First Taste Of Mexican Cuisine
COOKING WITH CHARACTER - Dr. Nestor Alonso ll () - September 15, 2009 - 12:00am

It probably occurred in 1865 when Andrés de Urdaneta, sailing with Miguel López de Legazpi, discovered a new route from Cebu to Mexico in 1865. If a Filipino rode with the ship to reach Acapulco, Mexico, he would be the first Filipino to have a taste of Mexican foods.

This was the start of the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade, a business run by the Spanish colonizers shipping spices, ivory, porcelain and silk; payment was in Mexican Silver. Fruits from New Spain reached the Philippines like guava, pineapple, papaya, avocado, kasuy, atis, anonas, guyabano, camachile, sinegwelas, chico, caimito and cacao. Even our camote, singkamas, mani, sayote, achuete and mais, all came from Mexico! (TIKIM, Essays on Philippine Food and Culture by Doreen Fernandez). Perhaps, the only plant we can claim nga local gyud are coconuts.

One hundred ten Manila galleons (up to 2,000 tons, can carry 1,000 passengers) sailed during the 250 years of trading (1815) and during this period, there were opportunities for Filipinos to travel with these ships and hence reached Mexico for a taste of its cuisine. Nothing new really eating all those Mexican food!

Mexican culture began about 7,000 years ago and reached its height when the Mexica people and other tribes formed the Aztec Empire in the mid 13th century. In 1519, Hernan Cortes (from Spain, not Mandaue City) visited Emperor Moctezuma ll and they feasted on thirty or more dishes including red tamales with beans, roast turkey hen, lobster with red chili, small cactus fruits with fish eggs, frogs with green chili, dried duck, roast quail and fresh fish with sauce of unripe plum. Frothy chocolate was poured into gold cups (Latin American Cooking, Time-Life Books).

Mexican cuisine today is a blend of the “best of pre-Conquest Indian cooking while freely adopting and modifying many good things from Spain.” In the USA, Mexican food was adopted and evolved into Tex-Mex or Texan-Mexican cuisine. In the State of California, it is known as Cal-Mex.

Unfortunately, your favorite food columnist has not traveled to Mexico to taste the cuisine in its original form and rare pa gyud to eat Mexican food here in Cebu. Only one dish is encoded in memory, the turkey in Pueblan sauce or mole poblano de guajolote a Mexican national holiday dish, an adaptation of an old Indian recipe using a turkey and a chili sauce with chocolate. And I remember only one event of the La Chaine des Rotisseurs dining on authentic Mexican cuisine; the celebration of “Mariachi Nights” in Tequila Joe’s.

Today, local residents can taste real Mexican dishes at Maya Taqueria and Tequilla Lounge (Crossroads, Banilad Road, phone   (032) 238.9552 or (032) 238.9618, www.mayacebu.com).

You can start on foods that are familiar para no culture shock; start with the ceviche de camarron (shrimp ceviche in lime and coriander with horseradish gazpacho and masa chips) or ceviche de caballa (mackerel) because it is similar to our “kinilaw” and Ensalada de Jicama (singkamas). In general, Cebuanos are not really that adventurous with their cuisine and anything that is chili hot is unacceptable.

During the dinner with media, we were welcomed by owners Jason and Anna Hyatt, and introduced to an array of Mexican delights like Frijoles Y Arroz (Mexican rice and beans) Salsa Roja (Red sauce made with tomatoes, chili peppers, onion garlic, etc.) served with masa chips, Camarones Recado Verde (prawn with tomatillos, a relative of tomatoes colored green), Chechac (braised fish with coconut, lime, tomatoes and achiote), Carnitas (roasted pork), Pollo Achiote (chicken), Cochinita Pibil (roast pork) and Carne Asada (grilled Angus flank steak). The latter two are definitely my favorites.

Dessert was Maya’s version of the Churros con Chocolate (perfect end to a nice dinner) and Pudin de Banana. The only problem is that the presentation of the dishes is similar and I had to journey back to properly identify the photos.

While the rest of my dinner mates rushed to other commitments, your favorite food columnist joined Jason Hyatt for a taste of the finest Tequilas from Mexico like the Gran Patron Platinum, El Conde Azul Anejo, and the best of the best, AsomBroso Classic 11-Year Vintage Anejo Tequila. Note the varieties of the tequilas, the taste of which has been described as “sour milk mixed with a bit of gunpowder and Limburger cheese (Latin American Cooking, Time-Life Books).”  

AZTEC EMPIRE BANILAD ROAD CAMARONES RECADO VERDE CARNE ASADA CEBU COCHINITA PIBIL CONQUEST INDIAN DOREEN FERNANDEZ LATIN AMERICAN COOKING MEXICAN TIME-LIFE BOOKS
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