El Diablito: New Spins on Classics From Puebla, Mexico

By Annie Wu, Epoch Times
February 25, 2016 3:31 pm Last Updated: February 25, 2016 3:31 pm

Notes of piquant flavors are prominent in Clara Melchor’s dishes, stimulating the palate and creating an urge to devour mouthful after mouthful.

At El Diablito Taqueria, the chef and co-owner adds her own twists to classic dishes from her hometown of Puebla, Mexico.

Take the eponymous tacos, for example. Tacos Al Pastor ($9) typically feature marinated pork that is slow-roasted on a vertical spit. Melchor chooses instead to grill it for a more toothsome result with a hint of char. Adding the signature pineapple lends a playful tanginess.

Tacos Al Pastor. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Tacos Al Pastor. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

Melchor has been cooking Mexican cuisine for 20 years, starting in her teenage years alongside her mother. Her experienced hand shows in the Pescado (fish) Tacos ($9.95), fried to perfect crunchiness in a light batter, and topped with chipotle mayo and shredded red cabbage that teases a light sweetness.

The Vegetarian Enchilada ($9.95) is a glorious mixture of nopal cactus (prickly pear), calabacita (Mexican squash), poblano chili, and zucchini stuffed inside a tortilla, which is then showered with pico de gallo, lettuce, sour cream, cheese, and sliced avocadoes. A saucy pool of black beans and tomatillo salsa—the source of that pleasant zing to your tastebuds—cools down the spicy kick that emerges now and then.

The Vegetarian Enchilada is filled with nopal cactus, Mexican squash, poblano chili, and zucchini. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
The Vegetarian Enchilada is filled with nopal cactus, Mexican squash, poblano chili, and zucchini. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

Badly prepared cactus can be tasteless, but thankfully, Melchor knows exactly how to grill and season the cactus and other vegetables—instead of just boiling them. The cactus’s slippery, yet chewy texture makes the dish particularly memorable.

Chile Relleno ($12.95) usually comes with a red tomato-based sauce, but Melchor decided to use chipotle and orange tomatillo instead, creating an orange hue visually, and a smoky, yet acidic edge taste-wise. Melchor insists on using Mexican cheese to stuff the poblano pepper, sourced from cities like Oaxaca and Chihuahua. The cheese has a fresh, clean taste reminiscent of mozzarella, but with a texture that’s firm and squeaky against the teeth when you bite it.

Chile Relleno. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Chile Relleno. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

If you’re stopping by El Diablito during morning hours, try the Chilaquiles Rojos ($9.95). The breakfast dish consists of tortilla chips with salsa de árbol and sour cream poured over and crowned with sunny-side-up eggs and pico de gallo. The dish is simple, but so incredibly comforting, with the chips soaking up the flavorful goodness.

A perfect breakfast dish: Chilaquiles Rojos, tortilla chips topped with
A perfect breakfast dish: Chilaquiles Rojos, tortilla chips topped with “salsa de árbol,” pico de gallo, and sour cream. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

Melchor’s menu proves that paying attention to the details and improving on them, is certainly a worthwhile endeavor.

Chef and co-owner Clara Melchor with fellow owners Eric Perez (L) and Oscar Cuazuniga. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Chef and co-owner Clara Melchor with fellow owners Eric Perez (L) and Oscar Cuazuniga. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

El Diablito
60 E. Third St. (between First & Second avenues)
646-692-9268
eldiablitotaqueria.com

Hours:
Monday to Friday 4 p.m.–11 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m.–11 p.m.