TIP: If you're stuck with what to order, ask which dishes are the recipes of the owner's mother.

TORONTO FIX: Have yet to discover anywhere in Toronto with these dishes! I craved the ratatouille stuffed poblano peppers that I visit Kensington Market groceries just to find poblanos in an effort to recreate the dish with this recipe.



HARTWOOD

This restaurant warrants a mandatory visit. Another gorgeous open-air spot enmeshed in palm trees and romantically lit by candles. They are famed for a menu that features local dishes made with the freshest ingredients like the massive polpo platter with potatoes and pickled onions! Probably the best octopus I've ever had.


TIP: The majority of their seats are for walk-ins so reservations are limited. For groups less than 8, you can only request in person between 3 - 6pm so go early. If you still have to wait, grab one of their delicious cocktails!

TORONTO FIX: The Spanish-influenced Bar Isabel has an amazing Whole Octopus and Potatoes dish ($49)!



FLOR DE MICHOACAN

A paleta is a dessert that you can convince yourself is healthy because if it's really authentic (like here), it's a popsicle that's entirely chopped up fruit and fresh juice. Flor de Michoacan is a paleteria/juice bar in Tulum town that warrants several visits at least to try all their tempting flavours.


TIP: You're going to want at least 3 paletas per trip so save stomach real estate, especially for the lip-stinging mango chile flavour and the coconut paleta that is 75% shredded coconut frozen into creamy coconut milk.

TORONTO FIX: La Carnita mixes up their paleta game with crazy flavour combos like PB Oreo and Banana Bread Paleta and holiday inspired flavours like Spearmint Shamrock. You can get the fan favourites like key lime pie ($4) at their sister sweet spot, Sweet Jesus 4 Life.



LA CHIAPANECA
When our wallets needed a break, we took a trip into town to hunt down real Mexican tacos. La Chiapaneca was everything we dreamed with their al pastor tacos and gooey carne asada tortas which is like the Mexican version of a Big Mac! We got three tortas and six tacos (don't judge!) for ridiculously cheap (around $8).

TIP: Get more than you think you can eat. So good!

TORONTO FIX: Probably my favourite place overall for authentic Mexican food is Tenoch. I dream of their Torta Milanesa. Torteria San Cosme is also a cute spot with tortas made with Yucatan pulled pork and cactus! While you're in Kensington, you can get your taco fix at Seven Lives.



EL TACOQUETO
After spending so little on our treasures of tacos and tortas deceived us into feeling like we wouldn't have enough food to be full (because we are obese on the inside). We made another stop to El Tacoqueto for albondigas en chipotle (meatballs in an adobo sauce made from chipotle peppers) and pollo con mole (a dark roasted pepper sauce over chicken). Had a nice home-y feel, being handed our plates of food by the owner’s mother.

TIP: Don't take your food back to the beach to eat. There was a cat that adopted us and kept climbing all over us to try and eat our food. We tried standing but then it climbed the overhang so we ended up standing in the middle of the beach under the scorching sun!

TORONTO FIX: Valdez specializes in Latin Street Food and I always get their albondigas with queso Oaxaca, salsa verde and tomato sauce. You had me at queso.

ETC is the overflow of thoughts in the mind of Teri Yeung. It’s a place full of stories of travel adventures, imparted lessons learned from life’s achievements and failures, behind-the-scenes of projects and experiments, and anything else that inspires excitement and joy.

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