Dining Out Magazine

Here’s Why You Should Check Out The Mexican Food Festival at Setz

By Shibanibawa

Of the various international cuisines, Mexican is amongst my favourites. And I often lament the lack of good Mexican restaurants in Delhi. Even if good eateries do open, they don't seem to last very long.

As I had written a couple of years ago, after my interaction with the affable Mexican Ambassador to India H.E. Melba Pria at a food festival organised by the Mexican Embassy in India, there is a lot more to Mexican fare than tacos and burritos. In fact these come under the category of Tex-Mex or Mexican food that initially became popular in North America and spread to other parts of the world. In fact, the cuisine is so rich in terms of ingredients and diversity that it has earned the status of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

The current Mexican food promotion at Setz features Chef Tania's interpretation of this beautiful cuisine. Being the executive chef at Mexico City's Fonda Fina, she is in India to showcase some of her signature dishes. Her tantalizing selection includes Potato Tacos Dorados, Molletes, Prawns Aguachile, Tamales, Mole De Olla Lamb, Chicken Tinga Tostadas and more. She has tried to use the Mexican staple, corn, in most of her dishes that combine the wholesome goodness of grandmother-style cooking along with modern techniques and some local ingredients. While she has brought some special chillies with her along with ingredients like avocado leaf that she didn't think she'd find her, she has also adapted some recipes to use produce that is easily available in India. Instead of using the Mezcal leaf sheet to make mixiotes, for instance, she substituted it with a banana leaf.

Coming to the food: we start with a platter of bite-sized appetisers (this was a sampler size, larger portions are served when you order a la carte), that we are encouraged to eat with our hand. Potato Tacos Dorados are made with soft tortillas that rolled and deep-fried. This is street-style wholesome food, she explains. It is served with fresh cheese and avocado, simple and comforting in every bite. Then there's mollettes. You may think of this is a hearty cheese toast with the addition of beans and mildly spicy pico de gallo. Mollettes are usually made with a soft bread known as bolillo, but here she used baguette to make it. Since this is the first time I tried, I can't comment on the authenticity, but it tastes good. And chicken thinga tostada is something that we are familiar with. A thin, crisp corn tortilla topped with chicken, refried beans and sour cream.

Among the mains, we go for the popular Tamale and Mole options. The vegetarian tamale is served fresh out of the steamer. It is like a corndog stuffed with cottage cheese, steamed in banana leaf and served in a piquant caldillo sauce made of tomatoes, onion, garlic and chillies and topped with fresh cheese, sour cream and coriander. Mole de olla Lamb is a delicious lamb rack done to perfection, in a rich and flavourful adobo sauce and served with corn on the cob and grilled zucchini and onions. Every component of this dish is packed with flavour, including the onions! As you may know, Mole is to Mexico what curry is to India. While the most popular mole is associated with a chocolate-based sauce, mole simply is any curry made with chillies and spices. Almost every household thus has its own distinct mole. The chocolate-based mole is the specialty of only one region of Mexico - Oxaca. For this one, Chef Tania used the avocado leaf, and reduced the consistency of the sauce to make it more intense in flavour. The result is a very robust sauce with well-rounded flavours.

And as we often save the best for last, let me finally tell you about Prawns Aguachile. This light and refreshing dish is part of Mexican cuisine, but inspired from the Peruvian classic - ceviche. Typically, prawns are marinated in lime juice and served with refreshing yet piquant sauce made with habanero chillies, cucumber and coriander. Served with freshly made nachos, this one is a star dish that I would urge you to go and try.

Although various insects, including fried crickets tossed with vegetables are also part of traditional Mexican fare, Chef Tania has left them out of this particular menu. What you have on offer though is tasty comfort food, with refreshing flavours.

SET'Z (Third Floor,) DLF Emporio, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi.

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