Mexico’s southern state of Oaxaca is sometimes called a capital of world cuisine, and for good reason. The region’s abundance of fresh produce, outdoor markets and dizzying array of unique dishes basically sends any food loving visitor into a state of tamale induced bliss. The bounty of options can also be overwhelming since most of us, no matter how much we love to turn our vacations into food-cations, are not capable of sampling all that Oaxaca and its feast for the nose, eyes and stomach has to offer.

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One of the best ways to explore the culinary landscape, and distill it into a list of ten food items to seek out, is to travel to Oaxaca with a chef who has been there many times before. And that’s exactly what we did a couple weeks back during our visit with Alex Stupak and his wife Lauren Resler, co-owners of the Empellon restaurants in New York City. The couple has their clear favorites when it comes to food and beverage essentials in Oaxaca. Here’s their list of can’t miss items. Photos By Evan Sung.