The spirits of ancient Mexican deities may soon reside in Los Angeles, enticed across the border by chef Rocio Camacho.
Ever since the Mexican-American War split a chunk of Mexico’s west coast in 1848, Tijuana’s border existence between two major countries has made it unique. The position has made the city a hot spot for tourism, crime, drug trafficking, immigration, industrialization, art, music, and even “zonkeys.” But now there’s another reason for Tijuana’s singularity: the food. During three days last October, I sampled some of Tijuana’s finest food from taquerías to posh restaurants. Read about it here. [Post in both English and Spanish.]
Looking for an introduction to Yucatecan cuisine? Try a panucho. Panuchos begin as traditional corn tortillas, but then are grilled to form crispy exteriors that shelter tender black beans that have been nudged inside. It is then topped with shredded turkey, pickled onions, and avocado. The dish is a staple at Chichen Itza – not the monumental Mayan pyramids of Mexico, but a quick-serve restaurant tucked inside Mercado la Paloma in South L.A. near USC. [keep reading…and check out the how-to video from one of Chichen Itza’s chefs.]
Josef Centeno dubbed his new restaurant “Bar Amá” in homage to the foods his mother, grandmother and great-grandmother cooked in his native San Antonio, Texas. (Amá is short for mamá.) But don’t expect a replica of their kitchens. “It’s the food I grew up with, but my version,” says the chef.
Bar Amá, focusing on Tex-Mex, is slated to open Sat., Dec. 15, just down the street from Centeno’s Bäco Mercat in downtown’s Old Bank District. At first, hours will be 6 to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 5:30 p.m. to 12 a.m. Friday through Saturday.
Many scorn Tex-Mex for its “Macho Combos” and “Pancho Villa Platters.” But Centeno counters that the cuisine began simple and homey…
In my tamale research for the LA Weekly I came across this very funny clip from Cinco de Mayo 2011. Says Obama, teasing his wife: “You do not want to be between Michelle and a tamale.” The crowd cheers.
Last week, we told you about 10 spots for terrific Mexican tamales in L.A., from King Taco to Rivera. What we didn’t say is that the tamale is so versatile that hundreds of varieties exist within Mexico alone, not counting nouveau creations with ingredients like foie gras and truffles. Turn the page for 10 other fascinating facts about tamales….
At L.A.’s Mexican restaurants, the classic combination plate — you know, the No. 5 or the “Macho Combo” or the “Pancho Villa Platter” that serves up a burrito, taco, tamale and chile relleno topped with yellow cheese along with refried beans, rice and flour tortillas — tends to be ridiculed in this epoch of obsession with “authentic” Mexican dishes. So we must choose. Sometimes the tamale plate wins out, especially for those of us who don’t have a Mexican grandmother at home turning out tamales from a family recipe perfected over generations. After all, Mexicans have been making tamales in the Americas since the pre-Columbian era. Perhaps your abuela even makes her own masa. Then there are the tamale fillings: maybe pork stewed in a red chile sauce, or a 100-ingredient mole.
I’m researching tamales for the LA Weekly, thinking about this painting, and remembering my very first Spanish class in 9th grade with Sr. Murillo at Wildwood School. He showed this piece and others by Carmen Lomas Garza so we could learn words like “silla,” “mesa,” and of course, “tamal.” Isn’t it a fantastic painting? No …
Every year, we read articles revealing the true origins of Cinco de Mayo. Nope, not Mexican Independence Day, which happens Sept. 16. Cinco de Mayo commemorates a minor battle in the state of Puebla in 1862 where an army of mostly Mexican Indians beat Napoleon III’s French troops. The holiday isn’t celebrated widely in Mexico. It only became popular in the U.S. during the 1970s when Chicano activists grasped the David-and-Goliath symbolism and gave the holiday a boost, recognizing a parallel to their own cause….
You might suspect Gustavo Arellano, the brain and wit behind the popular syndicated and OC Weekly column ¡Ask a Mexican!, as one of those Mexican food sticklers who bristles at ideas of yellow nacho cheese, the chimichonga, the chicken fajita pita, enchilada combination plates and Taco Bell’s 50th anniversary festivities. Yes, Arellano admits to having once been fanatical about authenticity. But he’s reformed…