No. 10: Bistec con Nopales at Xochimilco


The cactus paddle could also serve as a ping-pong paddle.

Ever had a fresh prickly-pear cactus paddle? Any Mexican bodega-taqueria can provide one, made from a fresh specimen, broad as a human hand, the spines singed off and the flesh grilled over smoky charcoal.

This cactus paddle can be sometimes found in salads and taco fillings, but its most prominent and effective usage is as an accompaniment to the kind of razor-thin grilled steak preferred in much of Latin America. The cactus interior is pale green and oozy with the kind of mucoidal protein you might associate with okra. It gently lubricates.

At Xochimilco (named after a canal-filled pleasure park near Mexico City), the roasted paddle rides atop a grilled sirloin steak like a surfer paddling out to catch a big wave. A perfunctory salad with limon wedges and avocado completes the picture.

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