In northwestern Mexico, the scent of nixtamalized corn and toasted chiles mingle with plumes of simmering stews and meats. Throughout the plazas and cobble stone streets, families and friends gather for a light supper of antojitos or “little whims.” These street-side small bites are mostly corn-based, like tostadas, sopes, tamales, and much more.
In Ciudad Guzmán in Jalisco, locals gather for tostadas raspadas (roughly textured tostadas topped with pickled hog parts), enchiladas with sweet mole, flautas dressed with lettuce, cream, and queso seco (salty, dry cheese), and white pozole made with a pork spine broth. Fernando Gonzalez Zuniga grew up eating these little whims in casual sit-down supper houses called cenadurias in Ciudad Guzmán.
Prior to launching his own food truck, Gonzalez worked alongside Juan Mondragon at Juan’s Restaurante in Baldwin Park, which was known for its cactus-based dishes and pre-Hispanic fare. When the restaurant closed in 2014, Gonzalez spent several years as a corporate chef for the Chili’s restaurant chain, opening new locations all over Southern California. When his workload and responsibilities increased but not his pay, Gonzalez traded in baby back ribs and and sizzling fajita platters for a taste of his hometown.
Antojitos Los Cuates Jaliscienses, which roughly translates to ‘the homies from Jalisco,’ is one of the most unique food trucks in Los Angeles. It is a traditional cendaduría on wheels, uncompromising in its presentation of the cuisine of Ciudad Guzmán, parked outside a Compton donut shop.
Here in his food truck, Gonzalez serves one best pozoles in Los Angeles (the other comes from Tamales Elena just down the road in Watts). Provincial pozoles like this have rarely existed in LA. “This is nixtamalized maize,” says Gonzalez proudly, as he delivers heaping bowls of stew packed with toothsome hominy in a flavorful pork spine broth. The pozole is made from Gonzalez’s own nixtamalized hominy and a deeply flavored, slowly-simmered stock. Los Cuates Jaliscienses is the only place in the city to get pozole on this level on a regular basis.
The enchiladas come in a slightly sweet mole, similar to the enchiladas dulces found in the neighboring state of Colima. When asked what kind of mole this was, Gonzalez just shrugged and said, “the one my mom makes.” This is as much a statement about the origins of Mexican gastronomy as it is a lesson on the vast world of moles.
The classic dishes served at the truck — flautas, tacos dorados and sopes — are plated with care, layered with shredded lettuce, tomatoes, diced red onions, Mexican cream, and queso seco imported from Ciudad Guzmán. The plates are as refined as any served from the famous cenadurías in Jalisco.
Another worthy bite are the tostadas raspadas. The tostada, imported from Gonzalez’s hometown and full of corn flavor, gets a thin spread of creamy refried beans. Then comes a smattering of house-made ingredients — like pickled pig’s feet and skin, cured pork loin, and a garnish of shredded lettuce, tomato, red onion, Mexican cream, and queso seco. The toppings are perfect in their construction, adding freshness and sour-salty notes to enhance the beauty of each plate. Truly, a symphony of flavors.
Ramiro Arvizu of La Casita Mexicana and Mexicano has known Gonzalez for half a decade. A native of Jalisco, Arvizu was taken aback by Antojitos Los Cuates Jalisciences at first bite. “He’s presenting the essence of a cenaduría in a truck. It’s food that’s done with an artisanal tradition.” There is no greater endorsement than the look on Arvizu’s face when he took his first bite of the tostada and exclaimed, “it’s just like back in Jalisco.”
Antojitos Los Cuates Jaliscienses. 2323 Rosecrans Avenue, Compton, (562) 469-9944.
Hours are 5:30 to 11 p.m., Friday to Sunday.