Guelaguetza’s horchata de Oaxaca, the most famous agua fresca in Los Angeles
Guelaguetza’s horchata is inspired by the one created and still served at the Mercado 20 de Noviembre in Oaxaca City by Doña Casilda, who runs a popular booth in the mercado that specializes in aguas frescas. She is also known as the woman who invented this Oaxacan variation of Mexico’s most famous agua fresca, with a splash of red cactus fruit syrup, toasted walnuts and sliced ripe cantaloupe. This recipe appears in the upcoming cookbook “Oaxaca: Home Cooking From the Heart of Mexico” by Bricia Lopez with Javier Cabral.
All-Clad’s three-piece stainless steel strainer set makes easy work of straining rice water for silky smooth horchata.
Guelaguetza’s Horchata de Oaxaca
10 minutes, plus 2 hours soaking. Makes about 6 ½ cups.
- 1 cup white jasmine rice
- 1 piece (1 inch) canela (Mexican cinnamon)
- 6 cups room-temperature filtered water
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup chopped ripe cantaloupe
- ½ cup whole pecans, roughly chopped
- ½ cup Prickly Pear Syrup (see recipe below)
- Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the rice and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant and toasted, about 4 minutes. Transfer the rice to a large bowl, add the canela and 1 cup water, and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours.
- Transfer the rice mixture to a blender and process on high for at least 2 minutes, until consistently smooth.
- Meanwhile, combine the remaining 5 cups water and sugar in a large pitcher and stir until the sugar fully dissolves. Strain the blended rice mixture through a cheesecloth or double-fine-mesh strainer into the pitcher and stir to combine.
- Pour the horchata over ice in cups, then top with some of the chopped cantaloupe and pecans and a drizzle of the prickly pear syrup.
Adapted from Guelaguetza’s co-owner Bricia Lopez.
Prickly Pear Syrup
25 minutes. Makes 1 ¾ cups.
Prickly pears grow abundantly in Oaxaca and give the regional variation of this agua fresca its pink hue. If they aren’t available near you, boil strawberries into a syrup and substitute that.
- 10 ounces (about 2 large) ripe red tunas (prickly pears)
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- Place the prickly pears in a medium saucepan and cover halfway with water. Place the pan over high heat and bring the water to a boil. Cook the pears, swirling and rolling them in the water occasionally, until very soft and falling apart, about 10 minutes. Using a potato masher, mash the pears in the pan, then scrape the pulp and liquid through a fine strainer into a bowl; discard the skin, pulp and seeds. Rinse out the pan.
- Pour the juice back into the saucepan (you should have about 1 ½ cups), then add the sugar. Place the pan over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then boil for 5 minutes, using a spoon to skim off any scum that rises to the surface.
- Pour the syrup into a bowl, let cool, then transfer to a storage container and refrigerate until ready to use, up to 2 weeks.
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