Cheese, Chocolate and Chapulines – Oaxaca Had Me at ‘Ch’

Oaxacan cheese (quesillo)

Thinking back on my recent trip to Oaxaca, Mexico for the kick off meetings for the new Mexico Today program, I noticed that I was gravitating to everything starting with ‘Ch’: cheese, chocolate and chapulines. Even Mexico’s soccer star Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez was playing in the Copa de Oro at the time (insert girlish squeals here)!

Mexico vs. USA in Copa de Oro - !Viva Mexico! (sorry Mom, but you know they rule!)

I could name dozens others like chilaquiles, churros, chicle, champurrado (delicious Mexican hot cocoa) and so forth. Whatever the coincidence was, my taste buds and I will never forget this trip to Oaxaca, Mexico. (Note to readers, any mention of chilaquiles will put me in a frenzy!)

Delicious Mexican hot chocolate served in terra-cotta pots

As I excitedly peered out the airplane window on our descent into the city of Oaxaca, I noticed the low sun popping through the clouds, perfectly spotlighting the ruins of Monte Alban, one of the most famous archaeological sites in Oaxaca (and in Mexico).

With other Mexico Today Community Managers, Ana Flores and Laura Winfree.

Mexico always has a warm, spiritual way of welcoming guests and this was no exception. I stepped off the plane, handbags thrown over my shoulder, and walked toward the airport. In the near distance I started to hear the melodic sounds of traditional marimba, along with a sweet symphony of tropical birds outside.

After the immigration officer stamped my passport, I was hoping he would have asked me my reason for visiting (like they do in the California cheese commercials). I would have told him it was the cheese, the Oaxacan cheese, and about a dozen other things that started with ‘ch’.

Camino Real Oaxaca

Upon arriving to the beautiful host hotel Camino Real Oaxaca, I was pleasantly greeted with a picturesque array of traditional appetizers including a local favorite, quiche de chapulines (fried grasshopper quiche). Hesitant upon first glance, I obliged and bit into my first experience of chapulines. Crunchy. New. Unique. Not your average snack where I come from, but nonetheless, tasty.

Quiche de chapulines (the one on the right)

Cheese, chocolate and chapulines can be found all throughout Oaxaca but in particular, in the main local mercado just blocks from the center zocalo that I visited.

Cheese, Oaxacan cheese in particular (or quesillo / queso Oaxaca) is a mild string cheese made with cow’s milk and used for all types of Oaxacan food. It is popular in tortas, quesadillas or on tlayudas, a popular, larger sized quesadilla-type food which we sampled on a visit to San Martin Tilcajete, a small town just outside of Oaxaca known for it’s colorful wood carvings. A few of us ventured down to the main local market to see the goods. Stall after stall, I noticed fresh Oaxacan cheese (packaged in balls). What a delicacy!

Chocolate, spelled the same in Spanish, is everywhere in Mexico. In Oaxaca, you can get the full experience of how chocolate is made in one of the many factories such as Mayordomo, Soledad or Guelaguetza located on the famed Mina Street (Calle Mina). I remember on a past trip to Oaxaca, I just let my nose lead me to the factory. The tantalizing aromas of the cacao and cinnamon were enough to put my serotonin levels in overdrive. I tried Mayordomo chocolate on this trip, courtesy of Mexico Today.  You just have to try it – it’s that good!

Chapulines, a.k.a. fried grasshoppers, are in fact, abundant in Oaxaca. When I asked why Oaxaca was so plentiful with grasshoppers, I learned that alfalfa crops are actually one of the biggest industries in Oaxaca because the grasshoppers are attracted and migrate to the alfalfa fields in droves. They are then caught and prepared for sale in the markets. Heaps and mounds of chapulines, artistic in their own right, line the corners of the zocalo, mercardos and stalls and are generously offered by warm indigenous woman in traditional clothing, whose smiling faces could tell a thousand stories.

Heaps of chapulines in Oaxacan markets

Oaxaca is rich in color with stunningly beautiful architecture, ancient sites and cathedrals, indigenous warm cultures, languages and dialects, and flavors so intense, you, too will fall under its magical spell.

Oaxaca….until the next time we meet…

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Susie Albin-Najera
Susie Albin-Najera is the creator and editor of The Mexico Report, an award winning travel blog showcasing news, deals and resources for the modern traveler. Najera is a writer, author, travel blogger, marketing and public relations specialist and producer. Najera serves on the host committee for Maestro Cares, founded by singer Marc Anthony and producer Henry Cardenas; and on the advisory board for Corazon de Vida, providing aid to children in Mexico. She is also the creator of 'The Real Heroes of Mexico' showcasing community heroes in Mexico and producer of Latino Thought Makers. Najera has been recognized by the Mexican Consulate and Mexico Tourism Board for fostering positive relations between countries and her dedication to showcasing Mexico as a premiere destination. She can be reached at

12 comments for “Cheese, Chocolate and Chapulines – Oaxaca Had Me at ‘Ch’

  1. 2011-07-14 at 12:37 pm

    Love it Susie!! we have plenty of words with Ch in Spanish isn´t it! I use to watch this program when I was a child called el Chavo del ocho, and the other characters where la Chilindrina, el Dr. Chapatin, el Chapulin colorado…

  2. 2011-07-14 at 10:03 am

    Does this also include the “ch ch” sound the Mexican men make when they want your attention? Great post Susie– was amazed by the market , did your kids like their souvenirs?

    • Susie Albin-Najera
      2011-07-14 at 2:49 pm

      Jess! I put that in the beginning of the article, then decided to cut it! “And I’m not talking about the sound the guys call out to the pretty ladies.” Glad you liked the post and the girls loved their loteria wallets! :)

  3. 2011-07-12 at 11:57 am

    Great post my dear Susie, thanks so much Yum, yum, yummmmmmmmm, and goooooooool de Chicharito! :D

  4. 2011-07-09 at 10:57 am

    Bravo, for a fantastic piece on our beloved Mexico. Fabulous writing and photos that are off the chart wonderful.
    Congratulations. Please keep sharing on Linkedin.

    • Susie Albin-Najera
      2011-07-10 at 11:06 pm

      Thank you so much Nancy! I do hope to make it to Hacienda de los Santos soon! All the best, Susie

  5. Joanna Green
    2011-07-09 at 9:54 am

    Your article brings back happy memories of Oaxaca! The food, flowers, life in the main square… and exploring the archaeological sites and villages in the surrounding area. I keep wishing that one of the airlines will start a direct Cancun-Oaxaca flight, they really should!

    • Susie Albin-Najera
      2011-07-10 at 11:08 pm

      Thanks Joanna! It really was an incredible trip to Oaxaca – and I agree, wish there was a non-stop or direct flight! Oaxaca should be experienced by all!

  6. 2011-07-08 at 1:19 pm

    Oh my gosh, that quiche was to die for! and I’m craving some more of the hot chocolate for breakfast.

    I’ve never been a fan of “queso oaxaca”, until I realized the real deal tastes much better than whatever they’re selling here in Cancun.

    Great post

    • avbfree
      2011-07-09 at 11:35 am

      Growing up on Midwestern sharp cheddar, I found most Mexican cheeses bland until I stopped shopping in the supermarkets and begin dealing in the municipal markets and local farms here in Querétaro. Mexico has something for everyones taste.

    • Susie Albin-Najera
      2011-07-10 at 11:10 pm

      Laura! Did you get your Mayordomo chocolate departing gift? We’ve been enjoying here almost daily! I miss the chocolate, cheese, chilaquiles! Thanks for the comments, as always!

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