Oaxaca is known as the “land of the seven moles” after its most famous sauces: mole negro or Oaxaqueño (the most popular, made with chocolate giving a distinct roasted flavour), amarillo, coloradito, mancha manteles, chichilo, rojo and verde. Moles are typically served with chicken or enchiladas, but you don’t have to go to one of the smart restaurants serving contemporary Oaxacan cuisine to sample them: mole negro is often better from street or market vendors. Other specialities include tamales, worth trying in any form, and chapulines, crunchy seasoned grasshoppers. Tlayudas, giant crisp tortillas dressed with beans and a mild Oaxacan string cheese called quesillo, are staples of cafés and street stands after dark.
The place to go for exceptional home-made ice cream is the plaza in front of the church of La Soledad, full of rival vendors and tables where you can sit and gorge yourself while watching the world go by. Flavours are innumerable and often bizarre, including elote (corn), queso, leche quemada (burnt milk; even worse than it sounds), sorbete (cinnamon-flavoured sherbet) and exotic fruits like mamey, guanabana and tuna (prickly pear; a virulent purple that tastes wonderful). There are also more ordinary varieties like chocolate, strawberry and coconut. At the opposite end of town, you can sample many of these flavours at Museo de las Nieves, Alcalá 706, just up from Santo Domingo.