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OK. Three questions:

1. I've just bought a mexican cookbook (rick bayless) and I am somewhat perplexed that I can't think of anywhere to buy the variety of fresh chillis the book talks about (serrano, jalapeno, habanero etc) I know you can get a lot of dried ones at Borough, but any ideas on fresh? Also, tomatillos. Any ideas?

2. Answers to the first might suggest what the answer to this one is....But why are there no good Mexican places in the UK? Have you eaten any good Mexican here?

3. The chilli's that you get in the supermarket, the ones they sell loose. What type of chilli are they? I'm assuming jalapeno, but am prepared to be very wrong...

Help. Please. :-)

Suzi Edwards aka "Tarka"

"the only thing larger than her bum is her ego"

Blogito ergo sum

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Tarka,

Unfortunately it's very difficult to get good Mexican stuff here - I have looked for years, and only now is it getting a bit better - keep in mind that when a recipe call for fresh chile you can usually take a dried one and reconstitute it by soaking in hot water - they go into sauces anyway, so the "fresh" doesn't always make a difference...

Harvey Nichols carries a decent range of the Cool Chile company stuff, like tamale wrappers...

I can offer you a few websites:

www.coolchile.co.uk

www.elaztecafood.co.uk

they seem to have upgraded their site very recently and they have alittle store, but unless you know what you want exactly it's better to order by internet, they don't have anything on display, it's just a little garage with a desk and a warehouse in the back...

Let me know if you need any translations

www.nutropical.com

~Borojo~

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When I first found this site, one of the first things I searched for was discussions about Mexican restaurants. Would I finally find a decent one in London?

After all, in a conurbation of 10 million or so there must be one.

But all I found was other people lamenting the lack of one. Personally I don't understand: all these chefs opening swanky restaurants with big debts, taking a huge risk, when all you'd need to do in London is to entice a couple of Mexican chefs over here and you'd be full every night.

Instead we get absolutely awful so-called Mexican restaurants which are little more than bits of meet, pepper and onion with chili wrapped in pancakes. Pathetic.

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When I first found this site, one of the first things I searched for was discussions about Mexican restaurants. Would I finally find a decent one in London?

After all, in a conurbation of 10 million or so there must be one.

But all I found was other people lamenting the lack of one. Personally I don't understand: all these chefs opening swanky restaurants with big debts, taking a huge risk, when all you'd need to do in London is to entice a couple of Mexican chefs over here and you'd be full every night.

Instead we get absolutely awful so-called Mexican restaurants which are little more than bits of meet, pepper and onion with chili wrapped in pancakes. Pathetic.

Gus,

there used to be a really good one, Si Señor in Soho, but it went out of business - I don't think UK is ready for real Mexican yet, unfortunately, "WE" may be, but I think people just want to wrap some fajitas in flour tortillas, sip a frozen margarita and consider themselves ethnic...

besides, no matter how good the chef, no matter how nice and original the restaurant and cuisine, ingredients are still an issue...

www.nutropical.com

~Borojo~

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I think Mexican food suffers the same image problems here as Indian food used to (And still does outside of london). It is considered ideal for a boozy night out for groups of people, which in fact for thestuff we actually do get here, it is. There is normally something every one will like, and it goes well with beer! I have no problem with that - I have had many enjoyable nights, eating salad out of a tortilla hat, and ordering beer by the bucket. Not for the food (Although I am sure it was tasty, if entirely inauthentic) but the company and atmosphere - which for a large percentage of 'restaurant' goers, is the major factor.

But if people want to go for a 'civilised' meal, they will tend to resent paying restaurant prices for what they percieve to be unsophisticated food.

I still find it surprising that here isn't a market for it in London though.

I love animals.

They are delicious.

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1. I've just bought a mexican cookbook (rick bayless) and I am somewhat perplexed that I can't think of anywhere to buy the variety of fresh chillis the book talks about (serrano, jalapeno, habanero etc) I know you can get a lot of dried ones at Borough, but any ideas on fresh? Also, tomatillos. Any ideas?

Tomatillos are closely related to Cape gooseberries, infact they are different species of the same genus. You can buy Cape gooseberries in supermarkets etc, although they may be to ripe to use in Mexican cooking (they are used green and un-ripe in salsa?).

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Oh well, maybe I'm wrong about the demand for a Mexican.

Certainly take on board the comment about it being regarded as an unsophisticated food to be had with beer. But that, ultimately, has done much to promote Indian restaurants in the UK, despite the food being far removed from traditional British.

I'd have thought the way for a proper mexican to go would be somewhere close to visiting american tourists, and and to offer authentic street food with beers, rather than a mexican version of Gordon Ramsey.

My thought is that a Mexican version of Tayyab would go down really well.

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Consider this, Brits: It's really hard to get good, authentic Mexican food in the United States, so consider your chances of getting halfway decent Mexican food across the Atlantic. (Keep in mind I'm referring to states that border Mexico, as I have lived in four of them.)

Much peace,

Ian Lowe

ballast/regime

"Get yourself in trouble."

--Chuck Close

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....But why are there no good Mexican places in the UK? Have you eaten any good Mexican here?

Oh how I have wept over this one.

I makes no sense, does it? Mexican food really could be the next big thing in London - especially now that everyone and their dog is going to Mexico on package holidays. Isn't that how it happened with Thai food?

The problem with Mexican food is that it has a PR issue. If people only think of it as a 'fill-your-belly-with-spicy-stodge-between-margaritas' type of cuisine, then its hardly going to be lifted from the doldrums. The reality is that you can have good, I mean REALLY good Mexican food - you can have good 'street food' and also good 'Gordon Ramsay style' Mexican food. It doesn't have to be be absolutely authentic to be good any more than good Indian or good Chinese has to be absolutely authentic. You simply need someone in the kitchen who really knows what they are doing, who knows what Mexican food should taste like, who knows the ingredients and how to achieve the right combination of these to make something memorable.

The lack of good Mexican food in London is one of this city's greatest tragedies. Maybe someone with some foresight can entice a decent Mexican chef here and put us all out of our misery.

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Isn't that how it happened with Thai food?

But bear in mind that 90% of the Thai food in the Uk is garbage too.

And, I doubt that many people going on package holidays to Mexico are going to be sampling anything other than "international Cuisine" at their all inclusive resort, so will have little chance to come into contact with any regional cooking

Ask most people what they think of Mexican food and they will come up with a description of tex-mex, as indeed will most people in the US.

As Ballast says, even in the US good mexican food is very hard to find. I have spent a lot of time travelling around some of the states that border Mexico and there is a real paucity there

I don't mind Mexican food. At its best it can be rather nice

it would be good to have one or two places that offer a decent interpretation in the way we now have a few decent BBQ places, but I am hardly crying in my lime wedged pissy beer

S

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It would be helpful if those that are discussing 'good' Mexican food could give examples and describe how it differs from Tex-Mex. eg. How much regionality is there in Mexico and would Tex-Mex be a regional variation or another thing entirely.

My exposure to Mexican food is limited to avoiding it like the plague due to its crapness Taco-Bell type food and some Moles, salsa, that cormeal stuff cooked in corn husks and a few other stews. Plus pissy beer, which I quite like.

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It would be helpful if those that are discussing 'good' Mexican food could give examples and describe how it differs from Tex-Mex. eg. How much regionality is there in Mexico and would Tex-Mex be a regional variation or another thing entirely.

I remember reading a thread on this in the Mexico forum a while back. I can't find it now, but I'm sure there are other similar threads there as well as a general discussion of proper Mexican food.

edit: Oops had the link wrong.

Edited by StephenT (log)
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Rachel Laudan is a great food historian who lives in Mexico. Her essay in the LA Times, "Desperately Seeking Authenticity", deals with the paradoxical and self-contradictory search for authentic Mexican food by Anglos with high ideals and sophisticated palates.

http://www.latimes.com/features/food/la-12...eadlines%2Dfood

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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Just got a new mexican cook book "The Essential Cuisines of Mexico" by Diana Kennedy.This combines her previous books "The Cuisines of Mexico","The Tortilla Book" and "Mexican Regional Cooking" together in one.This is the real thing and I was suprised on popping out to my local (in Dorset)Sainsbury to find Habeneros chiles freshly available to get me started in addition to Jalapenos in brine.

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there used to be a really good one, Si Señor in Soho, but it went out of business

That would be the one that put a helmet on your head and blew a whistle while you necked those god awful tequillas. hmmmmm, i thought it was really bad mexican, then again I have never tasted good mexican at all so not too sure what a good one would be!

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B.Right.On Food Co have a good range of dried chilis.

cheers for the websites guys. the bayless book makes a big distinction between sauces and salsas made with dried chillis, and those with fresh. i'll just have to get started on the dried ones.

can anyone shed any light on which "breed" the chillis you find sold as "mixed chillis" in the supermarket are?

Suzi Edwards aka "Tarka"

"the only thing larger than her bum is her ego"

Blogito ergo sum

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there used to be a really good one, Si Señor in Soho, but it went out of business

That would be the one that put a helmet on your head and blew a whistle while you necked those god awful tequillas. hmmmmm, i thought it was really bad mexican, then again I have never tasted good mexican at all so not too sure what a good one would be!

Si Señor once did a lunch for the AGM of the Guild of Food Writers, in which they knocked themselves out doing the very best they could -- no comprises with popular taste. It was generally agreed among those several members who knew Mexican rather well that it still wasn't very good.

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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Rachel Laudan is a great food historian who lives in Mexico. Her essay in the LA Times, "Desperately Seeking Authenticity", deals with the paradoxical and self-contradictory search for authentic Mexican food by Anglos with high ideals and sophisticated palates.

http://www.latimes.com/features/food/la-12...eadlines%2Dfood

Excellent piece.

Reminded me of my recipes for salsa, and "quicky" chilaquiles. Both of which I got from Mexican friends - both of whom live in Mexico - one of whom doesn't even speak a word of English.

So one recipe calls for Fritos. The other for canned tomatoes and garlic salt.

And I've had people turn up their noses when they hear the ingredients: "Not AUTHENTIC enough," they say.

Somehow I've never been able to bring myself to tell my Mexican friends that their delicious food, made by Mexicans, in their Mexican kitchens, served to their Mexican families, and their Mexican friends, in Mexico, isn't "Mexican" enough.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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B.Right.On Food Co have a good range of dried chilis.

cheers for the websites guys. the bayless book makes a big distinction between sauces and salsas made with dried chillis, and those with fresh. i'll just have to get started on the dried ones.

can anyone shed any light on which "breed" the chillis you find sold as "mixed chillis" in the supermarket are?

Tarka, not sure on the mixed chillis, but the large chillies sold in most supermarkets are, I think, Jalapenos.

Co-incidentally, I work with people that have no interest in decent food. However, I discovered the other day that the networking guy sitting in the corner runs a website that has more information than you could ever want about chillies. If you have any queries he is the man. He will also be able to fix any network issues you may have :biggrin:

Chile-Head - click here

"Why would we want Children? What do they know about food?"

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Well, since my name has come up on this thread, let me put in my two cents worth.

I've not been to any "Mexican" restaurants in England but I've trawled through a few grocery stores on family visits. So let's start by clearing the undergrowth.

Tequila was an almost unknown regional drink until about twenty or thirty years ago when clever entrepreneurs introduced French and Spanish brandy-making equipment and the invaluable notion of apellation controlle. Margaritas were invented in the US. When Mexicans drink tequila, which has become a symbol of national pride in the last decade or so, it is with a chaser of sangrita (very diverse recipes including tomato, chile, pomegranate juice, the end result being always red).

Tacos are basically the fish and chips of Mexico. That's a bit harsh but the corn kitchen (as Elizabeth Ortiz an Englishwoman with a great grasp of Mexican food termed it) was all that was left after the destruction of Aztec High Cuisine by the Conquistadores. Just yesterday I asked a neighbor "What do you think is the best food (comida) in the street in Guanajuato?" She answered, "There is no comida only tacos. The stand at Dos Rios has great tacos of meat, brains and head meat."

Tacos in Mexico are almost invariably soft corn tortillas. Those deep fried things are American.

Only the very rich and the very poor can get good corn tortillas. The quality is plummeting and the tortillas in the US (corn, wheat don't count) are Wonder Bread standard. Hate to think about the UK.

Salsa in Mexico is not canned tomatos with hot chiles. It is a whole and utterly wonderful system yet to be properly written up of fresh chiles and an acid ingredient or rehydrated dried chiles and an acid ingredient. It's as systematic and complex as the French system. These salsas are not very piquant (Mexican term to distinguish spicy from heated). Only the poor in Mexico eat searingly hot food.

El Paso brand is Tex-Mex. Tex-Mex is an honorable tradition in itself, only now being fully understood. But it's not what Mexicans eat.

Middle and upper class Mexican food derives from the food of Hapsburg Spain. It's reminiscent of Indian food as Octavio Paz pointed out. Not surprising. It was one end of a great chain of Classic Eurasian Cuisines that went Spain, Ottomans, Persia, Mughal, and up in to China. It was the food of the single most successful American colony that put everything to the north and south to shame. A colony of great architecture, music, and intellectuals. Come vis¡t. It's amazing and I'm proud to live here. Mexican moles and adobes and pipians are reminders of what European food tasted like before the French got going and chucked all that stuff out.

Mexican upper and middle class food was then made further complex by their embrace of everything French in the late nineteenth century.

So where do you eat this great stuff? That's a hard one because Mexico (like England and like India) did not have a great restaurant cuisine. A few restaurants in Mexico City are now trying to present great home/hacienda cooking.

Well I've gone on long enough,

Rachel

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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