Ahead of the Embassy of Mexico’s Flavours of Mexico festival this month, we uncover more about the country’s cuisine to ready our palates.
IT’S MORE THAN JUST FAJITAS, TACOS AND TORTILLA CHIPS
That’s Tex-Mex, or the Americanised version of Mexican cuisine. “Mexican cuisine is based on seasonal and fresh ingredients, which usually presents a challenge to transport out of Mexico,” says chef Arturo Fernandez, who owns the popular Raiz Restaurante in Mexico City. For example, traditional fresh tortillas are made from nixtamalised corn – or corn that’s been treated by the Mexican nixtamalisation method of soaking and cooking the maize in an alkaline solution. He adds: “The same thing applies to tacos [eaten] outside of Mexico, which are sometimes made with flour tortillas or nacho-style tortilla chips. These hard tacos are not eaten in Mexico.” In traditional Mexican cuisine, expect to find lots of corn, beans, chilli pepper, tomatoes, avocado and pumpkin.
MARGARITAS AND TEQUILA SHOTS ARE HARDLY MEXICAN
Put your salt-rimmed shot glasses of tequila and slices of lime aside. “In Mexico, tequila is sipped and enjoyed slowly,” explains chef Arturo. “It’s a matter of respecting and appreciating the quality of a fine tequila.” Tequila is also commonly drunk as an aperitif before a meal, and not as a pre-party booster the way it is here. For a typical Mexican beverage, look to aguas frescas (Spanish for “fresh waters”), light, non-alcoholic drinks commonly imbibed in Mexican homes and restaurants, and which are made up of fresh fruits, cereals, flowers or seeds blended with sugar and water. Hibiscus flowers, lime and chia seeds are among the common ingredients used.
IT BOASTS A HISTORY OF MORE THAN A THOUSAND YEARS, AND IS RECOGNISED BY UNESCO
Mexican cuisine is believed to date back to Aztec, Toltec and Mayan times, and to have had cultural influences on European and Asian cuisines. “Mexican cuisine was inscribed to the List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by Unesco in 2010, in recognition of its ritualistic character and vibrant flavours that have been passed down for centuries,” says chef Arturo. “To this day, it remains one of the few traditional cuisines that have earned this distinction.” The only other cultures with the same culinary badge of honour are the French and Japanese.
WE DO GET AUTHENTIC MEXICAN CUISINE HERE
The Embassy of Mexico in Singapore recommends heading for El Mero Mero, Hombre Cantina, Senor Taco, Super Loco and Lucha Loco. At El Mero Mero, street food is given a more contemporary, elegant spin (like burritos with Josper-grilled New Zealand Angus beef and tacos with Kurobuta pork), while flery flavours in Lucha Loco’s ceviches, tacos and quesadillas are a hearty homage to the motherland. Super Loco’s brunch menu features Mexican breakfast classics like huevos rancheros while Hombre Cantina keeps things simple with street-food favourites at affordable prices.
Some of the street-food classics you can enjoy at Hombre Cantina (clockwise from this picture): Alitas (fried chicken wings), Chicken Tortilla Soup and Oaxaca Style Enchiladas.
Get up-close and personal with this cuisine at the Flavours of Mexico festival
The four-day gastronomic flesta, organised by the Embassy of Mexico in Singapore, will feature chef Arturo Fernandez’s authentic Mexican lunch and dinner menus (from $58 a person). These menus will showcase the fresh ingredients, traditional flavours, and homemade recipes using the millennia-old culinary techniques such as roasting and oven-cooking integral to traditional Mexican cuisine. Besides food, expect to taste an award-winning range of Mexican wines.