Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Holy guacamole, Batman!
Whenever I'm in California, I make a pilgrimage to my family's favorite neighborhood taqueria, Pancho Villa. Delicious tacos, burritos and flautas abound, but I always get their prawn quesadilla: a heaping mound of pink, plump fresh shrimp floating atop a sea of hot, melted Monterey Jack, while the edges of a freshly made tortilla peek from underneath like a narrow strip of sandy beach at high tide.
Some real sour cream and chunky guacamole on the side plus a "three kinds of salsa and all the tomatoes, onions, lime and cilantro you can carry" sort of salsa bar, and let me tell you, I am one happy campista.
When my brother's there too, he always makes it a point to take me to his favorite burrito place--a dark and seedy convenience store in some shady neighborhood where you can enjoy one of three dining options: a) Eat standing up on the sidewalk and get hot sauce, sour cream and guacamole all over your shirt b) Eat sitting in your car and get hot sauce, sour cream and guacamole all over your upholstery or c) Eat crouched as low as you can to avoid bullets from the drive-by shooting you're convinced is about to take place any minute.
But no matter which of the three bad choices you go with, believe me, you will go. Because that carne asada burrito flecked with crunchy bits of Mexican chicharrones that make a thousand tiny flavor explosions go off in your mouth--it's that good. We're talking "Pony up $20 for the dry cleaner, $200 for the detailer and OMG, gunshots, my life just flashed before my eyes, but that's okay" good.
And while I don't have any illusions about recreating that (literally) to-die-for burrito here in Manila, I do wish we had better Mexican food. I'm not some particularly hard to please purist, either. My exposure to Mexican food was largely of the Northern California, New York and Chipotle/Taco Bell variety, i.e., Cal-Mex, Tex-Mex and Junk Mex.
But come on, people. Real sour cream and guacamole that doesn't taste like watered-down, melted avocado ice cream--is that too much to ask?
Frustrated with my local guacamole choices, I decided to hunt down a recipe from Rosa Mexicana, a New York neighborhood restaurant where I'd had the best guacamole of my life. Turns out, it wasn't that hard.
So, now, every time I crave Mexican food, I simply make my own. And whatever I've served is made infinitely better by three simple items: REAL sour cream ( try Bulli, as the local commercial ones are pretty awful); a salsa fresca made with fresh tomatoes, onions, garlic, cilantro and lime juice; and GOOD guacamole made with Hass avocados (Don't get the other kind. They just don't offer the same flavor payoff) using a recipe from Rosa Mexicana.
I don't make it with a molcajete because I don't have one, but I've gotten great results with making the paste in my mini chopper or even with just a fork, and then using a spatula to mash and fold the paste into the avocados. And don't question the process. I don't know why it works better than just mixing all the ingredients together, but it does.
A liberal splash of lime juice at the end, another in my Patron and let me tell you, amigo. Life, it is bueno.