When is Mexican food Mexican? 

Mexican food is not Tex Mex! Having lived in Houston Texas for many years we were led to believe that Mexican food, is, what they served in such restaurants/diners such as Pappasitos Cantina, Gringos Mexican Kitchen or Ninfa’s on Navigation ( don’t you love the name, a really seedy part of town!) But as much as we enjoyed going to one of these, it was always the same, a huge amount of deep fried tortilla chips, with lashings of salsa and guacamole. Then for the main course, it was always a plate which included, refried beans ( think calories) Mexican rice, some salad, some tortillas and meat or fish of your choosing. I always ended up saying ” hold the rice and beans!”

Now however there is a new menace on the block, in the USA and the U.K. It is called Chipotle! Founded in the USA, it has now spread to Europe, including the UK. The one near me in London always has queues outside, especially at lunch time and I am not sure why! They market themselves as “Food with Integrity” , but Wikipedia reports that, MSNBC health .com rated it as one of the worse 20 , in the USA. It has had numerous serious outbreaks of various forms of food poisoning over the years, including E Coli, Salmonella and Novovirus ! And on top of that half of what they serve is not even Mexican ( Burritos and Tofu for example) oh, and one final note, each burrito is only about 1,000 calories! Which is even more than a Big Mac. !Steer clear is the message!

Here, in Mexico City, and not even in a high end restaurant but just a local one, it is much more refined and much better food. So we were at La Capitale, neighbourhood  restaurant, in an area called Condesa. 

Shrimp Tortillas
Pork Pibil ( pulled pork)
Guacamole, the colours represent the colours of the Mexican Flag

Tuna Tostadas
 we had tortilla chips with guacamole , tostadas with tuna, small tortillas with shrimp, pulled pork ( pubil) and some tortillas with fajitas ( arranchera) steak. Take a look!

The Year of the Monkey is upon us!

The Year of the Monkey is upon us!

This is Chinese New Year, which is also called Spirng Festival, it is the time of year that thousands of Chinese travel home to celebrate with their families, a bit like Thanksgiving in the USA, it is family time. Red envelopes filled with money are given to children, and unmarried couples!

The Chinese New Year, starts with the first day of the Lunar Calendar and lasts for 15 days, people wear new clothes ( including red underware ) worship ancestors, play MahJong and set off Fireworks. They also avoid many things during this period, avoid breaking dishes ( brings bad luck) do not empty the trash ( sweeping away good luck ) crying is bad luck, as is sweeping the floor and washing hair!

Food is very important during this period. Dumplings which originated over 1800 years ago, and there are also as many recipes as there are years.Spring rolls are also important as their shape represents a Ton of gold. Fish is most important, carp, catfish and West Lake fish. The West Lake in Hangzhou is The West Lake, which has been written about and drawn throughout the ages. Presumably being able to access fish from this lake must be top of anyone’s list for the Chinese New Year.

In Mainland China, there is very much a North South divide, when it comes to food. In the colder north, people eat Dumplings, Whet Noodles and Steamed buns, in the south, it is much more rice, rice noodles and lots of vegetables.

Much to the disgust of most Westerners, is the fact that the Chinese will eat anything that moves, and this includes, Dog, Rats, Insects,Scorpions,Snakes,Pigs Ears and chicken feet..

All food is cooked in bite size pieces as it is eaten with chop sticks, About 45 Billion Chop sticks are used each year and most of them are made out of bamboo. When travelling in China, watch the locals, before they use their Chopsticks, they rub them together. Why? To remove any splinters !!

So recently we were treated to a Chinese New Years Lunch. Taiwanese cuisine is influenced from mid to southern provinces of Mainland China, most notably from the province of Fujian (Hokkien), and also Japanese influence also exists due to the period when Taiwan was under Japanese rule.

Chinese stir-fry chicken with snow peas

  

Serves: 4

Ingredients

1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

3 green onion leaves, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon ground ginger

3 cups (150g) snow peas

1 pound (500g) chicken breast, cut in thick pieces

Ingredients for the sauce

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons white sugar

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons dark sesame oil

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon chicken stock powder

½ cup (1.2dl) water

Combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a jar and shake thoroughly., mix well with the chicken.

Begin by heating the oil in a wok or large skillet on high heat. The wok or skillet will be hot enough when the oil starts to smoke, (Test with a piece of dry bread. )Chinese stir-fry is cooked on an extremely high heat, so keep an eye on your stove to make sure nothing burns. All ingredients must be cooked until a bit tender but not brown.

When the oil is hot, add the garlic, green onion stems and ginger. Stir-fry for 1 minute.Set aside on a separate plate.

Add the snow peas and stir-fry for 3 to 5 minutes, until tender but not golden. Set aside on the same plate.
Drain the chicken but keep the sauce to one side.

Add the chicken breast and stir-fry until cooked through and golden. Set aside on the same plate.

Return all the vegetables and chicken to the wok, reduce heat to medium and pour sauce over the ingredients. Heat the chicken and vegetables through for 5-7 minutes until sauce thickens. If your sauce becomes too thick you can always add a bit more water to thin it out. Serve immediately when ready.