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Monday, April 6, 2015

Try Pozole in All Colors of the Flag at Obelisco in Fruitvale

Posted By on Mon, Apr 6, 2015 at 8:00 AM

click to enlarge Try red, green and white pozole at Obelisco in Fruitvale. - FERRON SALNIKER
  • Ferron Salniker
  • Try red, green and white pozole at Obelisco in Fruitvale.

The possibly apocryphal story of pozole, a hearty Mexican stew of pork and hominy, dates back to the Aztec kingdoms when a ceremonial pot of stewed corn and sacrificed human flesh was prepared for royalty. I’d rather believe that the earliest versions were made with whatever meat was available (wild turkey, perhaps?), but if there is one thing that 16th century Spanish missionaries observed that I can wholeheartedly agree with, it’s that pozole is indeed a dish worthy of ceremony.

The name derives from the Nahuatl potzonti, meaning to boil or bubble. The ancient Aztec and Mayan civilizations were the first to develop nixtamalization, the process of soaking corn kernels in an alkaline solution to make them soft and nutritious. Taking one step further, they bubbled those kernels into a gruel— the basic foundation for pozole today.

You’ll find all the staples of pozole, and more, at Obelisco in Fruitvale. The hominy, whiter, softer and thicker than typical corn, blooms into such substantial, chewy bites they could be mini corn dumplings. The toppings, which make up half the fun and towers of texture, are bright and fresh. Each bowl gets its own plate of crunchy radish slices, shredded raw green cabbage, a slice of lime, diced white onions, dried oregano, and a freshly made tostada. There’s an option of chicken or pork, both easily falling apart at the prod of a spoon. The badges of Niman Ranch and other organic meat farms on the menu make for a comforting addition.

The difference in pozole options lies in the Mexican flag-shaded sauces that flavor the broth: from Jalisco, a piercing red colored by the guajillo and ancho chiles; from Guerrero, a limey green made with tomatillos and jalapeños; the white part is the pure broth tinted with a side of habanero salsa (to be added only at your own risk).

I grew up eating mostly red pozole, so for a change I tried the green with pork and the white with chicken. The green was tangy, with a kick that hits the back of the mouth and clears the senses. The white is broth at its best: clear and robust, laced with herby sips from the dark green, pungent Mexican oregano.

Obelisco sits just under the Fruitvale Village sign, right off the BART exit. It was formerly Taco Grill and maintains the same ownership and mostly the same menu of breakfast staples, tacos, burritos, enchilada-type plates, and soups. There's a stellar mango agua fresco, daily specials (Sunday was goat birria), a dairy-free coconut flan that was tempting, and a few beers on draft. Although not a traditional pozole topping, the handmade corn tortillas are always worth ordering.

Obelisco Restaurant, 3411 E 12th St, Ste 110, Oakland. Open Mon-Fri 7 a.m. - 10 a.m., Sat 10 a.m. -  8 p.m., closed Sunday.

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Ferron Salniker


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