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Exploring Mexico’s culinary scene

Apart from showcasing Mexican food, the 1er Encuentro Global de Cocina Tradicional (First Encounter of Global Traditional Cuisine) is also a platform to introduce overseas cuisine to Mexico, like that of Ghana.

MEXICO CITY — There’s a lot happening in Mexico’s culinary scene. Just last week, the capital city held the 1er Encuentro Global de Cocina Tradicional, or the First Encounter of Global Traditional Cuisine. Organized by the Mexican government’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it was a wonderful platform (a cross between a conference and a food fair) that showcased the diversity of Mexican cuisine, and likewise brought in samplings of cuisines from overseas.

Multi-Color Tortillas, Insects & Mexican Wine

For instance, the state of Michoacan in Western Mexico makes a “technicolor” tortilla, using three types of corn. (Taste-wise, it’s just like any other tortilla, although a bit more firm, but the colors made it quite a novelty.) In the Yucatan Peninsula, champurrado is a velvety drink made from cocoa, corn, milk, anise and cinnamon. Tamales, depending on whether they are from, can be cooked with corn husks or banana leaves (often in Oaxaca), and stuffed with queso fresco, sweet poblano chili, lima beans, chicharon, chicken, pork… you name it. Also, insects like escamoles (ant larvae), chicatanas (flying ants), chapulines (grasshoppers), gusanos de maguey (maguey worms) were, during pre-Hispanic times, Mexico’s source of protein as they didn’t have meat back then, and they continue to be delicacies today, often mixed in with mole and guacamole, or eaten on their own — fried to a crunch — paired with mezcal. How fascinating, right?

It was also during the fair that I tried Mexican wine for the first time. I was surprised that I had previously not seen it on any wine lists on any of my travels, because they do have some wonderful varieties. Six hundred miles south of Napa Valley, just past Tijuana, is Mexico’s wine region Valle de Guadalupe in Baja, California. Its climate is similar to that of Bordeaux and Rioja, so they produce Bordeaux-style cabernet sauvignon and merlot. I particularly like the Mexican whites, though, like the chenin blanc, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. I read in The New York Post that production of any single wine is usually limited to no more than 3,000 cases, making every winery “boutique.”

Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2016

This period also coincided with the 2016 Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants, organized by William Reed Business Media. Held in Mexico City’s Centro Cultural Roberto Cantoral, Central Restaurante in Lima, Peru, once again took the top spot as the best restaurant in Latin America for the third year in a row.

“I was taken by surprise because after two years, maybe the third year might be too much… but it happened,” Martinez shared in an exclusive interview with The Philippine STAR. ”I think it’s because we have been working very hard and rediscovering new ingredients and working with communities. We have been going beyond what Central guests are expecting, and our focus has been Peru, the people, and connecting to our communities, trying to make Peru nice and our country happier. I think that’s our goal, and not just the restaurant. For this, we are getting recognition, and it is beautiful… and you know what’s going to be fun? Cooking in Manila with Mitsuharu… No. 1 and No. 2,” he added with a laugh.

This was in reference to his upcoming Four Hands Dinner on Oct. 30, where he will be cooking with Mitsuharu Tsumura of Maido in Lima, Peru, who jumped up to the No. 2 spot on this year’s list — at Shangri-La Fort. Both chefs will be in town for Shangri-La’s International Festival of Gastronomy, which brings various chefs from around the world to cook at Shangri-La properties around the region. Mitsuharu will be cooking from Oct. 27 to 31. Virgilio is also in town to launch his new book, Central, published by Phaidon Press.

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To book for the special dinners at Shangri-La Fort, visit phone +632 820 0888.

For the full list of the Latin America’s Best Restaurants 2016, visit

Special thanks to Valentina Ortiz Monasterio, Jaime Arrangoiz and Berenice Dorantes of Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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You can reach me at, on my blog, on Twitter at or on Instagram at

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