Chow Bella

Is Manta Ray the New White Meat?

You've handled street tacos, maybe even Sonoran hot dogs from a cart in the parking lot of a random business. Menudo, pozole, we've all been there and done that. A feeling of accomplishment might set in knowing that you've tackled these "foreign" dishes from Mexico.

Well, the beauty of this "foreign" cuisine is that Mexican food will never get a yawn out of you because of the vastness and variety. Enter cahuamanta. Our first thought was, "How do you even pronounce that properly?" and then, "What?" Trying exotic dishes is always a thrill coupled with uncertainty, so we braced ourselves.

See also: Mariscos Playa Hermosa: From the Shores of Mexico to a Colorful Central Phoenix Restaurant

Cahuamanta is a mix of shrimp and manta ray, and is served in either soup or tacos. We learned that it used to be cooked with sea turtle until was that placed on the list of endangered species. Yes, we didn't know how to feel about this, either.

On one blog, commenters recounted times when they would purchase cahuamanta tacos in Tijuana, Mexico, and a side of broth would accompany the tacos to wash them down.

Thus far we've found four restaurants in the Valley that serve cahuamanta in either soup or tacos. Birrieria Obregon was the chosen testing grounds.

It's a bustling restaurant where the line never stops. The eatery is only open until 3 p.m. on weekdays and 7 p.m. on weekends, probably one reason why they're constantly packed, aside from their delicious menu offerings.

Birrieria Obregon offers both versions of cahuamanta, so naturally, we got both. Instantly a heavy scent of ocean water set in. The taco comes complete with both seafood meats, cabbage, cilantro and a few slices of carrots. The manta ray was a little more dry than we anticipated, but had the familiar texture of fish. Having that dry meat inside the taco kind of downplayed the rest of the elements and we weren't interested in finishing it.

It was obvious the beach scent could only be blamed on the soup. Inside came the same ingredients as the taco, but with more meat from the shrimp and manta ray. The manta ray in the soup took on a different texture and was more tender, most likely because it was in broth. With each gulp of soup there was no denying the sea water taste. We couldn't get past it, and it seemed that nothing, not even lime could drown out the salty flavor. Again, we chose not to finish the bowl of soup. We will say it's not because it was terribly prepared, but because cahuamanta, we found, is an acquired taste.

Will we take the plunge and try cahuamanta at the other locations? Probably not. But many people raved about it online and even on Yelp, so be adventurous and try it at least once.

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Natalie Miranda