The Dish: Nopalitos fritos
Where to Get It: Casa Oaxaca, 2106 18th St. NW; (202) 387-2272; oaxacaindc.com
What It Is: Cactus paddles seasoned with Mexican oregano, then battered and fried in crunchy blue cornmeal and served with a spicy avocado-tomatillo salsa.
What It Tastes Like: Think cornmeal-crusted fried okra, and you get the idea. These “cactus fries” are ultra-crispy and crunchy on the outside, silky as a kiss from Vampire Diaries’ Michael Trevino on the inside. I hope.
The Story: In Mexico, cactus is often sliced and served as a raw salad with pico de gallo. Preparing cactus paddles is labor-intensive and dangerous—you have to clean them, remove all the small, sharp needles without pricking yourself, then boil the cactus to remove most of the slimy liquid that oozes out. Owner Karen Barroso was inspired by all the culinary uses of cactus during her travels through Mexico and decided to fry it up as an appetizer. Casa Oaxaca sells at least 200 orders per week.
How to Eat It: This is finger food. Best enjoyed with a margarita or other tequila-laced beverage in the other hand.
Photo by Mary Kong DeVito