Mexican Tequesquite: It Is What It Is (So, What Is It?)

Today, I took a trip to Roosevelt Ave. on the eastern frontier of Jackson Heights, Queens, New York City.  The mission expressly revolved around eating food from Mexico.  Continue walking east on Roosevelt Ave. towards Corona, and finding a taco will be as easy as finding a plastic surgeon in Seoul.

I walked into a Mexican supermarket called Bravo and strolled right up to the wall of dried herbs and who-knows-what.  Which is to say, I-know-what, because an amateur background in food and Spanish – in addition to knowing a fair amount of English – comes in handy when sifting through small packets of albahaca (basil), perejil seco (dried parsley) and tomillo (thyme).


Jackson Heights - Tequesquite (Mexico)

Known as such.  What am I supposed to make of that? Did someone royally screw up spelling mesquite?  At first glance, it looks like clay, or ancestors of Triscuits.  Clay…are we in Johannesburg again?

Tequesquite, what are you? Similar to salt but composed of various minerals, it originates from the depths of various lakes in what is now Distrito Federal (Mexico City) and the state of MichoacánTrivia time: Name two more Mexican states (if you say Texas, I’d like to see your globe).  The word stems from the Náhuatl language, whereas tetl means rock and quixquitl signifies gushing or sprouting.  During the dry seasons, the beds of salt lakes such as Texcoco would be exposed, thus giving rise to the practical uses of tequesquite.

Aztecs and their descendants predominantly used tequesquite to leaven corn dough, but it was also used to soften corn kernels as well as preserve the green color of nopales, or cacti.  On your next trip to Mexico, when you order a tamale or a corunda, its triangular cousin from Michoacán, you might have tequesquite to thank.

Oh, and as for assigning it an English name, there’s a possibility that builder’s or slack lime are contenders.  Slightly off-putting for use on supermarket shelves, but I can hear an avant-garde Home Depot calling its name.


Have you ever made tamales?  Were you able to find tequesquite?


About buildingmybento

Bread, olive oil Waking up in Nakagin Sure does sound like me
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3 Responses to Mexican Tequesquite: It Is What It Is (So, What Is It?)

  1. Pingback: Food From the Maldives: Illiterate Indigestion « buildingmybento

  2. tony saint says:

    The singular of ‘tamales’ is ‘tamal’ without the ‘e’
    As the singular of any word in mexican is without ‘e’

  3. Michael says:

    “Were you able to find tequesquite?”

    No, I have always used masa preparada. The “preparada” part means “prepared [for tamales],” i.e. it has the BAKING POWDER already mixed in. I have no doubt that mud dredged up from the bottom of a lake was a great substitute when our ancestors didn’t have access to BAKING POWDER, but there is nothing superior about it.

    Just use fresh masa. It’s a wet paste that comes in a bag and is found in the refrigerator of most Latin groceries in large metro areas. If you don’t see the one that says “preparada” on the bag, you’ll have to get the regular one (for tortillas) and add your own BAKING POWDER. Either way you’ll still need to add lard.

    Buen provecho.


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