I’d wanted to do a cooking class since I arrived in Mexico City. With Mexican food being one of the only cuisines in the world to be UNESCO certified, a cooking class was the perfect way to learn more about the incredible food, whilst cooking & eating everything I made! Everywhere I looked for recommendations there was one class that stood out: Casa Jacaranda. If you’re looking for a cooking class in Mexico City, it has to be this one! Owned my Beto & Jorge, two Mexicans passionate about food and drink, I had high hopes for the class.
A Cooking Class in Mexico City: The Beginning
The meeting point was at 9am outside the Mercado Medellín. I spotted two other gringos who looked like they were hanging around, they too were here for the class. Beto from Casa Jacaranda arrived with a large shopping bag – a good sign! We chatted for a few minutes outside the market and introduced ourselves. My classmates were Tesha & Danny from Toronto, and they too were looking forward to the class! Beto explained the plan for the rest of the day; first we would visit the market, to learn more about the produce available in Mexico, and get some secrets from Beto’s favourite vendors. After buying the ingredients we needed for the class, we’d then head to Casa Jacaranda itself, and rustle up a feast fit for a king!
Before all that though, we stopped off across the road to buy our tortillas – from one of the few tortillerías who still use a traditional recipe. We watched as the dough was helped into the machine, rolled out & sliced into the round tortillas, then skilfully piled up into batches to sell. Tortillas are the staple of almost every meal here in Mexico, made from corn or wheat dough, Mexicans consume billions of tortillas every year. Tortillas are incredibly cheap too, at just 12 pesos for a kilo of tortillas, you can’t beat the price! The process of making a tortilla is relatively simple, but according to Beto, you can really taste the difference between a good tortilla & a bad one – and here are some of the best in town. We also bought some blue dough to make one of our starter dishes, made from blue corn. To me it didn’t taste any different but the colour was certainly interesting!
A Cooking Class in Mexico City: The Market
We entered the market, welcomed by a maze of stalls selling fruits, vegetables, meats and cheese. Medellin is not just a food market though, there were piñata stalls, shops selling kitchen equipment, flowers, coffee & some little cafes too. I was in heaven. I love food markets, the sights & smells of delicious things to eat and drink, different aromas wafting into my eager nostrils. I inhaled and smiled.
I’d been in this market before, but I also get nervous in markets, unsure of what to buy, where is best to taste cheeses, who to trust & who might rip me off. With Beto it was different. He wove in and out of the narrow pathways, seeking out his favourite fruit stall, fishmonger and butcher. We sampled Mexican coffee, delicious ice-cream, several cheeses, and smoking hot spicy salsas. And all with a knowledgeable friend to explain what the ingredients were & why one chilli is better than another.
The vendors we spoke to had obviously known Beto a while, and greeted us with smiles & holas. We spent a couple of hours in the market, and although I didn’t want to leave, I was eager to get into the kitchen and make use of all those ingredients we bought!
A Cooking Class in Mexico City: Casa Jacaranda
The market is a short walk from Casa Jacaranda, named after the huge Jacaranda tree which grows outside, providing shade all year round, and in the right season, beautiful purple blooms. Sadly, we were too early in the year to see the tree flowering, but you can’t have it all!
Beto & Jorge’s home is a perfect setting. It is a home but also a professional kitchen. Half of the front room is filled with a central table which doubles as a workstation – with cooking hobs built in. While we worked away on our dishes, Beto’s assistant was busy in the kitchen next door prepping what we wouldn’t have time to do.
A Cooking Class in Mexico City: The Menu
On the menu that day was cochnita pibil, a traditional dish from the Yucatan area of Mexico, where the dish was developed by the Mayans. A little like pulled pork, the pork is marinated in bitter orange juice and achiote paste, then traditionally wrapped in banana leaves & cooked underground, although we cheated a little & cooked it in the pressure cooker.
To begin, we also learned to make sopes, tamales, guacamole and the salsas to go with it. Under the watchful eye of Beto we chopped, squeezed & toasted ingredients for the salsas, and prepared the marinade for the cochinita pibil.
We used the blue corn dough we had bought to prepare the base for our sopes. These are like very similar to tortillas, but the dough is left a little thicker, and the edges of the sope are turned upwards to create a little plate to fill with deliciousness. We topped these with longaniza (similar to chorizo sausage), frijoles beans, salsa, cream & cheese.
We even got to try mezcal (a drink similar to tequila but with a smoother taste) and learned to make a rather delicious cocktail too; there’s nothing like drinking while you’re cooking!
We snacked while we were cooking, on guacamole and chapulines (grasshoppers), and ate our sopes at the table to quieten our rumbling stomachs. Would you be brave enough to try these? Beto made a deal with me – if I took a picture, I had to eat the grasshopper. See what I am willing to do for a good photo?? Actually it didn’t taste bad at all, just a crunchy texture. It’s definitely a case of mind over matter when it comes to insect eating!
A Cooking Class in Mexico City: The Meal
The main meal is served upstairs on Beto & Jorge’s lovely terrace. We drank wine and agua de Jamaica (water flavoured with hibiscus), and savoured every mouthful in the afternoon sunshine.
I had tried tamales before, but hadn’t enjoyed them – they were often soggy and had a strange texture – but ours were sweet and light, and perfect with a drizzle of salsa and cream. Made from fresh corn, blitzed and mixed with butter & baking powder then steamed inside the corn husks it was simple and delicious.
The cochinita pibil was tender and juicy, full of flavour and which an incredible aroma. The others had two tortillas each, but as usual my appetite was as strong as ever & I polished off three – they were too good to stop! Served with frijoles, our home made salsas and a spicy habanero & red onion pickle, finished with a squeeze of lime, it was yummy.
For dessert we had zapote, a slightly bitter fruit cooked down to a think sauce, served with a good dollop of the ice cream we had bought from the market. After that, I really was full! Jorge had joined us for lunch too, and was chatting to us about mezcals and tequilas, and Mexican food in general. We stayed for a while longer, enjoying every moment, but finally it was time to leave. It was after 4pm when I left; so the class was really a full day foodie experience. I was full, extremely satisfied and very happy with the day.
Cooking Class in Mexico City: How to Book
You will find all the information you need on Casa Jacaranda’s website. Classes don’t always run every day, so plan ahead if you can. There are 4 menus to choose from, and between the attendees of the class you decide on the menu to make. Prices start from $170 per person for a solo attendee, but if you are a couple or a group of friends the price per person decreases. You can even invite a friend to eat with you after the class!
What I loved about Casa Jacaranda’s Cooking Class:
The class is a whole experience – from strolling around the market, sampling foods from Beto & Jorge’s favourite vendors, to learning techniques and recipes, and finally enjoying everything you cooked on a beautiful terrace in the sunshine.
Beto & Jorge clearly have a love for Mexico and its food & drink. It is one of the only classes taught by Mexicans in the city, others are often taught by expats so this felt more authentic, while still being taught in perfect English.
The setting is Jorge & Beto’s beautiful home in Roma, a pretty, hip neighbourhood with leafy streets, excellent bars, restaurants and boutique shops.
Any down sides?
For budget travellers, this will be a big chunk of your funds – perhaps not easy to justify when street food tacos cost less than a dollar each. However, compared to prices back home, for a full day experience and an incredible meal, for foodies this is definitely worth the investment – you won’t regret it!
I thoroughly enjoyed my class, and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone with a passion for food and a desire to learn more about Mexico’s incredible cuisine.
Thank you to Beto & Jorge for inviting me to take part in the class. Although my experience was complimentary, all views are my own – and the fact I loved the class definitely influenced my opinion!
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