BABYFACE

By Hamish Anderson. Photograph by Susana Laborde.
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The rundown streets of Colonia Doctores—an infamously rough neighborhood in central DF—are crammed with chopshops and dilapidated buildings, but they also contain a handful of delicious food stalls. One of the best, Arroz Babyface, is run by a former wrestler. Babyface hung up his trunks 12 years ago, having opened a puesto—effectively, an eight-by-five-foot metal box on the sidewalk—around the corner from Arena Mexico, the main venue of lucha libre, Mexico’s equivalent of the WWF. There, at the mecca of Mexican wrestling, burly men, often wearing masks, duel before crowds of screaming, theatrically savage fans, the loudest of whom – “Mátaaalooooo!” [“KILLLLLL HIIIIIIIM!”] – are often sweatpant-clad grandmas. Wrestlers, like everyone else, often need to eat near their workplace, so Babyface sometimes feeds people who he used to punch in the face.

Babyface was a rudo, or baddie (the good guys are called tecnicos), and even to this day, he looks like a menacing, muscle-bound Teletubby. It’s hard to picture Babyface taking cooking classes in Japan, yet that’s precisely how he learned his trade. “I traveled there a lot in the ‘70s and ‘80s,” he says, “often tag-teaming with people like Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant. On my days off I always took cooking courses—I did about 35 altogether.” Babyface’s puesto specializes in what he calls arroz estilo Japones (fried rice with a wide choice of toppings), and he sells about 90 pounds of it each day. But the best things to eat there are Bayface’s famous huaraches, which he, his wife, son, and daughter press fresh each morning.

The huarache is a larger, statelier cousin of the tortilla, made from a dough of less finely milled corn to give it a chewier texture and a deep, savory flavor. The shape resembles the sole of a traditional Mexican sandal (hence the name); it’s served flat, and eaten with a knife and fork. The huarache is said to have been invented at a restaurant in Mexico City’s Mercado Jamaica in the 1930s, but, as Babyface points out, variations of the dish have been consumed in Mexico “since maiz first came to the country.” Hewing close to tradition, the huaraches at Arroz Babyface are grilled on both sides with a little oil, then slathered with red or green salsa, and sprinkled with grated requeson cheese, diced onions, and the toppings of your choice (anything from cactus to pork chops). You can also add the fiery habanero salsa, which sits in an enormous molcajete on the counter and takes eight hours to make by hand. Arroz Babyface goes through 25 liters of the stuff a week.

Babyface never wore a mask—“they’re for ugly people and shoplifters,” he says—but some of his customers do. The dishes on Arroz Babyface’s menu are named after the various wrestlers who eat there. “If a luchador asks for a particular combination of toppings on his rice or huarache, we put that dish on the menu and name it after him,” says Babyface. “But only if he’s happy for us to do it. Otherwise it’s a nuisance.” Babyface’s fighting days
are over.

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