I have just arrived home from a 3 week, high altitude training camp in Mexico. I was in a little town called San Louis Potosi, which was about a 3 hour drive from Mexico City. The locals called it a small town, but with 2 million people I didn't think it was that small! But in comparison to the 27 million just in Mexico City, I guess that is a fair call!
Out of the 3 weeks I was in San Louis Potosi, I was only able to get in to the town once which I was pretty devastated about! The rest of the time I was being served up mass produced food at the cafeteria next to the pool and sleeping 200 metres away, not a vacation by any means.
But the one and only day I spent in the "Old Town", I managed to came across some fantastic food. I think Australian's (me included) have absolutely no idea what real mexican food is, it couldn't have been more confusing for me! I was expecting to get over there and be up to my neck in big flavourful burritos, crispy tacos and cheesy nachos. But what I thought I knew on the menu was completely different!
So off I went with my poorly attempted version of the Mexican Moustache , ready to try and blend in with the locals...
The first example is what on the menu read as "Taco's", definitely not what you would of expected right?! And to be honest I didn't really enjoy the dish at all. It consisted of corn tortilla's filled with very bland cheese rolled up like italian cannelloni, topped with lettuce, spiced potato's and a sheep's milk sour cream. They definitely were not deep fried, and no beef mince to be seen like the packets in the supermarket or Mexican take aways in Australia. It was a bland dish, certainly not my favourite of the day, but a great example of how westernised our "tacos" have become!
Fruit was fresh and delicious, not to mention a bargain! This guy was walking around for a long time, with what seemed to be very heavy pale's of strawberry's and grapes. My mates and I bought 1kg of strawberry's for 40 peso's, which worked out to around $4. Wouldn't that be fantastic if you could get 1kg of strawberry's for $4 in Australia, and even better they come to you! Talk about service.
Next was the Gordita, which means "little fat one" in spanish. The size and shape of Gordita's vary depending on which region of Mexico you are in. In central Mexico they are small and round like a child's fist and in northern Mexico they are larger and flatter. I had the larger and flatter variety, which was filled with pork ("migajas"). There are a lot of different flavours around, the most popular being minced pork, beef or cheese. I really enjoyed the Gordita, the dough was crispy on the outside but soft in the middle and the pork filling was to die for.
The Gordita dough is made out of a white corn flour called "Masa Harina", then the filling is put inside and rolled into balls. They then use a Tortilla press, which is a must in any mexican kitchen. It is pressed out flat then grilled on a hot flat pan until golden brown. If you are interested you can have a look at these web sites that sells them in Australia, they also sell a lot of mexican foods that I will talk about. http://www.montereyfoods.com.au http://www.fireworksfoods.com.au
The next thing I stumbled across was a delight, Pork Rind. Although at first I had no idea what I was looking at, I thought they were baskets of some sort! I had never seen pork rind in that size or quantity, it was amazing. I was told by a local to give it a go, and for around 12 cents $AUS I didn't need much convincing! All the man did was cut off a bit of rind with a scalpel, dip it in his bucket of salsa and hand it to you.
It was delicious. The Pork Rind didn't really offer much flavour but it was the perfect carrier for spicy salsa, which tasted heavily of coriander and chilli. And the crunch in your mouth was spectacular, it was so airy and easy to eat. But something tells me not too good for you!
My favourite savoury dish of the day belonged to the a closer version of the Taco we are used to in Australia. You would be surprised but this street vendor pumped out the most famous Taco's eaten by the locals here in San Luis Potosi, I could of eaten about 50 they were that good!
Although it seemed all to easy to get on a plate to serve, I could tell there had been a lot of preparation in advance to make it easier for themselves to pump out enough Taco's to meet demand. The Pork and the Beef had both been slow roasted, and after talking to a few of the vendors in broken english they said the meat cooks overnight.
There was only one way to top the food I had experienced today..... Beer, corn chips and guacamole! If only the super bowl was on, it would have been an ideal day!
The one vendor who spoke english said that the secret was the tortilla's were home made, there was a secret recipe of spices that the meats were marinated and cooked in and most importantly a good spicy salsa to top it all off.
What was interesting were the tortilla's, I have been so used to crispy shells as opposed to the soft home made tortilla's that were used here. They could even use 2 tortilla's layered as a shell and it was like biting through air.
I have to say the flavours of the meats were incredible, both the Pork and the Beef could of been eaten with a spoon it was that tender. A far cry from the overcooked chicken and beef mince we are used to in Australia. All that needed to be added to the Taco was some fresh white onions that were finely chopped, fresh tomato's and coriander and the beautiful salsa.
Hopefully no Mexican have seen our Old El Paso mexican ads with "Mexican's" trying to solve the age old question of how to make a taco stand up! They obviously haven't solved how to make their Taco's stand up because quite simply; they aren't supposed to!
Here I was pulling out my wallet ready to throw a few peso's for this fantastic feast, and the grand total.... $25 Peso's. Australian equivalent of about $2.50 for 3 Taco's and a diet coke.... If only a stand like this would make it's way to Australia!
I have been drinking Corona's (on the right) for years, paying $50 here and there for a carton. Not only did I find out it is not the favourite been among the locals, it ended up being about 0.90c Australian per bottle! Apparently it is like the VB of Mexico?! Hard to believe, I would be more than happy if VB went down as smooth as a Corona!
The Victoria Beer (On the left),apparently is the favourite among the drinking folk of Mexico, and I am not surprised. It doesn't need any lemon or lime and it tasted like a cross between corona and a Haan super dry, pretty handy after a long day walking and eating!
So after that experience it leaves me disappointed at how westernised our mexican has become over here, even though I enjoy a big dirty burrito from time to time nothing will compare to the real Mexican experience.
I am no on a mission.... Create my own version of the tradition Mexican Taco's!
Stay tuned for my first Recipe "Lamb Taco's"