With an eye for the unusual and different, we explored four of the more interesting grocery stores in Bucerias: El Chabacano, Beto’s, La Abejita, and El Palacio Chino. All offered items or service not found at Mega.
El Chabacano, which means apricot in Spanish, has a good assortment of produce, with a walk-in cold room that helps the more perishable fruits and vegetables stay fresh in the summer heat. In addition to the usual, they will order almost anything in the vegetable and fruit world for you, from alfalfa sprouts to Portobello mushrooms, radicchio and tamarind.
The day we visited, their shelves included strawberries, purple grapes, coconuts, watermelon, eggplant and kiwi. I noticed the quantity and variety were not as great as I had seen before, now that high season is over, but they can only stock what they can sell. If they don’t have what you are looking for, ask for the list of produce for special orders
El Chabacano is located one block off of the lateral, downhill from the Chinese grocery store (not really a Chinese grocery store, but we’ll get to that later), on Calle Hidalgo.
If your cooking tends toward Chinese or Thai, Beto has a very good selection of Asian products, such as fish sauce, Thai Kitchen Green Curry Paste, plum sauce, dark mushroom soy sauce, oyster sauce, tempura dipping sauce and canned lychees in syrup.
We also saw Oregon brand canned blueberries and figs, and two kinds of European Dijon mustard. For the hard to please, there was molasses, Vlasik dill pickles, sweet pickle relish and maple syrup.
One item new to me was a jar of Tofuneza. Tofu what? Ingredients included organic tofu, walnuts, lime, chipotle chile and spices. It looked spreadable, and the label suggested using it as a dip or dressing. I’ll confess that I eat tofu, but it didn’t go into my shopping basket. Maybe next time.
And one item was really out-of-place — Pace Picante Sauce, the bottled salsa from Texas. Um … importing salsa to Mexico? What’s wrong with this picture?
Finally I got to the canned goods. On the shelves were Hormel Corned Beef, Chef Boyardee Spaghetti and Meatballs (haven’t eaten those since I was too young to know any better) and a can of Chef Boyardee Pepperoni Pizzazarol. I try to keep up on all things in the food world, but I clearly missed this last one. The picture on the label didn’t resemble any food I know. If you are hungry, I recommend a street taco instead.
Beto’s is located on the lateral, just before the turn-off to Royal Decameron Resort, if you are heading toward Puerto Vallarta.
One time, I came home with cocoa bean seeds, the raw stuff from which the finest (and not so fine) chocolates are made. Cocoa beans have a raw, bitter chocolate flavor, and are reputed to be extremely high in antioxidants. I add cocoa beans to smoothies or munch on them as is. I’ve even experimented with making chocolate candy by grinding the beans up and adding butter, agave syrup and coconut. (Godiva has nothing to worry about.) Don’t eat too many, as they are also high in theobromine, a chemical related to caffeine.
Today I came home with tequezquite, a mineral salt used since pre-Columbian times for leavening tamales. I read about this odd ingredient in Mexican cookbooks, which tell of using it to retain the color of nopales, and to soften beans. I know it looks like a rock from my drive-way, but I had to add it to my pantry. Who knows when I’ll need it for my next tamal making session.
La Abejita is on the bay side of the lateral, just downhill from the post office, and one block from the main turn-off to the center of Bucerias where the taxis park.
When you have had enough of the beaches and want to explore the streets of Bucerias, don’t forget the little grocery stores. They will appreciate your business, and you may find something you haven’t see before.