Many visitors to Mexico visit the mercados for a close-up look at how the locals shop and a chance to take some bargains back home. Inevitably, they see the delicious-looking food at the stalls there, and wonder what to eat. We decided to consult with an expert.

Yucatan Today’s editor recently asked internationally acclaimed chef David Sterling, owner of Los Dos Cooking School in Mérida, for a tour of the Mercado Lucas de Gálvez  food stalls (Calle 56 x 67 in Centro). He often takes his students there to shop before their cooking class (see video below); in fact, in 2008 he escorted Martha Stewart there when she did a guest cooking show with him (see video below).

In general, the food at the stalls in the mercados is fresh, the facilities are clean, and the prices are low. After all, the locals eat there, and most of them are regular customers, so the stall owners want to keep them coming back! The rule of thumb: if it looks clean, smells delicious, and people are eating there, it is probably a great place to eat!

David took me to three different stalls at the mercado. At the first one we had tacos “al pastor” which is that yummy-looking meat on a spit. “Pastor” means shepherd, so originally the meat was lamb, but nowadays throughout Mexico it is most often pork. It is sliced off the spit into fresh, hot tortillas, and served with a chunk of pineapple to give it a tropical touch! And of course salsas, lime, onions and cilantro are available for garnish.

Our next stop was to sample some “cochinita” and “lechón”. (If you love the excellent Mexican pork, this is heaven for you!) Cochinita is pit-roasted pork that has been marinated in achiote paste; lechón is roasted in wood burning ovens and is always served with a bit of crispy skin. Again the fresh tortillas and garnish are available. At this stall, I chose tacos de lechón, and David ordered a torta (a sandwich made with a French roll). Either way, it melts in your mouth.

Not believing I actually still had room, we went to the last (but not least!) stop on our taste tour: we decided to lighten things up with some turkey. David got some tacos of “relleno negro” and I opted for the slow-roasted turkey tacos; both were simply divine!

Total cost for all this food for two plus a huge limonada, and parking in the parkade: 129 pesos!

David learned to cook when he was growing up in the southwest US. His father was a professional baker for about 5 years, which partially explains David’s skills, but he learned more later when he worked as a pantry chef at an excellent French restaurant in a suburb of Detroit. Later he did brief stints with catering in Michigan and then in New York. The other half of his talent is in design; he studied Fine Art and modern languages (Spanish primarily) at Oklahoma City University, and Design at Cranbrook Academy of Art.

Chef Sterling has brought his artistic flair and cooking skills together at Los Dos Cooking School, and is a founding member of Slow Food’s Yucatán chapter. Chef David Sterling focuses exclusively on Yucatecan cuisine at his popular cooking school in Mérida’s Centro Historico.

NOTE: It is with tremendous sadness that we report that the founder of Los Dos Cooking School, David Sterling, passed away in November 2016. But Los Dos Cooking School will live on! For more information, and to read our tribute to David, click here.

Here is the video of Chef David showing Martha Stewart the mercado:

And here is a video of a cooking class at Los Dos Cooking School:

By Juanita Stein
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