The moveable feast: Tackling the taco
The Lazy Gringo which serves Arizona-style Mexican food is in Patan. You ascend the stairs into a generally crowded restaurant and dishes from ‘The Mexican food Capital of the US’. This is soul food Mexican-style, and at the heart of it is the extraordinary Chimichanga.
Most Mexican food is piled up with different ingredients on a tortilla or flat chappati-like pancake. For example the Chimichanga had chicken, onions, a sauce that bit you as you bit it, a little cheese to soothe you, cool green onions, tomatoes that were a touch piquant and the whole thing was rolled and fried. The tastes run riot and you can imagine Monica Flin of the El Charro Café, the oldest in Tucson where the dish was invented in 1922.
She turned a curse word into ‘Chimichanga’, which is the Spanish equivalent of ‘thingamagig’.
And Chimichanga is just so right for a dish that begins as flour tortilla and encompasses a whole variety of ingredients each complementing the other so that you sink into different layers of taste all soft and memorable.
I just read a book about surfing on the West-coast of America where every now and then a hero says, “Everything tastes better on a tortilla.” And in Mexican food (since most of it is built around tortillas), it is a fact.
When the Mexicans aren’t using whole tortillas, they use tortilla pieces. Take a look at this entry in a book by Ed Pearce: 1943: Ignacio Anaya, a chef at the small Mexican town of Piedras Negras, has assembled the first nachos, a combination of tortilla pieces with jalapeno peppers and melted cheese, for some Texan ladies who are on a shopping trip.
And Nacho Libre is served at The Lazy Gringo. It’s brought to you in a plate and it tastes absolutely heavenly with lettuce, tomato salsa, beans, greens, tortilla chips and melted cheese dip and just for good measure a touch of sour cream. I hope they have immortalised Ignacio Anaya and I hope ladies still take shopping trips just to eat where he once cooked.
Beating Ignacio by a few years was another Ed Pearce entry, “A new Los Angeles restaurant, the El Cholo Spanish café, has opened at 1121 South Western Avenue in a courtyard with a mission-style fountain. The proprietress Rosa Borquez’s menu is popularising Mexican food such as enchiladas and tacos. Another item they are selling is the burrito, meaning literally
‘little burro or donkey’, which originated south of Los Angeles.”
I will submit that eating small donkeys isn’t a favourite pass time of mine but you take the inevitable tortilla loaded with beans and chicken, rice, salsa, salad, sour cream and you have magic. The beans and the chicken form a base, the rice is deliciously frivolous and the salad a crunchy counter part and the sour cream hits the palate.
But ask me for my favourite dish, and between them Manoj who serves, Ashish Tamang who cooks, and Ellen who teaches, will lay on an Enchilada.
You take tortillas loaded with meat and cheese and vegetables even bananas and a special Enchilada (it means chilli pepper) sauce then add some more fiery hot condiments. Then cool it off with cream or cheese and place three or four in a casserole dish and heat in an oven quickly remembering it has been already cooked in the preparation.
As you cut into it, goodness flows and then you get to eat it, but like my favourite book of the moment says its all about tortillas, everything tastes better on a tortilla.
Vaya con dios.