Mexican food is a complex cuisine with so many regional variations that it would be crazy to try to sum it all up in a book. So instead, what Roberto Santibañez did in his latest book “Truly Mexican”, was to focus in what he believes lays the backbone of Mexican food: its sauces and salsas. These are, according to Santibañez, what different dishes share in common. He doesn’t strive to offer a comprehensive guide of all Mexican sauces either, what he intends to do is to teach us the fundamentals, the basic techniques that will allow us to understand and enjoy Mexican cuisine, and in doing so getting the necessary skills to master other recipes as well.
Sometimes what makes a meal is the reward after the effort it takes to get there. I didn’t take the long train ride but braved the slow moving traffic (on two consecutive days) to Far Rockaway Beach in car without A/C during 100 degree weather en route to Long Beach. I had heard about Rockaway Taco after reading numerous write ups in the New York Times, New York Magazine, TimeOut New York, Edible Queens, and every other regional magazine and have long wanted to go. To get to the summer only operation I have to cross Brooklyn from one end (my house in Greenpoint) to the other until I pop out near JFK airport. On arrival, after an hour of stoplights and slow moving traffic through not the prettiest part of town, I cross a causeway over a wide expanse of water. Life slows down. It’s like entering a tunnel into Oz.
Few realize that Cochinita Pibil is actually a Mayan dish. It’s quite common now all over Mexico, especially in the Yucatan where it originated, and I see it often at Mexican restaurants and Taquerias in New York and around the States. Traditionally, cochinita refers to a slow roasted baby pig, though pork shoulder (which is actually pork butt) is more common now. The signature spice in the seasoning is achiote, the orangish-red seeds that give off a deep, earthy flavor and are used habitually in Mayan cooking. Cochinita Pibil is the dish that Rick Bayless won Top Chef Masters with (and his recipe from Mexico One Plate At A Time was very influential in this one).
I love tacos. Some might even say I’m obsessed with tacos. You could even go as far as calling me taco loco. I didn’t really even have a real taco until I was in my early 20’s. I grew up with Americanized Mexican food like Taco Bell and Chichi’s in Ohio and a good taco just didn’t exist. When I began a life of travel I began frequenting food stalls whenever I could and it opened my eyes to the vastness of the taco landscape. Now that I’m settled in Brooklyn, I make frequent trips to the taqueria. I’ve eaten a lot of bad tacos in Brooklyn, though the majority are as good as anything I have found in Mexico. Here are my ten favorite tacos in Brooklyn:
I have been consistently disappointed with Mexican food since moving to New York. While there are plenty of Mexican restaurants in every neighborhood, the majority are as basic and uninteresting as your basic Chinese take out. Some even serve Chinese food. I know there are a lot of gems out there; I just havenâ€™t found them as of yet. Until now.