There are two permanent indoor markets here in San Miguel:  The Mercado Ignacio Ramirez is located in Centro and the Mercado de San Juan de Dios is a few blocks outside of Centro towards the bus station.  We frequently do our shopping for meat and vegetables at the Mercado Ignacio Ramirez, and one of our favorite lunch spots is found in the Mercado de San Juan de Dios.

Mercado Ignacio Ramirez

The biggest (and in my opinion the best) market in San Miguel is the Tianguis del Martes or Tuesday Market.  It is huge, crowded, overwhelming, and exciting.  Need some fresh papaya, oranges, or chayote?  No problem.  How about a remote for you television?  No problem.  A new (or used) pair of underwear?  A slotted spoon?  A pirated DVD? A rusty dull knife?  Table and chairs?  No problem.  The market has it all.

Baskets at the Tuesday Market

Fresh produce at the market

In addition to chock-a-block stalls, there are people wandering the aisles with new mop heads, racks of shoe laces, and woolen shawls for sale.  Shouting over the chatter of the crowds are the men hawking their wares, sometimes with a megaphone for extra emphasis.

And then there is the food.  Pat and I experience our travels primarily by walking through the various neighborhoods and by eating the local food.  One cannot completely experience Mexican cuisine unless you are willing to try some of the local street food.  Not only is it economical, but it is often much more flavorful.  In an effort to stay relatively healthy, we try to patronize places that are busy and where we can see the food being cooked in front of us.

I don’t know the name of our current favorite place to eat when we are at El Tianguis.  You just have to remember which section of the market they are in and look for the women’s bright orange aprons.

Carnitas at the Tuesday Market

Their specialty is tacos de carnitas (pork), and they are quite tasty – especially with the fresh shredded cabbage, salsa and homemade guacamole.  The first time we ate there, I was asked if I wanted my meat seca o con grasa, and I said con grasa.  I didn’t know what it meant but seca (dry) sounded boring.  She also asked if I wanted it surtido, and again I said yes not knowing what surtido meant.  When the plate arrived, I realized that con grasa meant with fat.  It took a bit of work to separate the meat from the fat, but it was moist and delicious.  I didn’t find out what surtido meant until I ran across it a few days later while reading David Lida’s book, First Stop in the New World.  According to Lida, surtido means that you are getting a mix of pork product, which could include organ meat and who knows what else.  With this new-found knowledge, the next week I ordered our meat blanca y seca (white and dry).  It was still good, but not as flavorful as it had been the week before.

There are many other tempting options for lunch at El Tianguis, and I am sure that someday I’ll try them.  But for now I can’t get enough of tacos de carnitas surtido y con un poco grasa.