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February 13, 2011 8:46 AM   Subscribe

The lemurs are hungry, a new food blog "in search of deliciousness from Malaysia to Mexico", features some great writing and photography, but more shockingly manages to obtain good Mexican food in the UK, something that has been previously hard to find or outright horrible, despite attempts to claim 'the Julia Child of Mexican Cuisine' as a Brit.
posted by Artw (51 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Quick, someone ring Hammond.
posted by nathancaswell at 8:48 AM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't know what the issue is with calling Diana Kennedy both a brit and some sort of analogue of Julia Child. Actually she has more of a claim to authenticity then Child ever did.
posted by JPD at 8:52 AM on February 13, 2011


I'm skeptical that there's good Mexican food in the U.K. Maybe it's just jealousy 'cause I hear the few supposed Mexican restaurants here in Sevilla are horrible. Something I miss from the States... tacos al pastor and chicken molé.
posted by melt away at 9:09 AM on February 13, 2011


It's long been my opinion that Mexican cuisine was due for a serious re-examination. Given how much it has in common with Indian food (rich spiced sauces, stews, seasoned meats), it makes sense that the Brits would enjoy it once they got a version of the real deal.
posted by Gilbert at 9:13 AM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Please God let Mexican and other South American food be plentifully available in the UK.
In the week where i saw jalapenos for sale for at £6.50 per pound when the same were on sale where i used to live at 5 pounds ( weight ) for $0.99. Its fried, spicy , lardy and not good for you. What more could we want ? . Some bizarre pub form of nachos does not count.
( Admittedly Bibis in Glasgow is pretty good , and you can buy tapatio and valentinas hot sauce which helps). For a country with such great Indian food could there not be some hybrid , chapatacos, torta gosht ? MacAcapulco ?
posted by stuartmm at 9:14 AM on February 13, 2011


There are a few decent Mexican restaurants in London now. But that's about it. Mexican food has never been mainstream here. I used to think it was because of stranglehold Indian food had on the spicy-but-cheap niche, but then Thai became ubiquitous from a standing start (and without a large Thai population). So it's because not many Brits holiday in Mexico.
posted by rhymer at 9:19 AM on February 13, 2011


There's acceptable Mexican food in Paris, too. I completely agree Mexican deserves a re-examination. The problem in the US is Mexican has been dumbed down to fast food, quickie broiled enchiladas with sauce from a can and beans and rice cooked four days ago. It's tasty and filling, but not fine cuisine.

The best Mexican food I've eaten in the last year was in Wisconsin, of all places, at Zacatecas in Neenah (near Green Bay). The key thing is all the ingredients and sauces were made carefully and fresh. I still remember the seven moles appetizer. The kitchen's turning out seven different complex sauces, all made from scratch, then putting it on a plate for $6. Absolutely fantastic and puts every Mexican restaurant I've been to in San Francisco in the last year to shame.

With Mexican and Central American workers all over the US we should have more good dining options. It's a problem of economic scale. I'm very grateful for the delicious $1.25 tacos from the little truck parked illegally off the end of the runway in San Carlos. But I wish whoever designed that menu could have a proper restaurant with a $10 taco appetizer made just as deliciously, but with finer ingredients and accompaniments. I'd gladly go.
posted by Nelson at 9:26 AM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oooh, from my years living in Paris, I never got reasonably decent Mexican food (with the exception of the fare at Ave Maria in the 11th arrondissement (1 rue Jacquard)). I did get some pretty credible Peruvian food at El Picaflor (5th or 6th arrondissement, I think), but it was expensive.
posted by LMGM at 9:30 AM on February 13, 2011


It's not all about London-there's a really good place here in Leeds- Salsa Mexicana. It's run by a guy who lived in Mexico for a while and who's passionate about the food. Before he got hold of the place, it served the worst kind of pseudo-Mexican flavourless slop that has passed for Mexican food in England for years. There are people who come in not realising it's under new ownership who complain when they realise the menu has changed. They don't want authentic, they want spaghetti bolognese sauce with beans in a tortilla with some cheddar cheese on top. Fortunately they are in a distinct minority. Most people LOVE the place. As an American expat with a serious Mexican food addiction it's been a lifesaver for me. Cool Chile company is pretty great, too, for home cooks. I order from them all the time.
posted by cilantro at 9:39 AM on February 13, 2011


OMG, one of the worst meals I ever had in the UK was at a "Mexican" restaurant in Scotland. They just don't get it. (Scare quotes definitely justified.)
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 9:56 AM on February 13, 2011


I'm skeptical that there's good Mexican food in the U.K.

From what I hear, the best Indian food has been coming out of UK restaurants, and this is coming from Indians. I wouldn't be surprised if the same was happening for Mexican cuisine.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:01 AM on February 13, 2011


they want spaghetti bolognese sauce with beans in a tortilla with some cheddar cheese on top.

Oh god tell me you're joking.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:01 AM on February 13, 2011


The problem in the US is Mexican has been dumbed down to fast food, quickie broiled enchiladas with sauce from a can and beans and rice cooked four days ago. It's tasty and filling, but not fine cuisine.

That seems unfair to me. I mean, you could make a similar argument for almost any cuisine that becomes fast food. Certainly I won't defend Taco Bell (36% meat?!), but there are many, many places that makes Mexican or Tex-Mex from fresh, quality ingredients. It is true that there are few places that specialize in Mexican cuisine, if you will, rather than burritos and salsa, but they are certainly out there, even here in the Northeast where the Hispanic population is smaller.

(That said, I'd be happy to learn where there's a good place in Vermont.)

From what I hear, the best Indian food has been coming out of UK restaurants, and this is coming from Indians. I wouldn't be surprised if the same was happening for Mexican cuisine.

Actually, I think that the Mexican food in the US is probably a better analogy to the Indian food in the UK.
posted by maryr at 10:04 AM on February 13, 2011


From what I hear, the best Indian food has been coming out of UK restaurants, and this is coming from Indians. I wouldn't be surprised if the same was happening for Mexican cuisine.

You'd think that would be happening, but it's not. It's really really not.
posted by IjonTichy at 10:05 AM on February 13, 2011


I've found that, at least where I am, if a place serves tripe and/or cactus and eggs it's safe to assume that it's going to offer pretty good Mexican food.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:17 AM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


From what I hear, the best Indian food has been coming out of UK restaurants, and this is coming from Indians. I wouldn't be surprised if the same was happening for Mexican cuisine.

That may have to do more with the giant population of folks of Indian descent in the UK.

The problem in the US is Mexican has been dumbed down to fast food, quickie broiled enchiladas with sauce from a can and beans and rice cooked four days ago. It's tasty and filling, but not fine cuisine.

I'm going to go three blocks down my street and get a cup of fantastic posole just to piss you off.
posted by device55 at 10:19 AM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


You'd think that would be happening, but it's not.

That's odd, because at most of the restaurants I frequent, whether Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese, or Italian, the cooks tend to be Mexicans (I'm guessing of course, but the music is usually turned to a Spanish-language station). You would think some enterprising Indian cooks would pick up a few Mexican dishes and make out like bandits.
posted by Gilbert at 10:19 AM on February 13, 2011


they want spaghetti bolognese sauce with beans in a tortilla with some cheddar cheese on top.

Heh. My (American) wifes two chief complaints about Mexican food in the UK are the cheese - substituting mild mexican cheese whith more matre English-style cheddar does not work - and the salsa, which is too sweet and gloopy.
posted by Artw at 10:26 AM on February 13, 2011


I've never had good Mexican food outside of southern California (with the obvious exception of Mexico). This includes Texas, Nevada, the entire eastern sea board from DC to Boston, Florida, the UK, the European continent, and a handful of other counties sprinkled around the world.

What I usually get is Tex-mex or some sort of TGIFridays approximation of Mexican food or something completely unexplainable.

And I don't understand why. Mexican food can be so simple. Corn tortilla heated on a burner. Grilled flank steak. Chopped onion and cilantro. Bottle of Tapatillo sauce. Can of refried beans (w/ lard please). BAM! Delicious Mexican food. What is the fucking mystery here people?
posted by En0rm0 at 10:29 AM on February 13, 2011


Coriander is spot on, bolognese sauce with beans in a flat wheat sheet with some tabasco and Cheddar is what most places pass off as Mexican food. It's truly awful - in Manchester, Barburrito win awards for this dross. I always used to joke they could swap out the rice for pasta and rebrand as (equally awful) Italian.

Now, tucked away in the same place, is Pancho's Burritos (it's worth a visit if you're in Manchester) - Enriquez is an ex-pat Mexican who imports his ingredients, sells about 20 types of dried chilli, and makes the food fresh daily. He also has stacks of (for this brit) alien ingredients - moles, tomatillos, and pickled cactus.

This place really took me aback - as all the Mexicans in London (which I'd been to as per the vice listings) - were as dire as described.

I will stop shilling for Pancho's now.
posted by davemee at 10:29 AM on February 13, 2011


God, I think I would kill for good Mexican in Nottingham.

Wahaca is gorgeous, yes, but come up here, and it's two chain restaurants and a place that used to be "Mexican/Italian/Spanish", so I've avoided it so far.

We do have RICO Mexican Kitchen, however. They not only make amaaaaaaazing salsa verde and mole poblano, but if you catch them at the market stall they occasionally have, they'll sell corn tortillas and tamales and chicken burritos with corn tortillas and oh, god, I once spent an entire hour there just talking about Mexican food and how badly I missed salsa verde and corn tortillas.

It is a lot better than it was. When I first moved over here 10 years ago, I had to make my own tortillas. Now, I can pick up Mission tortillas at most supermarkets, and that smell that wafts up when I open the packaging...it's like coming back home.
posted by Katemonkey at 10:41 AM on February 13, 2011


I've never had good Mexican food outside of southern California (with the obvious exception of Mexico). This includes Texas, Nevada, the entire eastern sea board from DC to Boston, Florida,

You need to ask the Mexicans that live in these places where they eat. I know for a fact there was good Mexican in DC, it just wasn't in the places my lily white ass frequented, the same is true here in Seattle. Also, *no* good Mexican in Texas, what?

Yeah So-Cal, for quality and abundant Mexican, no argument there.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:50 AM on February 13, 2011


If you want shiity, barely recognizable Mexican and Tex-Mex, you need to go to Helsinki. I had a burrito with hazelnuts in it and more cinnamon and cardamom than I would put in my oatmeal.
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:10 AM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


...That makes no sense at all.
posted by maryr at 11:14 AM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wahaca is way above average for UK Mexican restaurants, but by no means awesome. However the Cool Chile Company cited in the second link as a source of good mexican ingredients, actually have a damn fine restaurant in Westbourne Grove: Taqueria.
posted by roofus at 11:14 AM on February 13, 2011


In London, I have been served "guacamole" that I believe was actually mayonnaise with green food coloring.
posted by milkrate at 11:33 AM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


In London, I have been served "guacamole" that I believe was actually mayonnaise with green food coloring.

I've gotten that in San Diego.
posted by LionIndex at 11:38 AM on February 13, 2011


In London, I have been served "guacamole" that I believe was actually mayonnaise with green food coloring.

Oh, I actually have a recipe I cut off of a bag of Co-op brand frozen peas.

For guacamole.

Made with peas.

It's like that Peter Mandelson urban legend gone all true and all horribly wrong.
posted by Katemonkey at 11:44 AM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Katemonkey, get thee to a scanner or camera. We must see this reci"pea"
posted by stuartmm at 11:58 AM on February 13, 2011


Spare a thought for us in Mebourne. Until recently we had just just one decent Mexican restaurant. Last year a new one opened up, and while the food is just reasonable, people have gone nuts for it, despite it being very expensive ($5 for a small taco).

A no reservation policy sees queues of 50+ people waiting for a table, within 20 minutes of it opening.
posted by jedro at 12:28 PM on February 13, 2011


(Loving all the UK food recommendations as I'll be making the transatlantic move this summer. Eats - especially good eats - are always sought after.)
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 1:53 PM on February 13, 2011


Oh god tell me you're joking.

Australia's the same, although it's not a taco if it's not in a shell. Old El Paso everything - insipid, gluey salsa; deep-fried taco shells, ground beef seasoned with a mixture of salt, flour, MSG and cumin; maybe some kidney beans thrown in if you're 'authentic'. Top with shredded iceberg lettuce and grated sharp cheddar cheese.

It's not difficult to source authentic Mexican ingredients here - just incredibly expensive. Think $3 for a weedy bunch of cilantro, $2 for a hard lime, $9/lb for fresh chiles (jalapeno and habanero only); $7 for a small can of chipotles; anything up to $10 for a 3oz bag of dried chiles, not to mention $40+ for something like Cuervo mixto. Fresh tortillas or masa? Forget it. Fresh tomatillos? Toma-wha? Oh, toMAato-TI-lohs. Here's a small can for $5.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:21 PM on February 13, 2011


It's really quite simple, no Mexican immigrant community, no authentic Mexican food. I don't think it's a moral failing.
posted by Summer at 2:47 PM on February 13, 2011


It *is* the one thing I dearly miss above all else and by leaps and bounds since I left San Francisco and it's Mission Street goodness. Don't get me wrong, I ♥ York, but I literally and frequently DREAM about taco trucks and nopales and salsa and burritos and Jarritos in glass bottles and everything else that goes along with it all...the list is quite long.

There is a place here in town called "Mehicana". They serve £9 burritos (~$15) and I would be willing to bet all of it that there isn't a hint of avocado or a black bean to be found inside the mashed white-bread "tortilla".

(And don't get me started on Chinese food here. Seriously, "You want chips* or rice with that?" = WHAT.)

*chips = french fries
posted by iamkimiam at 3:26 PM on February 13, 2011


Tortilla on Southwark Street in London (v close to Tate Modern) actually does some reasonably passable burritos. (It's turning into a chain and I haven't tried the others, but this was the first.) Caveat: I only have the burritos I know from the Mission in SF to compare them with... but dammit, I know good nosh.

The big problem is the high staff turnover, who seem to be people working out their student visas. If you get a good team, it's really very good: if you don't, it's really not. And then you're stuck with them for a couple of months.

Not that I go there a lot, you understand. No more than, say, the Bangkok Kitchen under the arches in Union Street. Now there's some London street food that keeps a chap going at his desk until he can slip away to the Rose and Crown...
posted by Devonian at 3:33 PM on February 13, 2011


(Loving all the UK food recommendations as I'll be making the transatlantic move this summer. Eats - especially good eats - are always sought after.)

I'm chuckling. Like I do when I watch America's Funniest Home Video's golfball to the 'nads clips. I can only hope for your sake that you are moving to London.

(When you come bring some Peanut Butter Cups to ingratiate yourself with the other expats.)
posted by srboisvert at 3:38 PM on February 13, 2011


(And don't get me started on Chinese food here. Seriously, "You want chips* or rice with that?" = WHAT.)

The "Chinese chippie" is usually your worst option for Chinese food, unless you like 70s style stuff in mysterious gloop red sauces, and so should be avoided for that, but weirdly is usually the best chipshop in town.
posted by Artw at 3:55 PM on February 13, 2011


Wait, I don't understand how Diana Kennedy isn't "a Brit". I know she isn't a citizen of Mexico--is she a US citizen? I had always thought she still had UK citizenship.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:30 PM on February 13, 2011


I probably could have phrased that better - it seems a bit cheaty to say "oh yeah, we've got Diana Kennedy when, no, MEXICO has Diana Kennedy, we've got El Paso.
posted by Artw at 6:45 PM on February 13, 2011


Srboisvert, there's some beautiful food going on in Leeds right now- the above-mentioned Salsa Mexicana, the French influenced Kendell's Bistro, magnificent, authentic Chinese food at Red Chili, and award-winning beautifully prepared vegetarian Gujarati food at Hansa's. Outside of Leeds, there's British-Indian food almost anywhere in Bradford, amazingly unexpectedly authentic Thai food in a student bar in York called the Evil Eye, and further South in Birmingham, the best noodles I've ever had in a tiny Chinese-Malaysian place on Ladywell Walk.

Maybe you just don't know the right places to go. I could eat out every night for a month just in and around Leeds before I ran out of good places to eat. And almost all of my British friends are talented cooks who know full well how to cook a vegetable without it turning to grey mush.
posted by cilantro at 10:21 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


There are a few decent Mexican restaurants in London now....

...There's acceptable Mexican food in Paris...


Sorry, but having spent a lot of time in these two cities (recently lived in Paris for a few months), and also having lived in places (LA, San Francisco, New Mexico, Arizona) where great mexican food is plentiful, I am really, really, really skeptical. I mean I spent 15 years in New york city and there's not even that much good Mexican food there (some, but it's hard to come by).
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 11:36 PM on February 13, 2011


Why is it so hard to believe, Emperor of Ice Cream? No one's saying there's great Mexican food on every corner in London and Paris, just that it's possible to find something tasty and reasonably authentic if you look hard enough. I've managed to find a place with some really well-made authentic dishes (including the best Mole I've had since my best friend's Mexican grandmother passed away) up here in the far reaches of Northern England.

Believe me, I know Mexican food. It’s almost an obsession for me. When you come to my house, you will regularly find 3 kilos of lard quietly simmering all day for carnitas, and every year without fail I fill my window sills with tomatillo plants so I can savour the scant ½ cup of tomatillo and green chile salsa I manage to make from my sad little crop (I’m a better cook than I am a gardener). I go to this trouble as a home cook, and there are people who go to this trouble in their restaurants in many places outside of Mexico and the Southwestern US. Now that places like Cool Chile Company are making and importing proper ingredients here in the UK, it's getting easier.
posted by cilantro at 12:26 AM on February 14, 2011


Coming from San Diego a little over five years ago, I've pretty much made all my friends deaf to my whining about the Mexican food here. It's Not Good.

I've been to Wahaca a few times, and it's good but it's not doing it for me. They're quite into using local ingredients, which is admirable and great, but then that means they make kind of an "interpretation" of Mexican food (that does taste pretty good) but I dunno, not quite there. And especially when it's not open at 2 in the morning when I want a sloppy bean and cheese burrito.

They are however, leagues above my last work canteen where they served a dried up wrap stuffed with corn and green bell peppers, with a little bit of dried... ketchup(?) and cheddar cheese dribbled on the top and they called it an enchilada. Sadly, no exaggeration at all in that story.
posted by like_neon at 1:49 AM on February 14, 2011


There has actually been an explosion in California style Burritos in London in the last 12-18 months. They are popping up all over the city.

I've now tried about 4-5 different Cali Burrito places and I think Flying Burritos near Petticoat Lane / Liverpool St station is the best.
posted by mary8nne at 3:44 AM on February 14, 2011


When you say Cali Burrito do you mean the San Diego style with fries in it or as a general term for burritos. Those compared to Mission style, compared to those in Santa Ana or all meat make for a wide range of types of burritos. all available in parts of CA.
posted by stuartmm at 4:16 AM on February 14, 2011


I had bad Indian food in the US once. Therefore, all Indian food in the US is utterly shit.
posted by vbfg at 5:10 AM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


mmmm must make it to Salsa Maxicana and also to Pancho's sometime. I'll need to keep Wahaca on my list of places to visit as well.

WHere in the UK are you moving Emperor SnooKloze?
posted by koolkat at 9:38 AM on February 14, 2011


In the tone of the popular Slashdot meme: Marry a Mexican, Problem Solved.
posted by wcfields at 9:47 AM on February 14, 2011


As usual, these discussions are confusing because, well, there are plenty of Americans who have never had Mexican food but think they have. Most likely they are craving Cal-Mex (or SF-style which is a sub-category) or Tex-Mex.

I live in London. I come from a big Mexican family - half in San Diego, half in Michoacan Mexico - who all love to eat and to cook. Two different extended family members run restaurants in San Diego (La Especial Norte and Juanita's, if you must know) One of my brother's best friends is the son of Roberto - yes, that Roberto. I go to Michoacan every year or two to non-touristy Mexican villages (Purepero, Uruapan, etc. - if you must know) to visit family and to eat. I also lived for 15 years in San Francisco. Those are my qualifications.

The largest feature of Cal-Mex is the burrito - an American invention. Arguably, the form was perfected in the Darwinian climate of San Francisco's Mission district where taquerias can be found on every corner. It was so successful that it has been replicated all around the world. All of the burrito places in London are just replicating the San Francisco burrito. They acknowledge this. One of the largest burrito chains - Chipotle - was founded by a San Franciscan who was trying to replicate the SF taqueria.

As an aside, there is no "best burrito" place in SF. Because of the competition each taqueria has had to distinguish itself from the others. Which is best becomes a matter of personal preference. You want crackly grilled tortillas? go to Cancun. Soft and Steamy? Go to El Buen Sabor. Healthy? Go to El Papalote. Greasy and filling? El Farolito. Seafood? Go to Guadalajara or La Corneta. And so on...for tastiest Pastor, Asada, Carnitas etc.

Tex-Mex is a strange cuisine which, despite the name, is all over the Southwest, all over the US and has also crossed the ocean. If you are going to a place with "Cantina" in the name, drinking Margaritas, ordering fajitas and getting served plates with food covered by melted cheese - you are almost certainly at a Tex-Mex joint. You might also get a burrito as part of a Combination Platter and eat chips and salsa while you wait for your food.

As a broad category, this food is to be avoided. That is not to say it can't be done well. Last week, I ate at Casa de Bandini in San Diego - the one relocated from Old Town to Carlsbad - and I was actually impressed with the food despite it being touristy. The tortillas (corn and flour) are all hand-made and the meats had clearly been slow roasted. Melted cheese was there, drizzled over taquitos, but it was high quality cheese. All food can be good if the ingredients are of a good quality, I suppose.

Ok, so what is Mexican food? It is hard to give a clear answer because Mexican food, like many cuisines of the world is highly regional. It is like mentioning Focaccia as a great Italian bread. It is, but is more properly Ligurian - specific to a region. In my family's home state of Michoacan, for example, rice isn't used very much but there is a particular dish - Morisqueta - which is popular in one region of the state and unknown in the rest of the state and in much of Mexico. Is this a Mexican dish? Likewise, most Yucatecan food is unfamiliar to my Michoacan grandmother.

That said, here's some of my favorite Mexican food:

soups include albondiga (meatball), vegetable soups, tortilla soups etc and also the infamous menudos and posoles, hominy soups.
atoles- rich hot drinks made from cornmeal, including the champurrado, a non-diary hot chocolate (lets not forget that this is the land of chocolate and corn and tomatoes)
mexican hot chocolate - spicy, cinnamon variation on the hot chocolate
tamales - a huge variety including the sweet uchepos - which with a dollop of cream are one of the most wonderful food things on this planet, also a variety I adore called nejos which are served with goat cheese and then 'dipped' into a bowl of spicy tomato soup (mmmm)
carnitas - a regional, pork dish from the state of Michoacan, a deep-fried pork which is tastier than bacon and is a gourmet delicacy. Many people who have had "carnitas" in restaurants have not had the real thing. Real carnitas are slow roasted in a copper pan for hours until the crust is crisp and caramelized and the meat inside is fall-apart tender.
mole - these dark thick spicy sauces can contain even chocolate and are a cusine unto themselves. Most of the ones I've tried in the US are a bit weak and watery versions.
nopales - in the north, many dishes are accompanied by cactus, fried and seasoned
barbacoa - is mexico's unique barbecue style, meat cooked in an underground pit, as flavorful as you might imagine. birria is goat meat prepared in this style to make a delicious stew you can dip your tortillas in.
ceviche (raw fish) is not just found in the coasts. This is more of a Peruvian origin and is mixed of course with onions, tomatoes etc.
chayote squash, jicama, mangoes - much of the richest side dishes are prepared with fruits and vegetables most americans have not heard from, these are often salted or sprinkled with chili and served on street corners or used as garnish.
chorizo (con huevos) - a spicy mexican sausage. mixed with scrambled eggs (mexicans love to mix meats in their eggs) and accompanied by tortillas, its the perfect breakfast. Also useful for making queso fundido.
fruit drinks and popsicles - rice based drinks like horchata, cold jamaica tea, tamarindo and all of these made into popsicles
bunuelos/ cajeta -mexico's caramel, probably derivations from flan, sugared tortillas, goats milk caramel, etc.

I've left a lot out (Like chilaquiles and chicharrones and queso fresco...) but thats a basic start.

Anyhow...the London Mexican scene. There are the aforementioned burrito places. Personally I find them all mediocre. Chilango is not bad but there is something lacking everywhere in how the stews are prepared and the beans are cooked and fried that gives them a lack of depth in flavor. The tortillas are off the shelf.

There's the usual crowd of Tequila bar - TexMex places and, well, no comment there.

I am actually a fan of Wahaca. It is an odd mix of food. The goal was Mexican street food, I think, as served off taco carts and in small loncherias across Mexico. In some cases, the goal succeeds - in the tacos, for example - and in other cases, such as the quesadillas and beans they fell back to the lazy default of adding cream or cheese. Nevertheless, it somehow all works and, most importantly, I think the food is tasty.

On a final note, I do think the search for authenticity in Mexican food is a fool's errand. Mainly because Mexican food is an active and evolving cuisine. It is already a mish-mash, a big remix of native Mexican Indian foods, Spanish foods, French and German too. And it has been re-absorbing itself. Burritos are now sold in Mexico by Mexicans that have moved back. The humble taco also continues to evolve.

To be honest, I don't often see Mexicans arguing about whether this or that is authentic. The only argument I see is: Does it taste good?
posted by vacapinta at 12:01 PM on February 14, 2011 [12 favorites]


vacapinta, thank you. That comment was a million kinds of amazing.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:24 PM on February 16, 2011


When you say Cali Burrito do you mean the San Diego style with fries in it or as a general term for burritos.

To clarify, if you go to just about any taco shop in San Diego and order a "California Burrito", it will have carne asada, cheese, fries, and pico de gallo in it. Most other types of burritos will not have fries.

Adding to vacapinta's comment, it seems that most Mexican food in San Diego is somehow based in Michoacan - carnitas, authentic or not, are available at almost any restaurant and any taco shop will have it. Also, the most common types of names for taco shops (following _____berto's) are something to do with Cotija, a town in the state of Michoacan. Once place, called El Cuervo, has a bunch of pictures of the Cotija cathedral on the walls inside. They used to also have a mural that depicted a pig being slaughtered for carnitas, but they've since painted over it.
posted by LionIndex at 7:44 PM on February 18, 2011


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