The Mercado Hildago in Tijuana is a worthy spot to stop during a day of exploration. The sprawling market is home to dozens of different vendors, selling everything from fresh fruit to cheese, candy, and plenty of dried chile peppers. Here are 5 items that I recommend picking up if you make the trip:
Ever tried making your own mole from scratch? With upwards of 30 different ingredients, it’s a major headache, especially if you don’t have easy access to multiple varieties of chili peppers. At the Mercado Hildago, you can scoop up some prepared mole paste and save yourself a ton of work.
Skip the Mexican candy for some home-made Mexican sweets. One vendor had a table stacked with different goodies, including several coconut desserts. I stuck with something simple: round, bright yellow balls of coconut called bolita de coco – or coconut marbles.
These moist little treats were the size of doughnut holes, and cost 5 pesos (or about 40 cents each). Fill up a bag so you have something to munch on while waiting to cross the border.
Mexican cajeta is a must at the market. The thick, caramel sauces are made with either cow’s milk or goat’s milk. Try a swipe of each to see which version you prefer before committing to a tub. Then, grab a few apples or other fruit for dipping. You can bring what’s left of the cajeta across the border, but not the fruit.
Snap up a Día de los Muertos sugar skull for a fun decoration. There are several different vendors selling these, and sizes range from small to large.
Jamoncillo (Milk Candy) is available in several shapes and sizes. It’s a bit like a fudge, and is made with milk, sugar, and hint of cinnamon. Make sure you have some water at the ready — this stuff is very sweet.
The Mercado Hildago is located in Zona Centro (map), a quick $5 cab ride from the Mexico/US border. It’s open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.