Essential T: Blue-Corn Tlacoyos at Sabores de Chalma

Devotees make the Sunday pilgrimage for masa

I first heard about Chalmita (little Chalma) in the State of Mexico when I ran across Tacos Quetzalcoatl, one of the best places in L.A. for tacos and delicious lamb barbacoa, from entertaining Mexican chef Max Rodriguez. The State of Mexico has some of the greatest traditions in Mexico: barbacoa from Texcoco; chorizos and other sausages in Toluca; highly skilled cooks and chefs, and some of the best antojitos in Mexico. In Mexico City, many street food vendors serving tlayudas hail from the bordering State of Mexico where Chalma is located.

Chalma is a sacred destination to pilgrims for its Sanctuary of the Señor de Chalma. So it’s appropriate that on Sundays in Los Angeles, devotees to delicious blue-corn tlacoyos and quesadillas seek out Lucy of Sabores de Chalma, a stand just outside the chaotic shopping center that is the Alameda Swap Meet.

On weekends, the traffic snarls around the perimeter of the dueling markets, the Alameda Swap Meet and the El Faro Plaza. It’s a full-blown Mexican fair with live music, dancing, creepy clowns, and congested lines for a variety of Mexican foods from the stands mostly affiliated with El Diablo, a franchise that services the entire flea market. Lucy and her family offer a much-needed break from the madness, and a taste of pre-Hispanic cuisine.

Lucy’s tlacoyos are filled with your choice of refried beans, fava beans, or cheese with chicharron, and then she grabs a ball of fresh blue-corn masa, spoons in the filling, and forms the diamond-shaped tlacoyo by hand. The thick elongated stuffed masa gets its signature brown scars from slow-cooking on the griddle, giving you time to plan your finishing touches of salsa, a cactus salad, and cotija cheese, but don’t forget why you’re here–to savor the enraptured joys of blue corn.

redarrowSabores de Chalma, Staunton Avenue just south of East Vernon Ave. (on the west side of the street), Vernon, 323-252-9029