Tacos may very well be the perfect food, but let's face it, the standard Meximerican fare can get a bit stale after a while. Taco the Town is here to highlight some of the more unusual Mexican finds in the valley.
This week: Alegría from the good old fashioned Park N Swap
¿Como se dice?: Ah, the infamous Park N Swap. Packed with yards sale rejects, expired personal hygiene products, and loads of stuff that "fell off the truck." But at least you can carry around a can of beer while sifting through a bin of $3 DVDs, and it just happens to be one of the best places to score the finest selection of Mexican dulces.
Our favorite mid-swapmart snack? Alegría, honey spun popped amaranth bars that are kind of like a Mexican Rice Krispie treat. Three bucks a bar, and worth every airy light bite. Plus the literal translation is happiness, and who couldn't use a good dose of that after too much time in the concrete Park N Swap jungle?
La Comida: Colorful candy booths pepper the Park N Swap, ensuring that even if you don't end up with a antique find (diamond in the rough and all), at least you can take home a variety of sweet treats to sugar buzz your sorrows away. Salty spiced chamoy, tamarind pops, palanquetas (nutty brittles), cacahuates garapiñados (candied peanuts), and other Mexican ducles add a splash of color to the otherwise drab asphalt jungle.
You might be tempted to opt for the splashy bright colors of the BubuLubu, but instead of snagging the pre-packaged chocolate stuff, check out a less well known type of Mexican sweet: Alegría.
El Sabor: Alegría tastes just like a giant bar of Honey Smacks or Golden Crisp, those uber sweet puffed wheat cereals infamous for being more sugar than wheat. The nutty flavor of the popped amaranth is reminiscent of popped wheat, but as bitsy little pellets instead. The amaranth is suspended by sweet honey goodness, and dotted with a couple raisins and pecans to make it look pretty.
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Bring a bit of México to your kitchen: Amaranth is one of those ancient indigenous grains that is just starting to be revived among health foodies. It has tons of protein in it, and about a million and one fancy vitamins that you need in your daily diet, so you can totally justify making a pan of alegría at home. (And then devouring a pan of alegría at home.)
Look for already popped amaranth to save yourself the step of popping it, which is time consuming but not difficult. If you've ever popped popcorn, you can pop amaranth. Arrowhead Mills and Bob's Red Mill both produce amaranth, and are common brands for any health food store. Snag some and get poppin'! The homemade alegría will be totally worth it.
Know of any Mexican gems in the valley? Reveal your family secrets in the comment section.