Meet the “Masa and Mezcal Goddess” Bringing Real Tortillas to Washington

Meet the “Masa and Mezcal Goddess” Bringing Real Tortillas to Washington

Lately, a slew of chefs have had masa mania, whether Brad DeBoy making tostadas at Elle or Adam Greenberg rolling tortillas at Coconut Club. Credit Joahna Hernandez, known as the “masa and mezcal goddess” among her industry friends. The Mexico City native works with small farms to source the heritage corn that produces the kind of rich, flavorful masa she grew up eating—and that chefs of all nationalities love cooking with.

“Corn is a mono-crop in the US—you feed cattle or make corn syrup,” Hernandez says. “Americans don’t know what a tortilla is supposed to taste like.”

It was the quest for real tortillas—and good Mexican food—that led Hernandez, who was then working for the Mexican Tourism Board, to switch careers. She was a manager at Casa Oaxaca in Adams Morgan for six years while starting her company, Manos de Maiz. Initially, she imported heirloom varieties from indigenous Purépecha farmers in Mexico, nixtamalized the kernels, and ground them for masa dough and “maizopes”—sopes that she griddles at the Mount Pleasant farmers market. Now that she has joined the White House FreshFarm market, which requires local sourcing, she has added organic corn from Pennsylvania.

Ironically, Hernandez doesn’t sell her dough or tortillas to Mexican restaurants because her process is expensive and laborious, and she can’t commit to large orders. “In America, we’re used to industrialized products,” she says. “Going back to basic isn’t that basic. It’s very complex.”

This article appears in the May 2019 issue of Washingtonian.


Women Entrepreneurs

Women Entrepreneurs

Community Feature: Joahna Hernandez, founder @ Manos de Maiz

Start DC: Tell us about your business in two sentences. 
Joahna Hernandez: Manos de Maiz started three years ago and it’s always been about the corn. When I moved to DC, there was nowhere to find a good tortilla. Over time, people started doing tacos here but not the other street food that I had in Mexico City. So I realized there was an opportunity. Manos de Maiz makes maizopes (my take on a sope), masa (the prepared cornmeal base for tortillas), and other Mexican products using organic corn.

We are proud to colaborate with our friends at Amparo Fondita

We are proud to colaborate with our friends at Amparo Fondita

Irabién wants to expose people to traditional flavors, ingredients and dishes from the coastal states of Mexico, of which so much of the cuisine is lumped into meat heavy dishes and cheap tacos.  At Amparo Fondita, you’ll find swoon worthy vegetarian options, sweet and succulent seafood, and the best black beans you’ll ever eat.  Not to mention the made to order tortillas from Manos de Maiz.  Irabién also boasts that his food will make you feel great at the end of the meal; whether you’re heading home for a peaceful slumber or headed out for a night of drinks and dancing, this food is the perfect feel-good meal for any time.

Holiday Fiesta Market

Holiday Fiesta Market

We are hosting our first 🎉 HOLIDAY FIESTA MARKET 🎉 inspired in the Mexican Holiday Posadas!! 
Start your holiday shopping with Mexican bites & drinks while supporting amazing Latina owned businesses in DC!

- Maizopes ($5) & Tamales ($4) by Manos de Maiz, 
- $8 Cocktails by Cotton & Reed including: Spiked Mexican Hot Chocolate 🍹
- Jewelry by Lalalu Mexican Art 💎
- Handmade scarfs made with organic cotton by Casa Flor Ixcaco- Woven
- Handmade woven wall art by Argentine artist Araceli Muñoz
- Colorful and unique Illustrations by La Horchata 🎨
- Handmade piñatas available for purchase and if weather lets us, we'll break a Coco themed colorful piñata! 🎉

Free Entrance. Food, drinks, and crafts are available for purchase!

Mexico in a Bottle

Mexico in a Bottle

Back in May, Manos de Maiz participated at the best event fully dedicated to celebrate Mezcal and Mexican gastronomy in  D.C. We worked together with La Cocina VA to share the amazing flavors of heritage corn and Mexican street food. 

Manos de Maiz featured at Washington City Paper

Manos de Maiz featured at Washington City Paper

Authentic Mexican Food is Still Hard to Find in D.C. Do Washingtonians Even Care?

Joahna Hernandez, former manager at Cafe Oaxaca in Adams Morgan, makes traditional Mexican tortillas from scratch. Almost no one in D.C. is doing this besides Hernandez—probably because it’s a shitload of work.

“You have to treat the corn with a lot of love to get it how you want it,” says Hernandez, who begins by boiling imported Mexican corn kernels in an alkaline solution before letting them sit overnight. Come morning the real slog begins: making the masa, or corn dough, that will be made into tortillas and then lightly fried. 

The tortilla might be the quickest way to separate the real from the fake in “authentic” Mexican restaurants, which are relatively scant in the District despite all the so-called “hip-Mex” spots opening lately. Which raises a few questions: What qualifies as authentic Mexican food? Is there so little in D.C. because there are so few Mexicans here, compared to, say, Salvadorans? Do District eaters even care?

 

 

POP-UP ALERT

POP-UP ALERT

Sundays are for vintage shopping and indulging in Mexican food!