Wednesday, May 17, 2017

True Mex

Mention Mexican food and some may cringe. After all, it hasn't been represented well , not only here but across the globe. Yet that true cuisine and thanks to Mexican born chefs around the world, that idea is changing.

Julia Mokin wrote this interesting article in today's New York Times' Food section.For years, tacos and any bean dish were served in Mexican restaurants, from Copenhagen, to New York and from London to surprisingly Los Angeles. Things are changing as innovative chefs with roots in the Mexican states are creating a "Modern Mexican" cuisine. This is a movement similar to the New Nordic cuisine which shone a spotlight on Scandinavian rye bread, smoked fish and Arctic berries. It introduces diners to such native ingredients as cacao, agave, and cactus along with pre-Hispanic varieties of tomatoes, squash and pumpkins. The ingredients which define Mexican cuisine, corn and chilies are also shone in their  original light. Don''t expect traditional dishes such as chiles in nogada,  stuffed poblano chiles or mole poblanos. This is a movement that  uses local ingredients to create Mexican food.

Is that working? In some cases no. If the menu says Mexican, diners want fajitas and taquitos, not a bean mousse or a black bean broth with a dot of caviar and a fleck of gold leaf. This is standard fare at Californio, a San Francisco  restaurant owned by chef Val Cantu. Yet many people have a set idea, thanks to chain restaurants such as On The Border and Taco Bell.Chefs have to work with what they have as was the case with Rosio Sanchez who has her restaurant, the famed, taqueria Noma, in Copenhagen. She does have fresh hand pressed corn tortillas but also octopus with fermented corn husks.It is used in Mexican cooking but not that much.It's more about Danish tastes which revolve around dairy , acidity, fat and unami. The ingredients are all decidedly Nordic Another example is Atla, the trendy Mexican eatery in Manhattan,has a tostada topped with Arctic char, farmer's cheese and capers deliberately echoes the Lower East Side's traditional bagel with a schmear of scallion cream cheese and lox.

What is Mexican cooking? It's what Mexican chefs make it where they make it.It could be a bean mousse or dishes made with local - non Mexican ingredients. It's about adapting  but also keeping tradition.

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