I first found out about the bounty of Latino food in the East Bay on Facebook Marketplace through a pupusa. Pale white from rice flour, it had a snappy exterior and a lacy edge of crispy cheese coins that flowered due to a sear on the plancha. Salvadoran cuisine tends to avoid heat, but this pupusa came with curtido (pickled vegetables) and little baggies full of faintly sweet, tangy and unexpectedly spicy tomato sauce. It came from the home kitchen of Jaime and Noemí Romero, who run Pupuseria Magi out of their Richmond apartment, and I had to know how many others were like them, selling standout dishes from home.
“Just go on Facebook Marketplace,” Jaime Romero instructed.
Indeed, that night when I scrolled through the listings, I found far more than I had anticipated — and food that was different from other stuff I’d come across while researching where to eat in the East Bay. There was an abundance of regional-specific food from Mexico and Central America: freshly fried carnitas from Michoacan; Guatemalan garnachas; Tijuana-style tacos al carbon (charcoal); flour tortillas from Sonora and much, much more. One of my favorite tacos in the East Bay comes from Carnitas El Canelo, a Richmond home operation where the Graciano and Garcia family make giant Pueblan tacos on blue tortillas.
The market really opens up when you know where and how to look. My search started with looking up Mexican food that’s harder to get locally, such as handmade flour tortillas, tostadas raspadas and tacos al vapor. Then I limited listings for food that I could pick up in the East Bay. Even then, finding the best food can be a challenge for many because most of the listings are in Spanish. Some listings haven’t been updated for months, and other promising listings are actually dead ends.
Carnitas El Canelo is a Richmond home operation where giant Pueblan tacos are the focus.
Felix Uribe/Special to The Chronicle
But once the Facebook food creators finally respond, it’s like going down a scrumptious rabbit hole — one where immigrant resourcefulness turned a spurned social media site into a tool to find and share Latino delicacies. Cue the Jefferson Airplane song.
The scene started, in part, much like the rest of the Bay Area’s cottage food and home cooking scene: People needed to make money, and cooking made sense. Not unlike pop-ups, it’s a symptom of the difficulty of running and …….