AS Europeans, our knowledge of Mexican food is often limited to the words burritos, black beans and… tequila. Although they have become one of the most popular dishes when talking about Mexican food, the country has much more to offer in term of flavours, spices and taste combinations.
The diversity of ingredients that this state has to offer cooks and food lovers is incredible. Avocados, chillies, tomatoes, herbs and wild leaves have so many varieties that it is impossible to keep up, Thomasina Miers explains with love and passion.
My first visit to Wahaca a few months ago was my true first introduction to what Mexican street food really was. I discovered a whole new range of flavours I had never experimented before and my natural curiosity to always learn more and more about food from across the globe really was taken up to the next level. What’s next?!
In Mexico, we found chilli farms where we sourced an amazing habanero pulp, fruit factories where we tasted the best passion fruit ice-cream we had ever tried, and we even met a guy who was making horchata, an addictive drink made from rice milk and ground almonds
Curiosity may be described as a vice but when comes to using it for the benefit of the others, I call it a gift. And that what the dynamic and lovely Thomasina and her team did last winter. Pushed by the desire to develop new Mexican street food recipes for Londoners, they went to Mexico last winter where they met local farmers and chefs, tried new recipes and tasted local dishes and flavours.
Twelve managers and chefs joined us in Oaxaca for an exhilarating, emotional and amazing time. We spent hours at a wholesale market on the outskirts of Oaxaca and then cooking a whole range of dishes showing our team how fresh, healthy and delicious many of the dishes are.
Ron Cooper, the well known Californian artist of the 60s showed us the mescals he is now bottling and selling in Europe and the States. We ate in restaurants that serve tortillas made out of three different types of corn and cantinas serving the most delicious cocktails. It was invaluable to have the head chefs learn so much about the food first hand and show our team the markets that first inspired us to start Wahaca.
Weeks of work and development later, the result is a success: a refreshing summer menu featuring new dishes with exciting and creative flavours, taking Wahaca’s cuisine to the next level. A real discovery for our European palates.
We spent nights lying in our beds trying to distil all the food and ingredients we had tried and condense it all so that it could potentially be used in some form on our menus back home. We particularly liked the way some of the best things we ate were made from the simplest of ingredients and we felt determined that our customers should have that same choice of eating delicious food that don’t cost an arm and a leg. Once back home Carolyn tirelessly found suppliers and secured supply chains so that the menus in our heads could be translated into some form of reality.
And the reality is very good to taste! The team invited us to their restaurant in Westfield where we had the privilege to give our taste buds a one way trip to Mexico.
MSC ceviche – Shrimp and scallops tossed with mix and habarenos, lime, mint and fresh tomato salsa.
My favourite dish of this new summer menu. Ceviche is usually made with sea bass and shrimps but the scallops were a great twist to this popular dish, adding a nice meaty consistency. Marinated in vinegar with a pinch of sugary, the dish was very refreshing with a nice light sugary kick.
Chicken guajillo – Shredded chicken, lettuce, guacamole and smoky guajillo oil
The chicken was really tender and mixed very well with the guacamole and was as fresh and refreshing as the ceviche, with the addition of the meat! The smoky quajillo oil added a nice spicy yet light taste to it.
Summery new potato – seasonal potatoes, shredded lettuce, feta and habanera salsa
The habanera salsa is one of the team’s creations and really powers each dish cooked with. The potatoes and the feta balanced each other’s flavours while the salsa added the final touch to this hearty but flavoury dish.
Broad bean and feta – Crushed new potatoes, broad Beans, mozzarella, feta and mint
The most popular quesadillas is usually cooked with ham and cheese, as an adaption to our European tastes and habit. However, this rich and tasty quesadilla was a great expression of Mexican flavours where broad beans, potatoes, mozzarella and feta found a way to get along very well together.
Chicken mole – chicken with Oaxacan mole sauce
Although I’m not a big fan of the xxx? because of the mole overpowering the dish, the flavours are much more well-balanced with the chicken
Grilled cactus tacos with courgette and cheese
One of my favourites. Fresh, light, crunchy and even chewy with the taco shell. A good one!
Sweet chile ancho filled with creamy black beans, topped with caramelised onions and toasted pumpkin seeds. Served with Mexican green rice
Black beans yes but cooked with caramelised onions to create a nice sweet/sour dish that you can’t resist but going back to again and again.
Corm bread & Mole sauce with sesame seeds and crema.
The corn bread was a bit too sweet and rich to be enjoyed at their best. It would be better if it were lighter with a stronger corn taste but my knowledge in term of corn bread is quite limited.
Summer Fuerza salad – Marinated beetroot, summer peas, spelt, toasted chilli, feta, avocado, pickled hibiscus flowers, fresh mint, toasted pumpkin seeds, cucumber and salad leaves.
What an interesting combination of flavours. Each forkful is a different experience of taste. You switch from the sweetness of the beetroot to the salt of the feta while feeling the crunchiness of the summer peas. Refreshing but yet a bit disturbing.
20p of each dish will go to ednica.org.mx, a UNESCO charity trying to educate and rehabilitate and educate the street children of Mexico City.
Their main aim is to help young people help themselves, rather than just give handouts of food, money or drugs. They have a new nutritional programme which is where we come in. We aim to make this the start of a long-term project which we can develop over the years, where we can help Ednica teach young people and their parents the importance and value of fresh food. Once we are up and running my aim is to interest other chefs in Mexico to get involved as well.
Tommi’s jelly – layers of Hibiscus and passion fruit jelly.
A must have for all jelly lovers with two strong flavours that once combined create the perfect refreshing dish, a spongy version of a good juice cocktail.
Flan de la casa – Creamy vanilla-scented pudding with caramel sauce
OH.MY.GOD. I’m not going to describe it because you have to go and try it. I couldn’t even swallow my first spoonful. It was heaven.
Without that Mexico trip, none of the new recipes on our summer menu would have existed.
Ceviche – Serves 6 (inspired from @bribedwithfood‘s recipe)
700grs sea bass or bassa fillets, no skin no bones
Juice of 2 large limes
Juice of 1 lemon
1 medium onion finely chopped
Scotch bonnet chili finely chopped or jalapeo pepper, chopped in cubes
Bunch of fresh chopped coriander or chopped cilantro
Chop the fish and prawns into small chunks.
Mix with in a large bowl with the lime juice and lemon juice.
Put it in the fridge for 1 hour or until prawns and fish are opaque.
In another bowl mix the onion, the bonnet chilli/jalapeo, cilantro/parsley, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Mix all ingredients – let it all rest together in the fridge for at least 12 hours.
Salt to taste.
Serve on saltines.
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